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On Wednesday,July 19, 2017, a Pulaski County jury deliberated for about 40 minutes before returing guilty verdicts on all five counts against Lawrence Mullen, 47, of Rolla. The case was presided over by the Honorable William E. Hickle. The case was prosecuted by Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney, Brendon Fox and Assistant Prosecutor, Kara Breshears. The case was heard in Waynesville after the defendant exercised his right to a change of venue.
On May 4, 2016, Detective Hank Harper of the Rolla Police Department began investigating allegations of sexual abuse involving Mullen and a five year old child. The child was interviewed twice by forensic interviewer Moriah Joplin of the Ozark Family Resource Agency – Child Advocacy Center. There the child disclosed specific sexual acts and photgraphs taken by “Larry.” Based on these disclosures, Detective Harper executed a search warrant at Mullen’s residence and seized several electronic devices including Mullen’s laptop and camera. The items were sent to Special Investigator Wayne Becker of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce located in Salem, MO. Becker conducted a forensic examination where he located more than 200 images of child pornography on Mullen’s laptop and several photos on Mullen’s camera’s SD cards showing sexual abuse of the five year old victim.
Det. Harper interviewed Mullen twice regarding the allegations and Mullen admitted that there was child pornography on his laptop, though he said he didn’t know how it got there. Mullen also admitted to taking the photographs depicting the sexual abuse of the child victim, but said he was not a pedophile.
The jury found Mullen guilty on all five charges, which included two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree, as well one count each of sexual exploitation of a minor, possession of child pornography, and promoting a sexual performance by a child.
“Everyone involved with the investigating of this case did a phenomenal job. My thanks to all of them in helping convict a very dangerous child predator,” said Fox. “This was Ms. Breshears’ first time working on a case of this magnitude, and she did an exceptional job. She is an asset to the office.”
Mullen remains incarcerated while he awaits sentencing in Phelps County on September 7, 2017 at 9:00 A.M. He faces up to 112 years in prison for his crimes.
On Tuesday, July 11, 2017 a Phelps County Jury deliberated about 25 minutes before finding Justin Kirby, 35, of Rolla, guilty of possessing marijuana in the Phelps County Jail. The case was presided over by the Honorable William E. Hickle. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Nicholas Chlysta.
On February 15, 2016, Patrol Officer Thomas Grisham of the Rolla Police Department stopped Kirby for failing to register his motor vehicle. Kirby was placed under arrest and searched by Grisham before being taken to the Phelps County Jail. Enroute, Grisham advised Kirby if he had any contraband on him that was missed in the search he would receive elevated charges unless he voluntarily handed it over. During the booking process at the jail, Grisham observed Kirby hide a plastic bag in his mouth and attempt to chew it up and swallow. Being unable to do so he spit it out and Grisham identified the contents as marijuana.
“PTO Grisham did a good job and treated Mr. Kirby with respect throughout the encounter. I realize some people are changing their views on marijuana, but we prosecute the laws of the State of Missouri. If a person wants a jury trial, the Constitution says they are entitled to one. Mr. Chlysta did a good job today,” said Fox.
Kirby is set for sentencing on September 7, 2017.
On Wednesday, a Phelps County Jury deliberated about 20 minutes before finding Ashley Bunton, 28, of Rolla, guilty of possessing marijuana in the Phelps County Jail. The case was presided over by the Honorable John D. Beger. The case was prosecuted by Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney, Brendon Fox.
On July 21, 2016, Deputy Alex Maurer of the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department went to an address on Private Drive 7085 to s…erve an arrest warrant on Ashley Bunton. Upon arrival he located Ms. Bunton and Eddie Harris seated in her vehicle preparing to smoke marijuana. After being arrested and taken to jail, Harris passed Bunton marijuana in the booking room of the Phelps County Jail in hopes she would hide it for him. Corporal Marvin Jackson saw the exchange and seized the marijuana before turning it over to Sergeant Joe Taylor.
“I want to applaud the work and professionalism of Deputy Maurer and Jailers Jackson and Taylor. It is important that our jail remains secure for the safety of the inmates and workers. Contraband being smuggled in to jail puts everyone at risk,” said Fox.
Co-defendant Harris is currently serving time in the Department of Corrections for his part in the case. Bunton is set for sentencing which will be held on September 18, 2017.
On Thursday, December 8, 2016,Ronald Robison, 38, of Rolla, pleaded guilty to the Class B Felony of Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute. He was sentenced to fifteen (15) years in the Department of Corrections. The case was prosecuted by Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney Brendon Fox and Assistant Prosecutor Nick Chlysta.
At the plea hearing, the prosecutor recited the evidence for the Court. The evidence was that South Central Drug Task Force officers, assisted by other county law enforcement officers, executed a search warrant at Robison’s home in Phelps County. Upon their arrival, Robison had recently left the residence and went to an RV located on the property. Several baggies of methamphetamine were located throughout the house along with scales and baggies utilized in the sale of narcotics. Officers went to the RV, where they located a loaded 9MM assault rifle and a large amount of crystal methamphetamine. Robison was located hiding under the RV.
Reached for comment, Fox commended the investigation of this case. “Here is another case where the South Central Drug Task Force got another dangerous meth dealer off the streets. I shudder to think of the number of lives ruined by Ronald Robison and his kind.” Robison was sentenced as a persistent drug offender which makes him ineligible for probation or parole. “He will serve every single day of that 15 year sentence,” said Fox.
On August 22, the Honorable William E. Hickle sentenced Julian Rowland to seven years in prison for each of his three counts of rape and sodomy. By operation of law the sentences were ordered to run consecutively to one another, meaning, Roland will spend the next 21 years behind bars. The case was prosecuted by Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney, Brendon Fox. The sentencing follows a three day jury trial in June where Rowland was convicted of Rape in the First Degree and two counts of Sodomy in the First Degree.
At the sentencing hearing, evidence was heard from the victim who commented that since the guilty verdicts she has been able to “start picking up the pieces of her life.” Her husband testified that it seemed like his wife was making progress towards being who she was before the rape.
“I’m proud of the victim and the strength she showed throughout this tortuous process. I hope she is able to rebuild her life knowing Julian Rowland will not hurt anyone else for a very, very long time,” said Fox.