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Trial begins for man facing capital murder charge

The jury trial for a man charged with capital murder in Miller County began Monday morning.

Martin Priest was charged in January 2016 with the 1984 rape and murder of Tammy Rothganger, who was 15. At the time, Priest was the live-in boyfriend of Rothganger’s mother. The girl’s body was never found.

Sandy Kuchen, Rothganger’s mother, took the witness stand in the first day of the trial Tuesday at the Laclede County Courthouse, where the trial is being heard on a change of venue. She said Priest told her he knew where Rothganger was.

“I would never find her without him,” Kuchen said. “He said he had her hidden somewhere.”

Priest has been incarcerated in Kansas, serving a life sentence for killing William Mayhugh in Wichita. He requested parole in July 2016, but his request was denied by the Kansas Department of Corrections. He is eligible for parole again in August 2019.

Opening statements took place Tuesday. Prosecutors said on May 16, 1984, the day of Rothganger’s disappearance, Priest was able to coax her into a vehicle because her friend, who was 13 years old at the time, was inside the car with Priest.

Priest’s attorney said if that friend, named David, was telling the truth about his memory of Rothganger’s disappearance, then her body would have been found.

The state said Priest strangled Rothganger to death and appeared at his sister-in-law’s home asking for a shovel.

The trial is set to wrap up by Friday.

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