A local man awaiting trial for murder was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing in connection with an assault that occurred at the St. Francois County Jail.
Already charged with first-degree murder in 2016, 31-year-old Anthony Caruthers was charged with first-degree assault (felony Class A) for allegedly assaulting a fellow inmate in May of 2018.
The preliminary hearing Tuesday was presided over by Associate Circuit Judge Joseph Goff Jr. and was held to determine if there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to the circuit court level.
Caruthers appeared in custody with Special Public Defender Ramona Gau and representing the state at the preliminary hearing was Assistant Attorney General Paige Wheeler.
The assault that Caruthers is alleged to have committed while in custody reportedly occurred on May 17, 2018, between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. — during inmate lunchtime at the jail.
The state called Cpl. Scott Miller of St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department to the stand as their only witness. Miller was working at the time of the reported assault, collected evidence, and filed the report.
The officer testified that on the date of the incident, he observed redness and swelling to an inmate’s face. He stated that this prompted him to check the jail’s surveillance footage and said the video showed the man enter a cell with a lunch tray before exiting the cell and going back to the front of the jail pod where lunch is served. He explained that this is a common practice among inmates looking for leftovers from lunch.
Miller went on to state that while the man was in line, he observed another inmate begin a conversation with the man before “squaring up” in an aggressive stance and striking the man in the face.
Wheeler asked the corporal if he recognized the assailant in the footage to which he replied that he did and identified Caruthers before the court.
The state then presented to the court its first of four exhibits, which was a DVD copy of the surveillance footage from the altercation. The judge then reviewed the brief video. The judge also looked at two photos depicting injuries to the man's face.
The defense asked Miller if he took the photos and he said he was unsure but believed he did. He referred to his original report and determined the images were taken on the same day that the assault occurred.
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Miller said that after the surveillance footage was reviewed, Caruthers was removed from the jail pod. He said the jail nurse advised that the victim needed to be taken to the hospital for X-rays.
The state’s fourth exhibit was a copy of the hospital’s discharge report for the assaulted inmate which listed a diagnosis of a left facial fracture.
The defense argued that the timeline of events was too broad to determine if the inmate’s injuries were from the assault in the video and mentioned that the man didn’t even fall over when punched — implying the force of the punch depicted in the surveillance video might not have even been powerful enough to cause the type of injury the man received.
After hearing arguments from the state and defense, the judge determined that there was sufficient probable cause to believe that a felony had been committed and the case was bound over to circuit court for trial setting.
Caruthers has been in jail since Nov. 3, 2016, after being booked on serious charges following a police pursuit and the discovery of a body.
According to the original report, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper attempted to pull over an SUV for a traffic violation on U.S. 67 at approximately 10:30 a.m. that morning, which led to a car chase that ended in a crash.
Two men fled from the SUV and ran on foot and the body of Michael J. VanStavern was found in the back of the SUV.
A homicide investigation ensued and Caruthers was charged with first-degree murder, felony armed criminal action, second-degree burglary, a class C felony of tampering with a motor vehicle in the first degree, a class D felony of tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution, and a class D felony of resisting arrest/detention/stop by fleeing, creating a substantial risk of serious injury or death to any person.
A class D felony of escape from custody was added to his charges in February 2017 after he allegedly attempted to escape from custody on Dec. 14, 2016.
A three-day jury trial in the 2016 murder case is scheduled for April 7-9.
Jeremy Reed was sentenced to eight years in 2018 after pleading guilty to second-degree burglary and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the murder.