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Court-martial begins for Cass County soldier charged with murder

Updated: 2013-05-01T05:59:41Z

By DONALD BRADLEY

The Kansas City Star

A court-martial got under way Tuesday at Fort Leavenworth for a soldier from Cass County accused of committing a murder during a trip home for his wife’s funeral.

Justin Cannon, 22, an Army specialist who had been deployed to Afghanistan, is charged with premeditated murder in the death of Michael Griggs, whose body was found floating in Truman Lake on Aug. 1, 2011.

Authorities say Cannon thought Griggs, 24, had been having sex with Cannon’s wife.

Cannon, in uniform, sat between his lawyers — one civilian, one military — and did not speak. The trial is expected to last four days.

During opening statements, prosecutors laid out the case that Cannon crept up on Griggs during a campout at the lake with four other friends before the funeral of Amber Cannon, 16. The prosecutors said Cannon bashed in Griggs’ head with a rock, knocking him unconscious.

“Then he picks him up and carries him across the rocks and puts him in the water and pushes him out as far as he can,” said lead prosecutor Capt. Courtney Pratten.

Pratten told the jury of eight Army officers that Cannon confessed the crime to a sheriff’s office detective.

Defense attorney Ben Butler countered that Cannon’s so-called confession amounted to answering “yes” to a question from the detective after hours of grueling interrogation on the day of his wife’s funeral.

“He was grieving and just wanted to go home,” Butler told the court.

The defense alleges that Griggs died of injuries from an epileptic seizure.

The trial’s first witness, a Raymore woman who was part of the camping trip, testified that Griggs had seizures regularly and that he’d had one the day before his body was found.

Cannon, from Peculiar, had been on his way to jump school at Fort Benning, Ga., on July 27, 2011, when he learned his wife had died at a Grandview motel. An autopsy would later show she overdosed on Xanax.

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to dbradley@kcstar.com.

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