By BILL DRAPER
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) - A northwest Missouri man will spend the rest of his life in prison for hacking a Platte City woman to death and disemboweling a second woman seven months later.
Quintin P. O'Dell, 23, of Platte City, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and one count each of first-degree assault and deviant sexual assault. Under Missouri law, the murder charge comes with either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd said he agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for O'Dell's pleas, although he said he thought death was the appropriate penalty for the brutal attacks.
"There is the very real possibility that we caught a serial killer early," Zahnd said after Circuit Judge Abe Shafer accepted O'Dell's pleas and sentenced him to two life terms plus 207 years in prison.
O'Dell, wearing a dark suit jacket and with neatly cropped hair, admitted killing Alyssa Shippert, 22, with a hatchet while she fished on the bank of the Platte River on May 31, 2011.
He also admitted using a razor to slice open the chest and abdomen of a second woman on Dec. 26, 2011, after drinking with her late Christmas night. She survived and was in the courtroom Thursday.
Landis Shippert, Alyssa's father, told the court about how his youngest daughter - who worked with O'Dell at a local Casey's General Store - was loved by everyone who knew her. He said she wanted to adopt a baby when she got older, had talked to church deacons about going on a mission to Joplin to help clean up after the May 22, 2011, tornado, and had cut her hair off to donate it to Locks of Love.
"From the moment she was born, she had the darkest, deepest blue eyes I ever saw in my life," Shippert said after the hearing. "She followed me everywhere."
Zahnd acknowledged that if O'Dell hadn't attacked the second woman, he might have been able to get away with Alyssa Shippert's slaying because she was found partially submerged in the river and the DNA evidence had washed away.
Investigators were interviewing O'Dell in early January 2012 about the assault on the second woman when he admitted killing Shippert. Zahnd said O'Dell had been questioned shortly after Shippert's death because he was a co-worker, but hadn't been considered a suspect then. Detectives connected the cases because they were similarly brutal, Zahnd said.
O'Dell told investigators he was walking upstream from his mother's home near the Platte River on May 31, 2011, when he picked up an old hatchet on the shore and took it with him. He said he came upon Shippert fishing near a boat ramp at Platte Falls Conservation Area.
O'Dell said he got into the water and lost his footing, disappearing beneath the surface before reappearing downstream.
When he walked back to Shippert, she began yelling and slapping him, saying she was frightened because she thought he had drowned, he told detectives. He said he grabbed the hatchet he was carrying and struck her in the back of the head. She collapsed, and he repeatedly struck her in the face with the hatchet until she was no longer crying or breathing.
Landis Shippert said he doesn't believe O'Dell's account because he thinks O'Dell tracked his daughter down and tried to sexually assault her. Zahnd agreed that because of the evidence in the second woman's attack, it was likely there was a sexual element to Shippert's killing.
O'Dell pleaded guilty to deviant sexual assault in the second case. He said he went to the woman's apartment in tiny Ferrelview, about eight miles southeast of Platte City, to drink with her late Christmas night. He told investigators he became enraged after the woman spent much of the time talking on the phone to her most recent boyfriend.
Deputies were called to the apartment complex at 3:40 a.m. and found the victim in the hallway with life-threatening cuts to her chest and abdomen. They said her internal organs were exposed and she had lost consciousness.
The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual assault.