Murder trial begins in south-central Missouri

LEBANON (AP) — Witnesses began testifying Monday in the capital murder trial of a southwest Missouri man accused of fatally shooting an elderly couple in their home — in a case that drew wide media attention and prompted Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to make an unusual dip into courtroom prosecution.

Jesse Dean Driskill, 33, faces first-degree murder and other charges in the 2010 shooting deaths of Johnnie Wilson, 82, and Coleen Wilson, 76, whose bodies were found in their home north of Bennett Spring State Park in July 2010.

Driskill, of Lebanon, could be sentenced to death if convicted.

The first witness Monday was a family member who described crawling through a window and seeing Coleen Wilson’s feet sticking out from blankets that were smoldering.

Koster, who is assisting Laclede County prosecutor Jon Morris, presented evidence from two law enforcement officers and a deputy coroner in early testimony Monday.

Driskill has pleaded not guilty and is represented by two assistant public defenders.

A probable cause statement said the Wilsons were found covered in blankets and a fire had been set in the home. Their missing vehicle was later found burning along a road. The couple had celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary a day before they were killed, and were described as loved and respected in their small town as the case drew wide news coverage.

Koster’s participation in the trial is unusual but not unprecedented since he became attorney general in 2009. He also worked with Jasper County prosecutor Dean Dankelson in a Medicaid fraud case, in which a dentist pleaded guilty in 2009.

Koster prosecuted a Jackson County murder case in 2010, and a year later represented the state in the sentencing of a Fredericktown police officer and Boy Scouts leader who pleaded guilty to 22 counts related to sexual abuse of minors. In 2011, Koster represented Missouri in an effort to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to breach the Birds Point levee in southeastern Missouri, and he argued another case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Koster, a Democrat, told The Associated Press in April that he is making preparations to run for governor in 2016. He previously served in the state Senate and was the Cass County prosecutor from 1995 to 2005.

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