At a contested sentencing hearing Wednesday morning (April 30), Walter Jack Staten of Sedalia, age 51, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2011 murder of William D. Saunders. The defendant pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and armed criminal action in the Circuit Court of Cooper County, Missouri in October as prospective jurors waited in the hallway for a trial.

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. During two hours of testimony this morning, the defendant repeated this story, asserting he had argued with the victim but that the shooting was not intentional. However, evidence collected during the Sedalia Police Department’s investigation, including the post-mortem exam, showed that the defendant held the gun against or within a half inch of the victim’s head when he pulled the trigger.

Citing the seriousness of the present offense and the defendant’s history of committing violent crimes, Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mittlehauser recommended the maximum penalty of life in prison for murder in the second degree. The defendant suggested that a 15 year sentence was proper. Judge Robert L. Koffman accepted the recommendation of life.

Because murder in the second degree is one of a handful of crimes designed as “dangerous felonies,” the defendant will be required to serve 85% of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The completion of the case was delayed because the defendant successfully petitioned to withdraw an earlier guilty plea entered in 2012. After having a new attorney from the Sedalia Public Defenders Officer appointed to represent him, the defendant took the case to the verge of a jury trial before again entering guilty pleas.

This press release was provided by Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mittlehauser.