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Prosecutors to seek death penalty in JCCC murder

Grand jury indicts inmate for July killing

Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner, acting as a special Cole County prosecutor, today told the circuit court the state will seek the death penalty for an inmate indicted this week for last July’s killing of another inmate.

The notice of intent to seek the death penalty was filed along with the Cole County grand jury’s first-degree murder indictment of Terry J. Volner, 24, an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Grand jurors charged Volner with killing cellmate Jose Benitez, 67, on July 16 by striking him.

No other details were released in the indictment, or in previous reports about the murder and the investigation.

Last summer, John Wheeler, the Cole County sheriff’s chief deputy, told reporters: “This was a physical assault or confrontation. I can’t say if any weapon or weapons were involved. We took everything we could find in the cell into evidence.”

Benitez was serving a 25-year sentence for a first-degree statutory sodomy conviction from Jasper County.

Volner, from Hartville, was serving a life sentence, without parole, after pleading guilty a year ago to the 2011 murder of Dusty Guenther, 4.

Authorities said that Volner babysat the boy and slit his throat, then dumped the body in a sewage lagoon.

The attorney general’s office prosecuted that case, and the life sentence was imposed through a plea agreement.

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