Clay County Presiding Judge Larry Harman sustained a change of venue request filed in the State vs. Joseph Arbeiter first degree murder case, sending the case to Clay County for trial.  Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mittelhauser filed Notice of Aggravating Circumstances, indicating the State’s intent to seek the death penalty.

First degree murder is punishable by life without parole or the death penalty.  In order to impose the death penalty, the evidence must establish the existence of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance, among other facts.  In its notice, the State alleges that the murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture or depravity of mind.

The State’s Notice of Aggravating Circumstances also alleges that the defendant committed murder in St. Louis in 1963, and committed a sexual assault in Pettis County April 30.  The latter offense is the subject of a separate case against the defendant.  This case was also sent to Clay County on a change of venue.

Any person accused of a crime in Pettis County (and other counties of similar size) has an absolute right to a change of venue upon filing a timely request.  There is no requirement to show actually prejudice to the defendant in the county where the crime occurred.