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Judge issues continuance in two murder trials

POTOSI – A power outage Monday morning at Washington County Courthouse led to a continuance for several people, including a Mineral Point woman and a Potosi man who have been charged with murder in separate cases.

Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte agreed to continue proceedings for Nanette Litherland and Jimmie Perko.

Pratte began “law day” shortly after 9 a.m., just before the lights flickered, then went off in the second-floor courtroom. The generator kicked on to restore the lighting, but it was not enough to keep the air conditioning on.

The bailiff told Pratte that AmerenUE had about 1,000 customers without service, including the courthouse and the jail. The company hoped to have the electricity back on in a few hours.

“This isn’t good,” Pratte said. “It’s going to get hot in here pretty quickly, and I don’t do well in the heat.

“I get grumpy.”

It was still cool in the courtroom, so Pratte continued calling defendants. By 10:30 a.m., the judge had his robe off, some attorneys had removed their suit coats, and the lack of fresh air was making many people sleepy.

“Judge, it’s getting stuffy,” one attorney said.

Pratte called a short recess and discussed the situation with the attorneys. He decided to continue the “first call” for defendants and told the attorneys to feel free to ask for a continuance.

While Pratte was accepting seven guilty pleas, the power came back on. By then, Litherland’s attorney had to leave for a trial in St. Louis.

Litherland is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the murder of her husband, Jerry Litherland. Her bond is set at $2 million. Initially, her bond was set at $3 million, but Associate Circuit Judge Troy Hyde reduced it. Pratte has twice denied requests to reduce the bond further.

Litherland is accused of conspiring with her son, Thomas Buhler, his wife, Gwen Buhler, and Jacob Feldman to murder 48-year-old Jerry B. Litherland of Cadet.

Nanette Litherland’s trial was scheduled to start Aug. 29 in St. Francois County on a change of venue. After Washington County Prosecutor John Rupp left to become the drug court judge, his office requested the trial date be continued.

Pratte said the attorneys would have to call St. Francois County for a new court date.

Pratte also continued a motion to suppress canine testimony in Jimmie Perko’s case until Sept. 19.

Perko is charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon in the murder of Eugene Hillemann, 48, also of Potosi. Perko is being held at the Washington County Jail on a $1 million bond. His trial is set for Nov. 28 in Washington county before Pratte.

After Hillemann’s body was found, the Department of Corrections K-9 team was used to track Perko before he returned to the crime scene.

Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at

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