Crime

Man in prison for homeless camp murder is charged in 2004 killing that left body parts floating downriver

Michael J. Gullet is charged with murder in the 2004 death of Ryon McDonald. He is currently serving time for a homeless camp murder in 2012.
Michael J. Gullet is charged with murder in the 2004 death of Ryon McDonald. He is currently serving time for a homeless camp murder in 2012.

A man serving time in prison for a 2012 murder in a riverfront homeless camp in Kansas City has been charged in a similar homicide from years earlier that left body parts floating miles downstream in the Missouri River.

Michael J. Gullet, 61, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ryon McDonald in May 2004. The case had remained unsolved for years, but Jackson County prosecutors on Monday accused Gullet of killing McDonald in a homeless camp along the river near Front Street and Kansas Avenue.

According to prosecutors, in the days after the killing McDonald’s torso was found in the river by fishermen in Moniteau County, near Jefferson City. His leg was found at a river access in nearby Callaway County.

McDonald was listed as a missing person and the body parts were not identified until 11 years later, when a relative noticed a photo of a distinctive tattoo on the Missouri Highway Patrol’s Missing Persons website. DNA tests matched the leg and torso, and comparison with McDonald’s mother indicated a “high probability” that the remains belonged to McDonald.

Witnesses told Patrol investigators that they heard Gullett and McDonald arguing one night at a homeless camp near the Missouri River in Kansas City. The witness said Gullett picked up a piece of wood and hit McDonald in the head. Another witness told an investigator that he heard Gullet talk about hitting McDonald in the head, cutting him up and throwing him in the river.

The killing bore similaries with the murder for which Gullett is currently serving time: the 2012 killing of Joseph W. Loehr, 53, in a homeless camp in the same area near Front Street and Kansas Avenue.

Gullett was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014 for bludgeoning Loehr to death. Police investigating that crime found blood spattered on Gullett’s face and clothing, and on an aluminum baseball bat, a maul, a metal pipe and a knife at the camp.

According to court records, when Gullett was arrested in the Loehr murder, he spontaneously said, “I might be a sociopathic, homicidal maniac.”

Gullett is incarcerated at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo. He is being held on the new charge with no bond.

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