A Warren County Associate Circuit judge has been appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court to hear the case of three suspects charged in the death of Kenneth Allen Jr.
Judge Michael S. Wright, 12th District, was appointed Friday, Jan. 26, to hear the case against Union area residents Timothy D. Wonish, 32, Whitney D. Robins, 29, and Blake S. Schindler, 18.
Circuit Judge Craig Hellmann recused himself from the case Jan. 22.
Allen, 70, died Nov. 3, 2016, during a burglary at his Washington area home.
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.
Beth Riggert, communications counsel, Supreme Court of Missouri, said when a request for a judge to be appointed is made to the high court, a list of all current special judges is reviewed.
“We select somebody from that list, make sure there is no conflict and that they are close and available,” she explained. “It is a pretty smooth process.”
Riggert added that the Missouri Constitution allows for judges from other districts within the state to be appointed to hear cases.
“You never know what reason a local court will need a little help,” she said. “We have the flexibility and it works seamlessly.”
In January, the suspects agreed to a plea deal that dismisses a first-degree burglary charge if the defendants plead guilty to Class C felonies of receiving stolen property and involuntary manslaughter. Under the deal, the suspects would each serve two seven-year concurrent terms.
Since then the burglary and receiving stolen property charges have been dropped and the defendants now are only charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Judge Hellmann was the third judge slated to hear the case. In February 2017, Judge Ike Lamke recused himself from the case. Then in March it was assigned to Judge Gael D. Wood, who retired in October 2017. The case was assigned to Judge Hellmann in December.
The defendants were indicted last 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 at his home south of Washington.
Judge Wood rejected a plea deal Oct. 24, 2016, stating it was “too lenient.”
Under that deal Wonish, Robins and Schindler 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.
Wonish and Robins have been in custody at the Franklin County Jail since their arrest in November 2016 and already have served more than a year.
Schindler was released on his own recognizance May 3 and ordered to wear a GPS tracking device.