Day 2 Carthage murder trial: Witnesses take stand, prosecution rests

CARTHAGE, Mo. – The murder trial of Ricky Marchbanks continues today, Jan. 14, 2020. He’s accused of killing Jeremy Neeper in 2016. Both sides are trying to prove whether or not it was in self-defense.

Several witnesses were called to the stand today and cross-examined. The prosecution has rested for the day. KOAM Reporter Zach Dodge was in the courtroom.

According to court documents, on May 16, 2016, around 10:19 p.m., Carthage police officers went to 1032 Valley about a man being shot. They got there and found Neeper lying in the yard with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Witnesses on scene who saw the incident identified the suspect as Ricky Lee Marchbanks.

In opening arguments yesterday, the prosecution said Marchbanks was angry with Neeper because of a dispute over a lawnmower. They allege Marchbanks had repeatedly said he’d have to kill Neeper. The defense says Neeper had a gun and that Marchbanks killed him in self-defense. Prosecution says Neeper did not have a gun.

Today, prosecution called Jesse Betas to the stand. Betas lives a block away from Marchbanks. He was on scene when police first questioned him in 2016. He stated he was a passenger in Marchbanks’s vehicle during the time of the incident.

On the witness stand, Betas told jurors he helped Marchbanks get his lawn mower turned right-side up. After that, Marchbanks got a gun out of his house, they got into the Marchbanks’s vehicle and started to pull away.

Betas claims Neeper then hit the truck. That’s when Marchbanks got out and Betas says he heard a gunshot.  Betas told jurors Marchbanks said, “I think I got him. Believe I got him in the belly.”

The defense cross-examined Betas, asking him about going between Neeper and Marchbanks’s homes and if he had seen Neeper with a gun. Betas says he couldn’t see if anything was in Neeper’s hands because it was dark.

Prosecution then called Cody Pinkly, Neeper’s step-son to the stand. Pinkly says that night, his mom and Neeper were getting ready for bed when they heard Marchbanks’s truck. Pinkly says he told Nepper not to go outside. After Neeper went outside, Pinkly says he heard a gunshot, then he ran outside and saw Neeper on the ground. He says he couldn’t see Marchbanks because it was dark.

During cross-examination, Pinkly says he couldn’t see anything in Neeper’s hands and didn’t see anyone move a gun to the backyard.

Sharron Neeper, Jeremy’s wife, also took the stand today. She says earlier that day, after an argument with Marchbanks, Neeper had pushed her into their truck.

Marchbanks called the cops on them, according to Sharron, and Neeper went to his cousin’s house. She and her son picked Neeper up later that night and went home. Sharron says after picking Neeper up, he flipped Marchbanks’s mower over. Then, while getting ready for bed, Sharron claims they heard Marchbanks’s truck and Neeper went outside. She says she heard a gunshot as she was going outside and saw Neeper fall.

Sharron told the defense that Neeper had never pointed a gun at her or anyone else.

Court resumed around noon, after a short recess.

Carthage Police Officer Justin Butler took the stand. He was the sergeant on scene after the shooting. He told jurors they found Neeper on the ground, unresponsive, bleeding from his chest. They found a gunshot wound in his back. He says officers were told by Sharron that Neeper was shot by Marchbanks.

Police found Marchbanks around 3:00 a.m. and arrested him. Butler says Marchbanks had a .22 rifle.

Prosecution asked Butler about his relationship to Marchbanks. Butler says he is a fourth cousin of Marchbanks.

Prosecution showed jurors 31 seconds of body camera footage from when officers got on the scene. Prosecution also entered Neeper’s death certificate into evidence.

On cross-examination, the defense asked Butler about preserving the crime scene. Defense asked him if he told his officers to search Neeper’s home and yard for a weapon. Butler said no, they did not.

The court then ordered a break for lunch.

Court resumed around 1:00 p.m.

Ken McWilliams took the stand. McWilliams says he received two voicemails at around 11:00 p.m. from Marchbanks on the night of the shooting.

In the first voicemail, Marchbanks asks McWilliams to call him back, and that he had just shot his neighbor. He also says his neighbor had pushed over his mower and that he “wasn’t going to take it anymore.”

In the second voicemail, Marchbanks says his neighbor came out with a gun, so he shot him first. He goes on to say in the voicemail, “if I killed him, I killed him. I meant to. If not, he won’t pull a pistol on me again.”

The defense did not cross-examine McWilliams.

The prosecution rested its case and court adjourned for the day.