The hearing for three suspects charged in the death of Ken Allen Jr., 70, slated for Friday, March 2, was rescheduled for May 17.
Timothy D. Wonish, 32, Whitney D. Robins, 29, and Blake S. Schindler, 18, were scheduled to appear in front of 12th District Judge Michael S. Wright Friday at 2 p.m. They were expected to plead guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Allen who died Nov. 3, 2016, during a burglary at his Washington area home.
The court proceeding was rescheduled Tuesday in response to a writ of mandamus filed Feb. 16 by a group called Justice for Ken seeking to remove Franklin County Prosecutor Bob Parks from the case.
The petitioners for the writ are Allen’s daughter, Kathy Allen, and county resident, Vincent Bandermann. Justice for Ken is being represented by attorney Michael A. Benner. A hearing is scheduled for April 12.
Judge Darrell Missey, Jefferson County, was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court after 20th Circuit Judge Craig Hellmann recused himself from the case against Wonish, Robins and Schindler.
The petition alleges Parks should be removed from the Wonish, Robins and Schindler cases due to “conflicts of interest, failure to act on duty by prosecuting attorney and abuse of discretion by prosecuting attorney.”
The defendants each have been offered a plea deal to serve seven years on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
The suspects were located at a South St. Louis County residence shortly before midnight Nov. 4, 2016. They were in possession of items that belonged to
Allen, according to investigators with the St. Louis Major Case Squad.
Conflict of Interest
The petition alleges a conflict of interest due to a lawsuit filed in August 2016 by Ken Allen, Jan Allen and Meramec Recovery Center Inc.
That suit was dropped in December 2016 at the request of the plaintiffs. It did not name Parks, but it named former assistant prosecuting attorney Jennifer Bartlett.
The suit alleged that members of the Franklin County Drug Court conspired to convince a judge and the Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) to terminate Meramec Recovery Center’s contract as a treatment provider for the drug court.
Other defendants named in the suit were Jason Grellner, formerly with the sheriff’s department; Franklin County; Bridgeway Behavioral Health Foundation Board Inc.; Jennifer King; George Lombardi, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections; Carey Curran; and Sherri Huxol.
‘Neglect of Duties’
The writ states Parks was in “neglect of his duties” by offering the defendants new plea deals after previous deals were rejected.
The suspects 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 Ken Allen.
Under a plea deal, 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 deals were rejected by former Circuit Judge Gael D. Wood in October 2017.
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.
That deal was rejected by Judge Hellmann who was assigned to the case in December 2017. Later in January, Hellmann also recused himself.
Since then the burglary and receiving stolen property charges have been dropped and the defendants now are charged with only involuntary manslaughter.
The writ of mandamus also states that Parks’ statements to the Allen family conflict with the medical examiner’s cause of death.