Before joining members of an outlaw motorcycle gang at an eastern Missouri lake, tattoo artist Samuel Francis had one last conversation with his father.
If he turned up dead, Francis said in December, a man named Melvin Scherrer would be responsible. The 38-year-old Cape Girardeau man’s father, Gary Francis, later shared his son’s ominous warning with law enforcement, court documents say.
It would take another seven months before Samuel Francis’ decomposing body was found in a septic tank outside Bonne Terre. Since then, prosecutors have filed a growing number of charges in Francis’ death and an overlapping federal drug case, with Scherrer among the defendants. Slowly a picture of what authorities believe happened is beginning to emerge.
Jerrod D. Mahurin, prosecuting attorney for St. Francois County, said Scherrer is accused of inviting Francis to his home “where he basically was going to go after him.”
The prosecutor declined to explain why Francis was asked to show up at the house, but several people were there when the tattoo artist arrived.
“Each individual had their own part, whether they were there as an enforcer or whether they were there afterward to dispose of the body or just there at the wrong place and the wrong time,” Mahurin said in summarizing the prosecution’s case.
Scherrer, 49, of Bonne Terre, is charged in St. Francois County with first-degree murder, and Brent Tyler Bouren, 43, of St. Louis, with second-degree murder. The two men also are among 25 people facing federal charges for allegedly making and distributing large amounts of meth since October 2010.
Scherrer was among several of the federal drug defendants with ties to the Saddle Tramps Motorcycle Club, which has clubhouses in St. Louis and St. Francois County. A federal affidavit said Scherrer supplied meth to Bouren, the publisher and editor of the biker-geared Full Throttle Midwest Magazine.
Neither Scherrer nor Bouren’s attorneys could be reached for comment.
Richard Callahan, the U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri, said Francis’ name never came up in the drug case but added that the federal investigation led to information about his death and those responsible. “There was enough information to actually solve the case, and so we were happy to share that information with local authorities,” Callahan said.
Francis’ body was found one day after a federal search of Scherrer’s home uncovered meth, according to court records. Mahurin said authorities long had been concerned that Francis’ disappearance was more than a missing-person case.
“We had the inclination that it was probably a homicide but had some more things that needed to develop before we could move forward,” he said.
Interviewed a month after Francis’ disappearance, Scherrer said Francis had never been at his home, but the tattoo artist’s blood later was found there, according to the probable cause statement. Witnesses told authorities that Scherrer struck Francis with a baseball bat, taped his hands behind his back and wrapped his head with tape.
The witnesses said Bouren also participated in the beating, pointed a gun at others who were present and said they would get the same treatment if they talked, according to the probable cause statement.
Scherrer and another man, Otto Plopper, 43, of French Village, removed Francis from the home while he was still alive, witnesses told authorities. Plopper, who is charged with abandonment of a corpse, confessed to helping Scherrer dispose of Francis’ body, court records said. No attorney is listed for Plopper in online court records.
Bouren also is charged with threatening to kill a witness who wound up with Francis’ tattoo equipment.