Walter Jack Staten, 50, of Sedalia, pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and armed criminal action on Wednesday (Oct. 2) in the Circuit Court of Cooper County, Mo. He entered the pleas as prospective jurors waited in the hallway for a trial scheduled for Wednesday through Friday of this week.

The charges were filed in connection with the shooting death of William Saunders on May 9, 2011, in the defendant’s mother’s apartment on Albright Court. During the Sedalia Police Department’s investigation, the defendant claimed the gun accidentally discharged while he was showing it to his friend. However, evidence collected during the investigation, including the post-mortem exam, showed that the gun was within a half inch of the victim’s head when the defendant pulled the trigger.

The guilty plea was not a part of a plea agreement but was an “open plea,” which means the defendant is subject to the full range of punishment of up to life imprisonment on both counts. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. in Sedalia.

This press release provided by Jeff Mittelhauser.