Jeffrey Moreland, a former Grandview police officer, was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for the murder of Cara Jo Roberts five years ago.
Moreland had been convicted of first-degree murder in September for breaking into Roberts’ home in Harrisonville, sexually assaulting her, forcing her into a full bathtub and shooting her in the back of the head.
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She was married with a toddler son.
Prior to sentencing, Roberts’ mother, Theresa Matthews, referred to Moreland as an “animal” and asked Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Wagner to also impose an additional jury-recommended 50 years for armed criminal action.
Several times during her statement, Matthews made eye contact with Moreland.
“He did not shy away,” Matthews would say later. “He knew what he had done.”
Before the sentencing, the judge asked Moreland, 54, if he had anything to say on his behalf.
Moreland answered: “No, sir.”
Moreland’s elderly parents were in the courtroom, as they were during the entire trial.
Wagner then imposed the only sentence available for the murder charge— the remainder of his life spent in prison with no prospect of release. He also sentenced Moreland to the 50 years on the second count.
For nearly three years, Moreland was the “unknown man” in Roberts’ murder. Investigators had DNA and the fingerprint but no one to match them to. That changed in 2011 when Moreland became a suspect in the murder of 75-year-old Nina Whitney, who was strangled and stabbed in her home.
Moreland is charged in Jackson County and awaiting trial in that case. Before that, however, he still must face a rape charge in Cass County.
In September, a jury of seven men and five women needed only an hour and 20 minutes to find Moreland guilty of killing Roberts.
Investigators testified that Moreland interrupted Roberts, 30, in her Harrisonville home on Nov. 5, 2008, while she was putting together a “big boy” bed as a surprise for Carter while he child was at a baby sitter’s home.
In closing arguments, during the trial that led to Moreland’s conviction, Assistant Cass County Prosecutor Jamie Hunt contended Moreland acted with cool reflection.
“When Jeffrey Moreland arrived at Cara Roberts’ house,” Hunt said, “he knew that she was never coming out.”
On Monday in court, Matthews tearfully told how Moreland robbed her of seeing the joy in her daughter’s eyes when Roberts’ son opened presents on his birthday and on Christmas morning.
“Animals like this should not be able to commit crimes without receiving the full punishment allowed by law,” Matthews said.
After the sentencing, Roberts’ husband, Jeff Roberts, said he had thought a lot lately about what to someday tell Carter about what happened to his mother.
“But I don’t know yet,” he said.