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Suspect in 2013 Easter Sunday murder pleads guilty

A man has pleaded guilty Wednesday to 19 felony charges, including first-degree murder, for the murder of Carmelita Kaser in Moberly on Easter Sunday in 2013.

Christopher Lewis, 21, admitted to killing 92-year-old Kaser along with Jeffrey Nichols on March 31, 2013. The two were caught the next day, suspected of having stolen from, assaulted and shot at several people in Randolph County. Lewis, then 18, allegedly admitted to police they went to Kaser’s home on Morehead Street to steal money.

Moberly police say Lewis and Jeffrey Nichols, set to stand trial later in 2016, stole a “machete-like instrument” from Moberly’s Walmart Supercenter before the murder. A probable cause statement said the men assaulted the woman with a “machete-type knife” in her neck, then struck her with the butt of a pistol. The men also allegedly robbed Kaser and “left her for dead”, before taking her vehicle.

Lewis made the plea in Boone County court Judge Kevin Crane sentenced Lewis to life in prison for the murder charge, along with three consecutive 30-year sentences for other crimes. Lewis apologized through tears to the dozens of people gathered in the courtroom Wednesday. He asked the victims’ families for forgiveness, while telling his family he would always love them.

“I just hope and pray that you can find peace,” Lewis said.

Jerry Kaser, one of Carmelita’s six children, said he believes justice was served in a life sentence. The family and prosecutor’s office first pursued the death sentence for Lewis, but the plea agreement means Prosecutor Mike Fusselman will not pursue capital punishment. Kaser said his mother raised them as devout Christians, and would hope Lewis found faith while in prison.

“There’s a lot of people, a lot in this courthouse today, who are in prison, by sin,” Kaser said after the plea hearing. “And, hopefully Mr. Lewis, who will be in prison for the rest of his life, he could be free, in Christ, from sin.”

A motion in Nichols’ case will be heard in the state’s Eastern Appellate Court. Assistant Attorney General Nathan Aquino filed a brief in the case Wednesday, as well. The trial will take place in northeast Missouri’s Marion County.

Lewis’ attorneys filed a motion for the court to consider whether he acted on “impulse”, as an 18-year-old when the crimes occurred. Fusselman said he hoped a higher court would consider the other crimes that happened that night.

“If it comes down to impulse control, I would be hard pressed to say that somewhere in that entire time frame, that the defendant did not have an opportunity to reflect on what he was doing, and knew the wrongfulness of his conduct,” Fusselman said.

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