Three arrested on murder charges

Left to right: Whitney D. Robins, 28; Blake S. Schindler, 17; and Timothy D. Wonish, 30.

The daughter of a Franklin County man killed during a burglary said she’s “outraged” with the proposed plea deal that reduces the sentence for two suspects involved in the November 2016 death.

Kathy Allen, the daughter of Kenneth Allen Jr., 70, a former probation officer and drug counselor who died Nov. 3, 2016, during the burglary, said she was notified of the plea deal by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office. The deal amends felony murder charges to involuntary manslaughter for Timothy D. Wonish, 31, and Whitney D. Robins, 29, both of Union.

“It scares me that these violent criminals who destroyed my family will be out walking the streets,” she said.

Allen’s body was found at his Elmwood Estates Drive residence after 8 a.m. Nov. 3. 

Wonish and Robins, 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. The suspects were charged with felony murder because Allen died during the commission of another crime, burglary.

Under the plea deal for Wonish and Robins, each would serve 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 run concurrently. The receiving stolen property charge would be dismissed.

“This is completely outrageous to me and insulting to me, and the memory and legacy of my dad,” Kathy Allen told The Missourian. “His entire adult life my dad had given service to Franklin County and the surrounding area by helping people recover from drugs and alcohol.”

The plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 19, in front of Presiding Circuit Judge Gael D. Wood. 

Parks on Deal

Franklin County Prosecutor Bob Parks said the plea deal reflects how a jury would have likely decided a case.

“The evidence more strongly supported that of a plea than the felony murder,” he said. “If we had gone to trial, we would have had to submit both (felony murder and involuntary manslaughter) charges to the jury and I think the jury would have come back with involuntary manslaughter, not felony murder.”

Parks added the plea deal will put the suspects in prison more quickly and eliminate lengthy appeals.

“This is the best thing to do,” he said. “It gets them in prison, we won’t have a lot of appeals — it is pretty much over with after this.”

According to the letter sent to Kathy Allen, a plea deal is expected for Schindler at a later date.

She said autopsy results show her father died of positional asphyxia, which occurs when someone is unable to breathe due to the position of their body.

“Nothing they did was involuntary,” Allen said. “They tied my dad up. He was asphyxiated — they held him down to tie him up.

“Theoretically, they will serve more time for the burglary than for killing Dad,” she added.

Parks said this deal is both “fair and equitable.”

“I cannot please everybody, but I try to take everybody’s wishes into consideration,” he said. “The people of Franklin County elected me to do this job and I have been doing it for 20 years — I think it is the best deal for this situation.”

Allen said she is penning a letter to Judge Wood asking him to reject the plea deal. She is asking her friends and family to do the same.

“I think my only recourse is to write a letter to appeal to Judge Wood,” she said. “I will state my feelings and opinions and urge him to reject the plea deal.” 

Criminal History

Both Wonish and Robins have previously been charged with felonies.

Wonish was charged with felony distribution of drugs and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia in 2016. He also was charged last year with a felony for resisting arrest.

Robins was charged in 2016 with felony possession of a controlled substance, as well as a slew of misdemeanor charges from 2015 to 2017, including domestic assault, resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child.

“It is a slap in the face to the community who will be around these people when they get out,” Allen said. “These people were picked up in South St. Louis — they don’t just confine themselves to Franklin County.”

Investigation

Detectives with the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad said there were no obvious signs of injury to Allen, who was found on the floor in his home by an acquaintance.

During the investigation, authorities found evidence that someone had been in the home, possibly searching for something.

The suspects were located at a residence shortly before midnight on Nov. 4 in South St. Louis County and were in possession of items that belonged to Allen, according to Major Case Squad Deputy Cmdr. Gary Higginbotham.

Ken Allen, who was a co-owner of Meramec Recovery Center Inc., was a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in August that alleged 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 treatment provider for the drug court.

The suit was dismissed in December 2016 at the request of the plaintiffs. Jan Allen and Meramec Recovery Center Inc. also were listed as plaintiffs in the case.