The daughter of a well-known drug counselor who died during a burglary at his home said she’s relieved that plea deals for the suspects was rejected Friday.
Judge Gael D. Wood Friday rejected the plea deals for two county residents accused in the death of Kenneth Allen Jr., 70.
Timothy D. Wonish, 31, and Whitney D. Robins, 29, both of Union, then withdrew their guilty pleas and a hearing has been set for Nov. 14 in Franklin County Circuit Court.
“Of course I was extremely relieved that Judge Wood did that,” said Kathy Allen, the daughter of Ken Allen. “The feeling of relief gave me some joy in success at the moment.”
When asked by Franklin County Prosecutor Bob Parks to recuse himself from the case, Judge Wood declined.
Kathy Allen has been vocal in her objection to the plea deals asking for the suspects to be charged with second-degree murder.
“It is a twisted kind of triumph,” she added. “My dad is still dead — he was still murdered and Bob Parks is still the prosecutor on this case.”
The two suspects, and a third suspect, Blake S. Schindler, 18, Union, were indicted earlier this year by a Franklin County grand jury on the charges of felony murder, first-degree burglary and receiving stolen property in the death of Allen, which occurred Nov. 3, 2016, at his home south of Washington.
“I am extremely disappointed. I would have liked for the case to have been done today,” Parks said Friday. “We will go back, regroup and get this taken care of.”
The suspects were located at a residence shortly before midnight Nov. 4, 2016, in South St. Louis County and were in possession of items that belonged to Allen, according to investigators with the St. Louis Major Case Squad.
They were charged with felony murder because Allen died during the commission of another crime, burglary. Wonish and Robins pleaded guilty to lesser charges of burglary and involuntary manslaughter.
Under the plea deals they each would have served 10 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on the burglary charge, and seven years on the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter. The involuntary murder and burglary charges would have run concurrently. The receiving stolen property charge would have been dismissed.
The plea bargains were rejected by Judge Wood after he reviewed a Sentencing Assessment Report.
Schindler was released on his own recognizance May 3 and ordered to wear a GPS tracking device. His hearing had been scheduled for Monday.
Kathy Allen said she will continue to fight for a stricter sentence for those accused in the death of her father.
“To me, with the evidence that I am aware of, this is a slam-dunk second-degree murder case,” she said.
For now, Kathy Allen will wait to see who the judge hearing the case will be since Friday was Judge Wood’s last day as presiding circuit judge. Judges in Missouri are required to retire at age 70. He was appointed Monday as a senior judge until Dec. 31.
Judge Wood’s replacement on the circuit will be appointed by Gov. Eric Greitens. Any open cases will likely be transferred to that judge.
About 25 protesters were outside the Franklin County Judicial Center Friday afternoon calling for Judge Wood to reject the plea deals. A petition was circulating asking for rejection of the plea deals.
Along with friends and family of Ken Allen were supporters of Austin Lusty, who was stabbed to death Jan. 10, 2016.
Lusty, 24, died following an altercation at a home in the 200 block of Watson Road in Sullivan. According to police reports, Lusty died from stab wounds to the neck and chest.
There were no criminal charges filed against the man accused in Lusty’s death.
“They had gotten wind of what we were doing,” Kathy Allen said. “His friends and family held signs for Austin and also signs for my dad.
“It was a sign of the community working together for a common cause,” she added. “I thanked Austin’s mother multiple times.”
A suspect in the Lusty stabbing, a 43-year-old Steelville man, was arrested later the night of the stabbing at a home in Cuba. He was questioned and later released by police while the investigation proceeded.
It was reported in The Missourian in April 2016 that Parks made a decision to not issue charges in the death investigation due to a lack of evidence and that some of the witnesses later changed their stories about the incident, making it difficult to proceed with prosecution.