Love’s secrets, finally revealed


The Kansas City Star

Independence police detectives Keith Rosewaren and Christina Nunez hovered over the speakerphone at a South Carolina truck terminal and heard rising suspicion creep into David Love’s voice at the call’s other end.

Love’s supervisor had called him to come to the office to sign paperwork — a ruse, actually, so the Missouri detectives could arrest him.

Seven months after Pastor Love shot congregant Randy Stone to death in Stone’s Noland Road insurance agency, a Jackson County grand jury had indicted Love on a charge of first-degree murder.

“What do you have for me to sign?” Love asked his boss that day in November 2010. “Is everything OK?”

Love had slipped out of Independence after resigning as pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church in late April, nearly a month after the killing. By then, Teresa Stone, Randy Stone’s widow, had told police that she and Love had been lovers for 10 years, eventually meeting almost daily for sex.

The financial hit to the Love family had been substantial. Kim, still devoted to her family, had joined her husband in South Carolina, where he’d found work as a long-haul trucker.

Everybody in the Tidewater Trucking office got antsy after 10 minutes of waiting. Finally, a worker stepped in to say that Love had parked his 18-wheeler outside the gate, gotten in his car and taken off.

Leaving a deputy at the terminal, Rosewaren and Nunez hopped into Spartanburg County patrol cars and raced to Love’s home about 20 minutes away.

Just as they arrived, the radio in Rosewaren’s cruiser lit up.

“Hey,” the deputy called, “the guy’s back.”

Love hadn’t been trying to flee. Suspecting he was about to be arrested, he’d gone to get his wife so she would be there to take the car and, hopefully, keep it from ending up in a police impound lot, as had happened to their cars back in Independence.

As Rosewaren returned to the truck terminal, Kim recognized him as one of the detectives who had searched her Independence home that spring.

“Do you believe he did this?” a distraught Kim asked him. “Do you believe he did this?”

The Spartanburg County deputy already had handcuffed David Love’s wrists.

Later at the county jail, Rosewaren showed Love the arrest warrant.

“Here are first-degree murder charges,” Rosewaren said. “You’ve lost your job. You’ve moved out here. You’re not talking to us. Is this working for you?”

Love fell back on a familiar line.

“I just feel I need an attorney,” he said. “I don’t trust you guys.”

Continuing to press, Rosewaren told him that people hurting back in Independence needed closure.

That brought tears to David Love’s eyes.

“Look,” he said, “Randy was a friend of mine, too!”

Eight months after her husband’s murder, Teresa Stone entered a small first-floor office at the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence finally ready to reveal her final secrets.

She had yet to detail just how her former lover had obtained her husband’s .40-caliber Glock, which fired the fatal shot. And she still hadn’t been honest about whether she encouraged Love to commit the murder or helped him plan it.

But hoping desperately to avoid a long prison sentence, and thinking that cooperation would help, she sat down with prosecutors.

Accompanied by veteran defense lawyer John P. O’Connor, Teresa announced that she was prepared, without conditions or promises, to answer questions under oath.

Assistant Jackson County prosecutor Patrick Edwards remained queasy about using her as a witness against Love because she’d be too easy to discredit. Why should prosecutors own those problems, Edwards asked himself.

For anything to work, Teresa would have to show that she could make crisp and truthful admissions without the histrionics she’d employed to frustrate detectives.

As a court reporter recorded the discussion, assistant prosecutor Tammy Dickinson got right to the key questions.

“How was he going to get access to Randy’s guns,” she asked.

“I gave him the code to the (gun) safe and the code to our garage door and to our alarm code,” Teresa replied.

“So he had access to get into your house?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Teresa also admitted that she helped turn Love into a killer.

“I sent him a text that said, ‘I want him dead. …’ I told him that I just wanted him out of my life.”

And with that, her last secrets were out.

In her job as an assistant public defender, Molly Hastings usually represented violent street criminals — not an educated, articulate and once-respected man of God like David Love.

Prosecutors had charged Love with first-degree murder, which carried a mandatory life sentence, so he had every incentive to seek acquittal at trial.

Love proved a low-maintenance defendant, seldom calling Hastings but always grateful and concerned about her well-being when he did. He became an immediate hit among her other clients housed at the Jackson County jail. They appreciated his acute listening skills and liked having their own pastor among them.

“He’s really blossoming there,” she mused in her Kansas City office after getting the case in December 2010.

The state’s case against Love also was blossoming.

As crime and computer labs finished their studies, Hastings’ office slowly filled with interview and forensics reports, computer hard drive analyses and cell phone records that had been matched with data showing where each phone had pinged a cell tower on the day Randy Stone died.

A lot of it looked very bad for David Love.

