Judge denies preservation of testimony in Waller case

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Missouri state law does not allow prosecutors to preserve a deposition from the father of a suspect in the disappearance of a southeast Missouri woman, a judge has ruled.

Clay Waller is a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Jacque Waller, who hasn’t been seen since she left her estranged husband’s house on June 1. Clay Waller has denied any involvement in her disappearance and no charges have been filed.

Prosecutors said Clay Waller’s father, James Clay Waller Sr., said in a deposition that his son had confessed to him that he killed and buried Jacque Waller. Prosecutors were seeking the right to preserve that deposition because the elder Waller is seriously ill at a nursing home.

On Friday, Cape Girardeau Circuit Judge William Syler denied the motion, saying that state law does not allow the taking of depositions in cases where charges have not been filed, The Southeast Missourian reported.

“The state can file charges if it would like and then take the deposition,” the judge ruled.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle wrote in the motion that he anticipates filing a murder charge against Clay Waller and wanted to preserve the testimony in case the elder Waller dies before a murder trial could start.

“If we do not preserve his testimony, we may lose it,” said Cape Girardeau County assistant prosecuting attorney Angel Woodruff, who presented most of the state’s case Friday.

Clay Waller’s attorney, Scott Reynolds, argued Friday that state law did not allow the deposition to be preserved.

“You just can’t create the Clay Waller exception,” Reynolds told Syler. “If you grant this motion, you’re granting a slippery slope where you will have to use this exception on subsequent cases. The law states you can’t do that.”

Laura Long Helbig, who was speaking on behalf of Jacque Waller’s parents, Stan and Ruby Rawson, said the family was disappointed with the ruling but optimistic that justice will prevail. Helbig said the family is confident that law enforcement can build a case without the preserved testimony.

Investigators found Jacque Waller’s purse and other personal items on Nov. 3 along southbound Interstate 55 near Fruitland, near where her car was found June 2.

Clay Waller remains in jail after pleading guilty to federal Internet threatening charges for threatening his wife’s sister, who has custody of the Wallers’ children. He will be sentenced Dec. 19.

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