HARTVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A southwest Missouri man was charged with first-degree murder Thursday after authorities alleged he slit the throat of a 4-year-old boy, threw his body in a lagoon and sent cellphone photos of the body.
Terry Joe Volner, 22, was charged in the death of Dusty Guenther, whose body was found Wednesday morning in a lagoon next to the home of the boy's family about 12 miles north of Hartville in northern Wright County.
A probable cause statement says Volner called his mother, Tina Miller, on Wednesday morning and said he killed the boy's mother, her boyfriend, and her four kids, KY3-TV reported. Volner then sent a cellphone picture to Miller of the boy with his throat cut, the statement said.
However, the mother and Dusty's three sisters were not harmed. The mother, Gina Guenther, was at work in Lebanon, her two older daughters were at school and a younger one was in a crib at the family's home. The children were placed in protective custody, Sheriff Glenn Adler said on Wednesday.
Investigators did not indicate if they found a boyfriend. Court records list Volner as sporadically living at the Guenthers' home and sometime took care of Guenther's children, but he was not her boyfriend.
Early Wednesday, the probable cause statement reports, Volner sent photos by cellphone to a woman that showed Dusty Guenther's body "in some tall grass with a laceration to his throat and what appears to be a wet stick holding his chin up."
Another picture showed Dusty in the same position. It also appeared to show an adult's left arm with a tattoo consistent with a tattoo on Volner's left arm. Two pictures of what appears to be a small leg in water also were found, the probable cause statement says. It was not clear what woman received the pictures.
Volner was at the Guenthers' home when law enforcement officers arrived. The probable cause statement said Volner confessed that he killed Dusty.
Adler said Volner hasn't given a reason for killing the boy, or explained why he said he killed four other people.
Volner was treated at a hospital for a stab wound in his stomach. He's being held in Wright County jail on $1 million bond. Besides first-degree murder, Volner is charged with armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse. Court records do not indicate if he has an attorney.
Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com