August 26, 2015
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, Taney County Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson sentenced JAMES M. STRAUB, d/o/b 1-29-1985, to twenty (20) years in prison for the unclassified felony of attempted rape in the first degree. Straub had pleaded guilty on May 20, 2015, to attempting to rape a woman in a restroom at the Lakeside Wilderness Park, in Branson, on September 21, 2014.
On Sunday afternoon, September 21, 2014, Straub was in a stall of the women’s bathroom at the Lakeside Wilderness Park, when a woman entered the bathroom and used the adjacent stall. When the woman opened the stall door to leave, Straub was standing there and pushed the woman back into the stall while trying to rape her. The woman fought-off Straub and was able to escape the bathroom and alert others at the park. Straub fled and was arrested by Branson Police a short time later, riding a stolen bicycle.
“This was a brazen attack by a man with no prior felony convictions, in broad daylight, in a public restroom,” desribed Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell. “I’m thankful that the victim was able to escape, and that this community will now be safe from Mr. Straub for the next several years.”
Pursuant to a plea agreement between Straub’s lawyer and the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office, the greatest possible sentence Judge Johnson could impose on Straub was twenty-five (25) years in prison. Judge Johnson heard arguments from Straub’s lawyer and from Prosecutor Jeff Merrell before announcing the sentence. The unclassified felony of attempted rape in the first degree carries a range of punishment of five (5) years up to life in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
August 14, 2015
CASEY F. LANDS, 4-02-1981, of Willard, Missouri, was sentenced to six (6) years in prison Thursday, August 13, 2015, for the class C felony of stealing by deceit. Taney County Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson accepted a guilty plea from Lands, and sentenced her pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement Lands made with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.
The charge stemmed from a scheme in which Lands – and a male accomplice – shoplifted over $500 worth of baby items from Wal-Mart at Branson Hills Parkway, on November 11, 2013. Lands then exchanged the items at the service desk for a store credit, and used the store credit at other Wal-Mart locations. Lands was identified in a photo line-up by a loss prevention officer for Wal-Mart, and was later arrested. Officials with the store were also familiar with Lands due to past thefts she had committed.
The maximum penalty for the class C felony of stealing by deceit is seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and/or a $5,000 fine.
August 14, 2015
On Thursday, August 13, 2015, Taney County Circuit Judge Laura Johnson sentenced DONALD C. BILLINGS, d/o/b 4-13-1966, of Kirbyville, to four (4) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections – the maximum term of imprisonment – for the class D felony of driving while intoxicated. Billings was charged, convicted, and sentenced as a persistent DWI offender because he had previously pleaded guilty in two (2) prior DWI cases in Taney County. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tiffany Yarnell prosecuted the case for the State, and a jury unanimously found Billings guilty on June 23, 2015.
The evidence at trial was that on May 4, 2013, Billings crashed a Nissan Altima into some trees after failing to negotiate a curve on Missouri Highway 76, near Delaware Road. Neither Billings, nor his passenger were seriously injured. Billings refused field sobriety tests and tried to convince the Trooper that he was not driving the vehicle. However, eye witnesses observed Billings exiting the driver’s seat of the car immediately after the crash. Billings admitted that he had been drinking, but refused to give a sample of his breath or blood to the Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper who arrested him.
The maximum punishment for the class D felony of driving while intoxicated is four (4) years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
July 24, 2015
LOUIS W. HOOVER, d/o/b 4-16-1992, of Forsyth, pleaded guilty Thursday, July 23, 2015, to the class C felony of stealing, in the Circuit Court of Taney County. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Hoover’s sentence will be capped at six (6) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, and Hoover may argue for probation at sentencing. Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson scheduled Hoover’s sentencing for September 17, 2015.
In June of 2014, Hoover admitted to a Taney County Sheriff’s deputy to stealing jewelry and other valuable personal items from two (2) women he had been living with, and that he sold the valuables to a local pawn shop. The thefts had occurred over the course of several months. Hoover also admitted to a deputy that he was using the cash from the stolen items to pay his costs and supervision fees for a stealing case from 2012 – for which he was on supervised probation.
The class C felony of stealing carries a maximum penalty of seven (7) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and/or a $5,000.00 fine.
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