Hearing ends for man convicted in ’90 killing

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A former congressman who as a special state prosecutor helped convict a young man in the 1990 killing of a Missouri farm wife said Friday that he doesn’t recall whether some documents in the case were turned over to the defense.

Kenny Hulshof was the assistant attorney general who handled the first murder trial of Mark Woodworth, who was twice convicted of the fatal shooting of his neighbor, the wife of his father’s farming partner, in rural Chillicothe. Hulshof was questioned during a hearing in Columbia that will help determine whether Woodworth gets another trial.

Woodworth was 16 when Cathy Robertson and her husband, Lyndel, were shot while sleeping at their home across a rural highway from the Woodworth family’s home. Lyndel Robertson was repeatedly shot but survived, and the crime has long divided their northwest Missouri community.

Woodworth was convicted by a jury in 1995, briefly released after a successful appeal and convicted again in 1999 with a different prosecutor handling the case. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in November that Woodworth could present new testimony as part of his latest appeal. Woodworth, now 36, is serving a life prison sentence.

Hulshof was questioned for about 90 minutes Friday, the last day evidence was entered in the hearing, by attorneys and Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler. Part of the questioning focused on how Hulshof handled evidence and whether several letters were disclosed to the defense.

Hulshof testified that he numbered documents to help track what had been provided and that copies of the documents shown to him did not have numbers. Hulshof testified he had no direct knowledge that the documents were provided to defense attorneys or that they were in the court file. One letter referenced the possibility of another suspect. However, Hulshof agreed when asked whether it was fair to say that the information about another possible suspect was known among Chillicothe residents.

While with the attorney general’s office, Hulshof was often sent to several smaller communities to handle high-profile murder cases when local prosecutors were undermanned. But two of his convictions recently have been overturned and other cases have come under scrutiny.

Lyndel Robertson originally said that he suspected Brandon Thomure, his daughter’s ex-boyfriend, but later recanted. Lyndel Robertson testified earlier this week.

Thomure appeared in the Boone County courtroom this week but declined to testify, invoking his right to remain silent. His attorney said Thomure wanted to counter the accusations and innuendo but had nothing to gain from answering questions.

After listening to nearly a week of testimony, Oxenhandler must now decide whether to recommend to the state Supreme Court if a new trial is warranted. The judge didn’t decide immediately; a decision could take several months.

After leaving the attorney general’s office, Hulshof served six terms as a Republican in Congress and lost in the 2008 gubernatorial election to Democrat Jay Nixon.

Woodworth’s murder case is not the only conviction secured by Hulshof that has come under scrutiny.

A northwest Missouri judge overturned the 1996 conviction of Dale Helmig for killing his mother, and Josh Kezer was released in 2009 after almost 16 years in prison following a judge’s conclusion that key evidence was withheld from defense attorneys.

A 2008 review by The Associated Press found prosecutorial errors by Hulshof led to four death sentence reversals, though in several cases subsequent trials led to new convictions. Another man was acquitted during a second trial after an appeal rejected his first conviction, which was handled by Hulshof.

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