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By David Knopf, News Editor
The Ray County Prosecutor is expected to file charges against three Richmond residents, including a three-time state high-school wrestling champion, in what police are describing as the murder of Michelle Rhueport, 40.
Rhueport was found dead in her home at 411 Farris St. shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday.
On Wednesday, police picked up two suspects, Brandon Simpson, 25, and James Gant, 25, for questioning. Simpson, the former Richmond state wrestling champ and football running back, and Gant were formally arrested Wednesday evening, Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Collin Stosberg said.
Both men are being held without bond on probation-and-parole violations pending formal charges in the Rhueport death, Stosberg said.
Danielle Rogers, Ray County’s prosecuting attorney, was in court Thursday morning and had yet to determine which charges would be filed.
A third suspect, a 23-year-old Richmond woman, is on a 24-hour hold pending filing of charges.
Stosberg said that details of what occurred inside Rhueport’s home would be withheld until charges are filed.
“We don’t want to jeopardize prosecution,” he said.
Stosberg said the charges to be reviewed are murder, burglary and stealing.
A STORY UNFOLDS
Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, a news helicopter hovered over Richmond, photographing scenes on Farris Street with a camera mounted on its belly.
Just two blocks long, Farris is a quiet street of single-family homes between Camden and Shotwell streets. It was still quiet late Wednesday afternoon as neighbors congregated outside their homes, and police cruisers and a half-dozen TV trucks surrounded a blue ranch house at 411 Farris.
It was the site of what police believe is Richmond’s first homicide in 16 years.
In 1996 – also in May – Danny H. Falley, 23, was run down by a car driven by his roommate, Paul T. Covey, 30.
The death, ruled a homicide, took place at the loading dock of what’s now the Salvation Army building but then was Harold’s Supermarket.
Sixteen years later, Rhueport became a homicide victim. The mother of three children, she was found inside her home shortly after 7 a.m., police say, following a family member’s call to 911.
At around 4 p.m. Chad Burnine, Richmond’s first-year police chief, made the first public comment on a death that had been the topic of conversation, text messages and Facebook posts much of the day.
“I will confirm that we are working a homicide,” said Burnine. “Upon arriving, we found a 40-year-old deceased in the home. We’re not releasing a lot of details, but it’s obviously a homicide.”
Burnine called in the Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control unit to assist the 10-officer department with both the investigation and numerous requests by reporters for information. Well before the TV trucks converged on the home, it was cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape and two Richmond officers and Mike McCalley, the department chaplain, were posted outside.
Other officers, including a Highway Patrolman, shuttled inside and out, and a curious neighbor peered through a window across the street.
Burnine and Sgt. Collin Stosberg, the Patrol’s Kansas City-area spokesman, said the cause of death and other information would be withheld until an autopsy could be conducted.
“That will be determined,” Burnine said. “We are actively interviewing at this moment.”
Burnine said interviews were being conducted at the Sheriff’s Department, but he said an early TV news report and a widely circulating rumor that a suspect had turned himself in to police was inaccurate.
Stosberg said there had been no arrests and that the people being interviewed weren’t being characterized as “persons of interest.”
“We’re not releasing a whole lot of details about the case because we’re still actively investigating,” he said. “We don’t want to jeopardize our prosecution. Right now, we’re just conducting interviews with people who might be able to help us.”
Among those were the deceased woman’s relatives. Burnine said her two teenage boys had gone to stay with their grandmother, who lives in town. A neighbor said that one of the boys, reported to be 13, was about to enter eighth grade at Richmond Middle School. His older brother was out of school but still lived at home, police said. Rhueport’s daughter, the oldest of the three children, lived elsewhere.
Stosberg said police view the suspected murder an isolated incident, not a cause for concern in the neighborhood.
“It’s a quiet community and we want people to know they have nothing to fear,” he said. “We have every reason to believe this is an isolated incident.”
A neighbor who lives behind 411 Farris on Church Street gathered on her front lawn with several other people. She said she was frightened.
“I slept in this house with two little children and that woman died right over there,” she said.
Press release issued by Highway Patrol Sgt. Collin Stosberg:
May 24, 2012
EMPHASIS: Three Suspects In Richmond, MO, Homicide Arrested
On May 23, 2012, at approximately 7:09 am, Michelle Rheuport, 40, was found dead inside her residence, at 411 Farris Avenue, in Richmond, by a family member. Following an investigation, officers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control, Ray County Sheriff’s Department and the Richmond Police Department arrested three Richmond, MO, residents for the murder of Michelle Rheuport:
Brandon Scott Simpson, 25 — Murder first degree — Class A felony, Burglary first degree — Class B felony, Stealing — Class C felony — Simpson was also arrested for a Probation and Parole violation warrant.
James Gant, 25 — Murder second degree — Class A felony, Burglary first degree– Class B felony, Stealing — Class C felony — Gant was also arrested for a Probation and Parole violation warrant.
Lauren Gabbard, 23 — Murder second degree — Class A felony, Burglary first degree — Class B felony, and Stealing — Class C felony.
All three subjects are being held at the Ray County Jail on a $1,000,000.00 cash or surety bond. The charges for which the above individuals were arrested are mere accusation and are not evidence of guilt. Evidence in support of the charges must be presented before a court of competent
jurisdiction whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.