Walter Jack Staten, 50, Sedalia, pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and armed criminal action Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Cooper County, Mo. He entered the pleas as prospective jurors waited in the hallway for a trial scheduled for Wednesday through Friday of this week.
The charges were filed in connection with the shooting death of William Saunders on May 9, 2011 in the defendant’s mother’s apartment on Albright Court. During the Sedalia Police Department’s investigation, the defendant claimed the gun accidentally discharged while he was showing it to his friend. However, evidence collected during the investigation, including the post-mortem exam, showed that the gun was within a half inch of the victim’s head when the defendant pulled the trigger.
The guilty plea was not a part of a plea agreement but was an “open plea,” which means the defendant is subject to the full range of punishment of up to life imprisonment on both counts. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. in Sedalia.
“The defendant’s guilty plea as charged is a direct reflection of the quality of the case put together by the Sedalia Police Department. Many officers were involved in this investigation, and these officers continued to provide excellent assistance as I prepared this case for trial. Because of that, I am convinced that the outcome of the trial would have been exactly the result the defendant accepted by pleading guilty,” commented Pettis County Prosecutor Jeff Mittelhauser.