One cell phone tower analysis had his phone within at least striking distance of Randy Stone’s insurance office in the rough time period in which investigators believed Randy died.

As she plowed through the evidence over several months, Hastings’ strategy began to take shape: Apologize to jurors for David Love’s “despicable” conduct with Teresa Stone; encourage jurors to at least consider that Teresa could have pulled the trigger; and then tear into Teresa’s credibility on cross examination, exposing the lies she had told during her various police statements.

Prosecutors indicted Teresa Stone on May 27, 2011, for allegedly conspiring with David Love in the murder. But even with that weighing against her, Teresa’s testimony still could damage David critically.

Jurors had to see Teresa as the party who drove the adulterous relationship and who was in a twisted and unrelenting competition with David’s wife, Kim. Hastings honed a line that she could use to drive home that point to jurors in closing arguments.

“Some women love a man in uniform,” Hastings said. “Teresa has a thing for the clergy. She is the one who thinks she could be a good pastor’s wife.”

With trial scheduled to open Dec. 5, 2011, Hastings and prosecutors began deposing witnesses during a grueling three-week stretch in the fall of 2011. With almost two dozen depositions completed, the last one loomed particularly large: Teresa Stone on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

For Hastings, the deposition represented a full-contact practice round with Teresa before she had to repeat it in front of jurors.

Working late the evening of Thursday, Nov. 3, Hastings noticed a fresh email from prosecutors pop into her inbox.

It was a new analysis of text messages between David and Teresa, showing contact between the two later than her client previously had acknowledged.

Hastings exhaled in frustration: “It’s one more thing,” she thought.

Exasperated, she called Dickinson about 7:30 p.m.

“Would you give me a Murder 2 on this?” Hastings asked, pleading for a deal that could take mandatory life-without-possibility for parole off the table.

Dickinson agreed, but with conditions. David would have to accept life with the possibility of parole, but he had to take the deal by Monday so the prosecutor could spare Randy’s son and Teresa from depositions.

Hastings was not optimistic that Love would accept, and she felt fine with that. She looked forward to trial and remained convinced that Teresa had a lot more to do with her husband’s murder than she had admitted.

In a jail visiting room the next day, she laid out the plea agreement for Love in the starkest possible terms.

“Here is the benefit to you: You’ll get out of prison before you die.”

Love, 51, could be out of prison on parole by about age 70, his lawyer estimated.

“No way,” he said. “Absolutely not.”

“OK!” she replied and left to call Kim Love.

Hastings waited to call Dickinson. The deadline wasn’t until Monday.

Over the weekend, Kim Love called Hastings.

“Pastor wants to speak with you,” she said.

Over a small metal table in the jail’s visiting room, David Love could see his lawyer’s anger. A few minutes earlier, he’d asked Hastings to shoo away her investigator and co-counsel, both of whom had invested the same long hours as Hastings in his defense.

“I really need to talk to you by yourself,” Love said.

“You have 5 minutes,” Hastings replied.

Love’s tone softened.

“Put your hands on the table,” he said.

The request angered the lawyer even more, but she did as he asked.

Love covered her hands with his.

“What … is going on?” she asked.

“I’ll take it,” he cried.

Hastings’ eyes widened.

“What do you mean you’ll take it?”

“I am not an innocent man,” he said, and then began to sob, fully acknowledging his fall from grace for the first time.

Love’s posture in the chair seemed to ease, as if a vast weight had slipped off his shoulders.

They talked more. After a few minutes, Hastings took a break and called Dickinson, pulling her out of a meeting two blocks away.

“Cancel all our depositions,” Hastings said. “We have a deal.”

Dickinson asked if Hastings was joking.

“No, but 100 million things can go wrong with this.”

Returning to the interview room, Hastings found her client more composed. His eyes seemed brighter and he appeared more relaxed, hopeful and confident.

“You’re a special person,” he said. “I’m taking the deal. I’m taking responsibility for this.”

Still, Hastings worried about the court hearing Love now faced. A courtroom packed with family, friends and media could cause the plea to crumble.

And prosecutors worried that a sudden influx of national media could force a change of venue for Teresa Stone’s trial to Springfield or even further afield.

All the lawyers felt a quiet plea was the way to go. And prosecutors had a plan to keep some of Stone’s more distant relatives from tipping off the press. They warned that if word of the plea leaked out ahead of time, prosecutors would consider a less serious prison term for David Love, perhaps one that could have him out in 10 years.

It worked. Reporters and the general public learned nothing about the hearing, which began at 8 a.m., Nov. 9, 2011, in an Independence courtroom.

Wearing a suit instead of jail attire, Love took the stand while Hastings positioned herself between the Stone family in the gallery and her client’s line of sight.

