JOPLIN, Mo. – A Joplin man has been convicted of fatally shooting a Missouri Southern State University assistant football coach in an attack that prosecutors say was sparked by an image posted on Facebook showing the coach was on a date with the killer’s estranged wife.
Jeffrey Bruner, 41, was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of 37-year-old Derek Moore, an offensive line coach in his first year on the university’s coaching staff, The Joplin Globe reported.
Police said the shooting happened in November 2013 after Bruner confronted his estranged wife, who now goes by Dawn Michelle Hale, as she left a Joplin movie theater with Moore.
Hale testified during trial that she and Moore were in line for tickets when Moore asked a woman standing behind them to take their picture. She said the photo was then uploaded to Facebook.
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Bruner, a water plant operator, saw the photo while eating with his daughter at a restaurant. Prosecutors said he then went to the theater and repeatedly shot Moore.
During the trial, Bruner denied having any memory of standing over Moore after the coach collapsed to the pavement from the first shots. Investigators said Bruner emptied a fully loaded handgun into Moore – seven shots in all, six of which struck Moore, according to other testimony.
“I just wanted to talk to my wife, to save our marriage, to keep her from going down this road she was going down,” Bruner said.
The prosecution dismissed defense arguments that Bruner was armed when he went to the theater because he knew Moore was a big man and feared a physical altercation.
“He took 37 bullets to the scene,” assistant prosecutor Kimberly Fisher said. “That is not a precaution. That is a death intent on Mr. Moore.”
The killing led to the cancellation of Missouri Southern’s homecoming celebrations. Moore had previously coached three seasons at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.
Jurors were given options of convicting Moore of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, but they decided prosecutors had proved the element of deliberation required in first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory term of life without parole in Missouri.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 18.