Mo. man pleads guilty in couple's deaths
FORSYTH, Mo. (AP) -- A Springfield man pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing a couple who disappeared from their southwest Missouri home, and a prosecutor said for the first time that authorities suspect the case was a murder for hire.
Tony Friend was among five people charged in the deaths of 34-year-old Russell Porter and his 46-year-old wife, Rebecca Porter. The couple vanished in April 2011 from their home in the Greene County town of Willard. Their bodies were later discovered in rural Taney County, where investigators said both had been shot execution-style.
Friend pleaded guilty in Taney County Circuit Court to two counts of first-degree murder. In exchange, prosecutor Jeff Merrell dropped other counts as well as plans to seek the death penalty, meaning Friend will be sentenced to life in prison without parole, KYTV reported ( http://bit.ly/1czfDl8 ).
Friend's son, Philip Friend, received a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty in May to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of felonious restraint.
Also charged with first-degree murder are Windy Friend, Tony Friend's wife and Philip Friend's stepmother; Dusty Hicks, a friend of the Friends; and Robert Campbell, an uncle of Rusty Porter. All have pleaded not guilty.
Investigators have never discussed a possible motive for the killings.
But Merrell said Tuesday he believes another defendant hired Tony Friend to kill the Porters and Tony Friend recruited the others to help him. He declined to comment on a possible reason for the scheme and said he did not want to jeopardize the trials of the remaining defendants by speculating.
Relatives have said Russell Porter and another defendant who lived nearby had a standing feud over various issues.
Information from: KYTV-TV, http://www.ky3.com