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The Carthage Press
  • Judge denies appeal in Sheldon murders case

  • Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Dally has denied an appeal for a new trial by a man convicted of killing a rural Carthage couple more than five years ago.
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  • Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Dally has denied an appeal for a new trial by a man convicted of killing a rural Carthage couple more than five years ago.
    Dally ruled on Tuesday that Darren Winans, 27, formerly of Jasper, did not prove that his attorneys were ineffective and therefore was not entitled to a new trial.
    Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankelson said he was satisfied with Dally's ruling, but he expects Winans to appeal this ruling.
    "He can appeal to Missouri's Southern District Court of Appeals, and I fully expect him to do so," Dankelson said. "I expect that appeal to be filed because it happens in every case like this."
    Background
    Winans pleaded guilty on Feb. 28, 2011 to two counts of second degree murder two counts of armed criminal action and two counts of burglary in the gruesome murders of Robert Sheldon, 70, and his wife, Ellen Sheldon, 71, on Oct. 11, 2001 in their home just west of Carthage on Old Cabin Shop Road.
    Winans and Matthew Laurin, Springfield, his co-defendant in the murders, were sentenced by Jasper County Judge Gail Crane to life terms for each of the second degree murder conviction,  20 years for each of the armed criminal action counts, 15 years each for the two burglary counts. Winans was sentenced to seven years for a separate burglary that was also committed against the Sheldons a few weeks before the murders.
    Crane ordered all sentences to run consecutively, meaning one sentence begins after the other ends, instead of concurrently, where two sentences can be served at the same time, shortening the time in jail. This means Winans should never be eligible for parole.
    Laurin pleaded guilty to the six counts and received the same sentence as Winans in July 2010, then committed suicide in the Jasper County Jail two days after sentencing.
    Testimony at sentencing showed that Robert and Ellen Sheldon were murdered in a burglary gone wrong when Winans and Laurin, decided to steal guns from the Old Cabin Shop, a hunting supply store that Robert Sheldon operated on the property where they lived.
    They planned to sell the guns to get money to buy drugs.
    Daniel Sheldon, the couple’s youngest son, found this parents in a gruesome crime scene in their historic Jasper County home after they failed to show up at church the next day, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008.
    Winans and Lauren were captured after a nine-month manhunt.
    In his sentencing hearing, Winans' attorneys said he was under the influence of marijuana, prescription painkillers, methamphetamine and cocaine when they went to rob the Old Cabin Shop.
    His attorneys said Winans never entered the home where Bob and Ellen Sheldon were brutally murdered by Winans’ cohort, the late Matthew Laurin, a fact confirmed by Laurin’s statements when he pleaded guilty.
    Page 2 of 2 - The ruling
    According to Dally's four-page judgement on Winans' appeal, Dally denied Winans' three claims of ineffective council:
    • Dally said Winans failed to prove that his attorneys had told him the plea deal would allow some sentenced to run consecutively instead of concurrently, as was specified in the sentence.
    • Dally wrote that Winans claim that his attorneys told him that Laurin's intention to commit the crime would be attributed to him if the case went to trial, prompting Winans to accept the plea and reduce the charges of first degree murder to second degree murder, thereby taking the death penalty off the table. Dally said Winans attorneys denied they told him that and Winans failed to prove otherwise.
    • Dally also wrote that Winans claimed his trial attorneys failed to file a motion to suppress testimony from a Jasper County jail psychologist before his plea agreement. Dally said it was evident that the attorneys would have filed that motion if the case had gone to trial and Winans' plea waives his right to challenge the failure to file that motion.

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