Man accused in child killing faces December trial

KENNETT, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of killing a 3-year-old neighbor who had wandered into his backyard was scheduled for trial in December, with jurors to be drawn from another county.

Shawn Morgan, 43, of Senath will go to trial Dec. 10 in Dunklin County, while jurors will be selected the week before in Phelps County, the Kennett Daily Dunklin Democrat reported.

Morgan is charged with first-degree murder in the death of BreeAnn Rodriguez, who went missing Aug. 6. Her remains were found 10 days later about eight miles outside of Senath. Authorities say Morgan confessed to killing the child after finding her on the ladder of his above-ground backyard swimming pool, but a motive has not been released.

Dunklin County prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff is seeking the death penalty and said BreeAnn’s parents support that decision. Morgan also is charged with felony kidnapping, possession of child pornography, armed criminal action and tampering with evidence.

Defense attorney Thomas Earl Marshall has filed a motion for clarity on whether an indigent defendant such as Morgan has a constitutional right to a psychiatric exam at the state’s expense. Another motion asks that Morgan be allowed to appear in court wearing street clothes instead of jail attire.

BreeAnn’s disappearance set off a frantic search in her hometown, where she was last seen riding a small pink bicycle with training wheels near her home.

Residents of Senath, a town of 1,600 residents near the Arkansas border, joined the FBI, Missouri Highway Patrol and local police in the search. Her body was found on the banks of a drainage ditch.

Morgan was arrested three days before the body was found. According to a probable cause statement, Morgan told police he suffocated the girl with a white plastic trash bag, then put the body in the trash bag, drove to a floodway outside of town and threw the bag over a railing into the ditch.

He also told police that he went home and dismantled the girl’s bike, which he dumped in the same area where he left the body.

Morgan, a father of three, has been in trouble before. Court records obtained by The Associated Press showed he pleaded no contest in 2004 to making a terroristic threat after threatening to blow up a factory where he worked. He served one year on probation and was fined $1,000.

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