Crime

Man pleads guilty, sentenced to prison for 2004 killing in KC homeless camp

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A 63-year-old man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in the killing of another man that happened in a Kansas City homeless camp 15 years ago, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office announced in a news release.

As part of a plea agreement, Michael Gullett pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection to the May 2004 death of Ryon McDonald. Gullett is currently serving time for a separate murder conviction.

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

The homicide went unsolved for several years and the body parts weren’t identified until 2015 when prosecutors said the McDonald’s brother noticed photos posted online by the Missouri State Highway Patrol of a distinctive tattoo he recognized as belonging to McDonald. At the time, McDonald was listed as a missing person.

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 criminal investigators with the highway patrol that McDonald and the Gullett had been in an argument in 2004.

One stated that Gullett picked up a piece of wood and hit the McDonald in the head with it.

Another witness told authorities that Gullett said the victim “ain’t ever coming back. I hit him in the head, cut him up with an axe and threw him in the river,” court records said.

Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.
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