The previous day she had rehearsed the legal litany that she and Love would have to recite to have the guilty pleas accepted by the court. She had pared it down to the bare minimum.

On March 31, 2010, in Jackson County did you knowingly cause the death of Randy Stone by shooting him, she asked.

“Yes,” Love responded.

Did you use a firearm and commit the crime of armed criminal action, she followed up.


The judge sentenced Love to life in prison. The hearing took only about 30 minutes.

Heading out the door to prison, Love told prosecutors in passing that he had thrown Randy’s Glock into a fast-food restaurant’s trash bin shortly after the killing. Prosecutors remained skeptical, however, since he never made the admission under oath.

By 8:40 a.m., Hastings pulled away from the courthouse and noticed a TV news van screech to the curb.

Hastings left with mixed feelings. By pleading guilty, Love had accepted responsibility and spared both the Stone and the Love families the misery of a trial.

“But it would have been the trial of my career,” she thought.

The court set Teresa Stone’s judgment day for June 15, 2012, a Friday.

She’d pleaded guilty six weeks before, never having received a “deal” from the prosecutors. With a pile of her own incriminating admissions stacked against her record, a trial seemed pointless.

A media horde packed the hallway outside the Division 16 courtroom in Independence. Inside, spectators filled the courtroom’s pew-like benches.

Michael and Miranda Stone sat in the first row. Not far away, their mother, Teresa Stone, wearing a blue jacket over a white top, sat at a table facing Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan.

Randy Stone’s mother, Clara Koehler, sat behind Teresa, in the first rows of pews across the aisle from Michael and Miranda, her grandchildren.

Prosecutors had given the defense lawyer, O’Connor, copies of photographs of Randy Stone’s body lying on the office floor. They planned to project them on the courtroom wall and wanted his children, who hadn’t seen them, to be prepared.

Dickinson, the lead prosecutor, rose and began:

“Her lover was her hit man.”

The image of Randy’s body didn’t linger as Dickinson swiftly described other evidence, such as the torn-up love note and emails between Teresa and Pastor Love documenting dialogue the two had shared regarding their wedding plans.

“She wanted a perfect life, no matter the cost,” Dickinson said.

But, Dickinson added, “Today is not about what Teresa Stone wants, it’s about what she deserves.”

Dickinson detailed the murder scheme and Teresa’s mistaken belief that she would receive as much as $800,000 in life insurance payouts.

The prosecutor summoned Rosewaren, who described Teresa’s detailed alibi at the time of the killing.

Randy’s Farmers Insurance supervisor, Robert Davis, described Teresa’s distraught demeanor when he visited the Stone home the day after the murder, and how that didn’t last long.

“She suggested that we go out on the front porch,” Davis testified. “She immediately regained her composure and started asking about the life insurance.”

Randy had switched the beneficiaries on his policies from Teresa to Michael and Miranda in 2005, Davis said.

“Randy Stone didn’t trust her, and do you blame him?” Dickinson said.

“The man was on to something.”

Miranda and Michael pleaded with Roldan to show their mother mercy.

Then Randy’s niece, Shelly Bell, testified that the previous day would have been her uncle’s 45th birthday. She asked Roldan to impose the maximum sentence available, to reflect “the cold-hearted decision made by this woman.”

Finally, Teresa stood.

A newspaper photographer’s camera began firing.

“I am so sorry,” Teresa said, sobbing. “If I could do anything to change it. ... I ask you today to show mercy. … I am totally responsible for my actions.”

O’Connor pointed out that Teresa had no prior criminal record and had returned to school to prepare for a new career as a medical technician.

Roldan chose the most severe option recommended to him in a pre-sentencing assessment: eight years.

A deputy led the 40-year-old Teresa toward a door. Teresa put her hands behind her back, and the deputy snapped on a pair of handcuffs.

As the courtroom cleared, Dickinson hugged Randy’s mother, Koehler, and his sister, Shannon Bell.

Two days later, Koehler joined others in a 30-acre field in northeast Independence for a groundbreaking for a new picnic pavilion at the future site of New Hope Baptist Church.

Even after all that had happened, Koehler still belonged to the congregation, which had about 250 members before her son’s death.

Membership had dipped to below 100 members in the aftermath of the murder, but has since rebounded to more than 300.

Pastor Darren Tharp, who replaced David Love, handed the shovel first to Koehler so she and other Stone family members could turn the first dirt for the Randy Stone Memorial Pavilion.

“You will be able to come out, bring your families and have picnics,” Tharp said. “We will have a beautiful plaque up, with Randy’s picture.

“We’ll build it. We’ll build it to the glory of God and the memory of a precious man of God: Brother Randy Stone.”

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