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Plunkett murder trial opens with taped interviews

Plunkett murder trial opens with taped interviews

January 8th, 2014 by Brittany Ruess, For the News Tribune in News

The trial of Sandra Plunkett, 40-year-old Holts Summit woman being tried for the first-degree murder of her husband, continues today after jurors heard opening statements, testimony and interview tapes on Tuesday.

Paul Plunkett, a former Jefferson City Police Officer, was shot and killed Jan. 1, 2011.

The presiding judge in the case is Gary Oxenhandler. The jury consists of seven women and six men from Buchanan County in western Missouri.

In opening statements, the prosecution, led by Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson, claims Plunkett had financial motivation to kill her husband. Justin Carver, public defender, is using battered spouse syndrome as the "self defense" defense for Plunkett, who pleaded not guilty in June 2011, according to Missouri

Court was dismissed at about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday after interview tapes gave a Buchanan County jury a brief look into Plunkett's drug history and her alledged abuse from Paul Plunkett.

Sgt. David Rice with the Missouri Highway Patrol testified he interviewed Plunkett on Jan. 1, 2011.

In the interview, Plunkett told Rice on New Year's Day 2011 the couple watched the annual Rose Parade and she left to visit a friend in Jefferson City to "just say hey" and then buy cigarettes. While driving on her street to return home, Plunkett continued, she saw a man near her home wearing a stocking on his head and camoflague top and pants - information previously reported. He pointed a gun at a neighbor's house, she said in the interview, and then aimed the gun at her car.

Plunkett said during the interview that she called 911 from her car as she drove into her driveway. After seeing Paul Plunkett laying on a bloody pillow, she said she searched for a gun to use against the man wearing camoflague.

Later in the interviews, investigators found conflicting information in her story.

Plunkett told Rice she had been in drug rehab before after an addiction to vicodin, but was controlling the addiction with prescribed medication, including vicodin. She also said she and her husband would smoke marijuana together.

When Rice asked Plunkett what should happen to whoever hurt her husband, she said on the day of his death:

"I think they should go to jail. I think they should be killed themselves."

An investigator with the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Jefferson City Police Department interviewed Plunkett again days later, and Plunkett admitted she visited a friend in Jefferson City to buy a half gram of heroin for $120. After buying the heroin and cigarettes from a gas station, Plunkett revealed on the recording she went down a gravel road to shoot the heroin and smoke cigarettes.

The recording also exposed Plunkett's financial woes when an investigator asked her if her drug habit was the reason she was $1,600 in debt in her personal account.

Plunkett was a registered nurse until the state revoked her license in December 2010 after a wrongful death lawsuit.

She told investigators that Paul Plunkett was aware of her addiction and she wanted to go back to rehab, but it was "bad timing" after his surgery for a colon inflammatory disease. Dependant on Sandra Plunkett, he spent a lot of time post surgery in a hospital bed in their living room - the site of the murder.

Plunkett told investigators that Paul Plunkett allegedly abused her by punching her in the face and holding a gun to her head.

"That doesn't make him a bad guy," she said to investigators in early January 2011.

Others who testified Tuesday included:

•A Holts Summit police officer who was first on the scene;

•Lisa Wehmeyer, volunteer assistant fire chief at the Holts Summit Fire Protection District and first responder;

•Nicholas Kaufman, Callaway County paramedic at the time;

•Dori Burke, chief forensic investigator with the Boone/Callaway County Medical Examiner's Office;

•Dr. Marianna Sandomirsky, a former coroner with the Boone/Callaway County Medical Examiner's Office;

•Mark Beardsley, detective with the Holts Summit Police Department.

The trial continues today with more playing of the interviews.

Follow @FultonSun on Twitter for updates during this trial.