Appeals court upholds sentence against murder suspect Waller - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Appeals court upholds sentence against murder suspect Waller


A United States Appeals Court upholds the five year federal prison sentence handed down to Cape Girardeau County murder suspect James Clay Waller.

Back in January, a federal judge sentenced Waller to five years in prison for using the Internet to threaten Cheryl Brenneke, the sister of his missing wife Jacque Waller.

The Eighth Circuit justices wrote in the ruling handed down Friday, "the district court did not err in finding by a preponderance of the evidence that Waller murdered his missing wife and that the alleged murder is inextricably intertwined with the threatening communication to Brenneke".

In October of 2011, Waller admitted to threatening Brenneke on the Internet web site "Topix".

According to court documents, the post stated: "You are dead I promise If those kids get hurt, your fault, accident, nobodys fault. Your dad threaten clay, I know he's all talk, I will get you 5, 10, 25 years from now. You have it coming."

On appeal, Waller argued through his attorney that the district court erred when it found Brenneke was a vulnerable victim, that Waller killing his wife was "inextricably intertwined" with the posted threat, that it used the then uncharged murder case as a basis for a tougher sentence, and that it imposed a "substantively unreasonable sentence."

The three judges agreed with the district court's ruling that the threat to Brenneke and the murder of Jacque Waller were "inextricably intertwined" because the recipient of Waller's online threat is the sister of Waller's missing wife.

The ruling goes on to read, "Waller posted the threat to Brenneke on a web site dedicated to following developments in the disappearance of his wife. At the time that Waller made the threat, Brenneke had custody of Waller's three children with Jacque. Brenneke testified that the threat put her in fear for her life and caused her to take immediate precautions to protect herself, her family, and Jacque's three children. According to Brenneke, at the time of the threat, she believed that Waller had murdered her sister and was threatening to kill her."

Waller is currently being held in the Cape Girardeau County Jail as the state proceeds with its murder case against him.

On April 23, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle charged Waller with first degree murder and two counts of tampering with physical evidence in the June 1, 2011 disappearance of his estranged wife, Jacque.

Earlier this week, Waller's public defender filed a motion for a change of venue.

We should learn if an outside jury will be brought in to hear his case or if the case will be moved to another county as his next court appearance in October.

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