A clearer picture of motive emerges

Randy Stone had decided to leave New Hope Baptist Church, taking Teresa farther away from the Rev. David Love.


The Kansas City Star

Clara Koehler’s wire passed the hug test.

As Teresa Stone greeted her mother-in-law at Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in June 2010, she didn’t notice the transmitter that Independence police had wrapped around Koehler’s waist or the microphone they’d hidden under the blouse at her shoulder.

The tension in Koehler’s gut eased, and the pair settled down to lunch and a chat about the police investigation into the murder of Randy Stone, Teresa’s husband and Koehler’s son, at his Noland Road insurance agency three months earlier.

Outside in the parking lot, Detective Keith Rosewaren and two other investigators listened.

Despite an eight-hour interview with Teresa two months before, detectives didn’t believe that Teresa had divulged everything she knew.

True, she’d told Rosewaren that the Rev. David Love, her secret lover for 10 years, had confessed the murder to her, but how did the pastor get Randy’s gun, and what role did Teresa really play in the homicide?

Teresa theorized over lunch that perhaps the pastor hadn’t acted alone.

Maybe, she speculated, Love had someone else shoot Randy, and the preacher just came in to check that Randy was dead and close the office blinds.

Overall, Independence police didn’t seem to have much, Teresa concluded in her chat with Koehler.

They’re “just fishing,” she said.

Rosewaren knew that wasn’t true. Still, he wanted more.

By summer of 2010, Independence police had stitched together a convincing circumstantial case against the lovers, even without the damning admissions Teresa had made during her long April interview with Rosewaren.

As word spread of progress in the investigation, old witnesses came forward with fresh recollections, and new witnesses appeared with insights into how the couple had behaved immediately after Randy’s death.

David Trump, a Baptist pastor in West Virginia, contacted detectives and reported that he’d spoken with David Love and Teresa Stone the day after the murder and was struck with how both immediately shared their alibis for that afternoon.

He offered detectives detailed notes of those telephone calls and even agreed to record any future conversations with the two.

One of the biggest breakthroughs came when the crime lab established conclusively that Randy had been killed with his own .40-caliber Glock, cementing the theory that he had been shot by someone he knew.

In her April interview, Teresa revealed that David Love had told her he had dumped the weapon 20 miles from the murder scene. But police had not found it.

Police did recover five old shell casings fired from Randy’s gun at a target range on Teresa’s parents’ rural property.

Weeks later, experts matched firing pin strike marks on those casings with the one on the casing found near Randy’s feet the day he died.

Randy’s insurance benefits also became clear, and the news shocked Teresa. After a thorough analysis, experts concluded that she was not entitled to up to $800,000 on her husband’s death, as she first told her friends.

Randy had taken Teresa off his policies in 2005, the year she miscarried David Love’s child. Randy had directed that the money — which actually totaled $625,000 — go to their two children, minors at the time.

Computer forensics that bore fruit in the summer of 2010 gave Rosewaren other insights into the motive.

Recovered emails showed that two weeks before the murder, Randy had made a firm decision to leave New Hope Baptist Church, informing the pastor that he wasn’t pleased with the church finances.

“I am resigning as the Finance Minister and as a Sunday School teacher effective immediately,” he wrote in an email.

“I do not want to talk about it.

“I do not want any emails.

“I do not want any visits.”

Randy also had been upset that church leaders had not been informed that Love’s son, who worked as New Hope’s music director, had been charged with driving while intoxicated. That point was particularly sensitive, Love knew, because in a conservative congregation, even the son’s legal problems could lead to the pastor’s dismissal.

Randy’s announcement prompted an ugly showdown at the insurance office. Love accused his congregant of being too prideful, and tried to drive a wedge between the Stones by accusing Teresa of sexual indiscretions with two other men.

And Kim Love, the pastor’s wife, had confronted Teresa about a ring David had given her and about a disposable cellphone Teresa used to communicate with the pastor.

The showdown did not shake Randy’s determination to leave New Hope. But he was gracious in a follow-up email to David Love.

“I love you, pastor, and I really wish things could be different, but too much has been said and done to come back!!!”

As detectives examined the new information, the primary motive for the homicide became clear.

The insurance money was a factor for Teresa, but by walking away from the church, Randy was taking her farther away from David.

She no longer would work in the church kitchen, attend choir rehearsals or hear David’s sermons stir the congregation on Sunday mornings.

Randy also knew, or suspected, enough to possibly crash David Love’s future. His financial questions could get David fired from New Hope. And if he acted on suspicions of his wife’s affair, Randy could wreck any hope that David Love ever would work again as a Baptist pastor.

Whether or not he realized it, Randy Stone had become the greatest threat to David Love’s happiness and livelihood.

Soon after the killing, prosecutors and investigators had agreed that the case only would be charged when the investigation was as complete as detectives could make it.

They reached their comfort level in November 2010, when prosecutors presented their evidence to a grand jury.

Tomorrow: Judgment days.

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