Hanna trail declared mistrial for second time
By: CJ Cassidy
By: CJ Cassidy
CARTER COUNTY, Mo. - Will a Butler County man's murder ever be avenged? That's the question many folks in and around Ellsinore want answered.
It all started in November 2003 when 56-year-old Ralph Hanna was found shot dead in his backyard, after returning home from a hunting trip. Just days later, police arrested his wife Denise, and son Shawn on charges of first degree murder and armed criminal action.
In February 2005, Shawn Hanna's trial ended in a hung jury, and he was free to go. Then days ago, a second trial ended the same way. Friends of the Hanna family say they were surprised the first time around, but shocked and disappointed the second time.
Now they say third time's a charm and hope the state doesn't give up the fight for justice. "I was pretty close to the situation and I feel like they're guilty," Donald Gilliam says.
He learned everything he knows about fixing cars from Ralph Hanna, when he worked at the garage he and his wife owned in Poplar Bluff. "He was a great boss, a good friend, and he taught me a lot. I miss him a lot," he says.
Naturally Gilliam says he'd hoped for a different outcome.
Court documents say Shawn Hanna admitted to shooting his father when investigators questioned him, but his attorney Danny Moore says otherwise. "There wasn't what I'd call a confession," he says, and adds, "Shawn's happy he wasn't convicted of course. He's living in Florida now. He's been tried twice, and he's had the exact same result both times. I think that's going to be the result if you tried it 100 times," he says.
Prosecutor Michael Ligons says he'll leave it up to the next prosecutor who takes over in January, to decide whether to pursue a new trial. Moore points out he isn't sure Hanna can afford him a third time. "it's been my experience when you have two trials, especially a split jury the state's probably not going to waste their resources and pursue him any further," Moore says.
Donald Gilliam and his new employer, Larry Leeds, a long time friend of Ralph Hanna's hopes that isn't the case. "We both believe from the bottom of our hearts that the family's behind all of this, so we're confident that there needs to be some closure on this thing. This wasn't a hunting accident," Leeds says. "Ralph would want him to be punished," Gilliam adds.
Attorney Danny Moore tells me Shawn Hanna now works at a restaurant his brother owns in Florida.