NEW STORY: (AP) — An eastern Missouri jury has found a 59-year-old man guilty of second-degree murder in the July 2013 death of a float trip participant who was urinating near his property.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1gp0Die ) reports that a Crawford County jury delivered its verdict Wednesday against Robert Crocker of Cuba, who lives along the Meramec River.
The jury deliberated for about two hours before determining that Crocker shot 48-year-old Paul Dart Jr. of Robertsville. He was among 50 friends and extended family members on a float trip party. Crocker claimed self-defense in the gravel-bar encounter.
Prosecutors countered that Crocker was far from the edge of his property near Steelville when the fatal shooting occurred. He and some of the floaters had argued before the shooting.
The Steelville man accused of fatally shooting a floater on the Meramec River on July 20 is facing additional felony charges and a trial date has been set.
James R. Crocker, 59, already charged with second-degree murder, is now facing two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of armed criminal action and one count of unlawful use of a weapon.
With the addition of the new charges his bond amount is now $877,000. A counsel status hearing on the new charges is set for 8:30 a.m. Friday before Judge Scott L. Bernstein.
A trial date is set for 9 a.m. May 12-16 in Crawford County in the 42nd Judicial Circuit with Judge Kelly W. Parker presiding on the second-degree murder charge. Crawford County Prosecutor William Seay will present the case for the state. Crocker is represented by Attorney Michael A. Bert of St. Louis.
Authorities say Crocker admitted shooting Paul Dart Jr. of Franklin County during a property dispute on the river. He was subsequently arrested and is awaiting trial in the Crawford County Jail.
According to court documents in the first-degree assault charges, Crocker fired two "warning shots" into the gravel bar, one of which grazed a female victim and caused fragments to strike a male victim.
The female victim stated to authorities that while walking up the beach Crocker fired a "warning shot." She continued that she and Dart were trying to talk with Crocker to explain they had just stopped for a break. She told police that Crocker fired a second "warning shot" which grazed her body. Deputies observed redness to her skin and took photos.
A male victim stated that fragments from a "warning shot" struck him as well.
After the first two shots were fired, Crocker allegedly turned the gun on Dart and shot him in the face.
Crocker is also accused of, after killing Dart, turning a gun on another victim and saying, "Do you want to be next? I have the power, you don't."
Detectives say they asked Crocker if he could have called law enforcement when the group refused to leave.
Crocker replied, "I guess I could have, but it's my property and I was going to protect it."
Crocker stated several times in the interview he was going to protect his property and if he would have left (to call police) the people would have been gone before law enforcement arrived, according to detectives.
Detectives then asked him even if the people had left, wouldn't that have been the desired result.
Crocker's reply according to the report was, "Yeah that would have worked too."