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Jury convicts suspect in 1984 Eldon murder

UPDATE 12:30 P.M.: A Laclede County jury has convicted Martin Priest of first-degree murder in the death of Eldon teenager Tammy Rothganger.

The jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday morning after reaching a verdict in the trial that began Monday. The case was being heard in Laclede County on a change of venue from Miller County.

Priest was accused of killing Rothganger, the daughter of his girlfriend, in 1984. He was charged in 2016. He has been serving a sentence for murder in Kansas.

Priest has waived his right to have a pre-sentencing investigation. A sentencing hearing has been set for Nov. 6.

Online court records indicate the state waived the death penalty during a motion hearing in September.

ORIGINAL: Closing arguments began Thursday morning in the trial for a man accused of raping and murdering Tammy Rothganger, a 15-year-old Eldon girl, in 1984.

The prosecution told the jury Martin Priest should be convicted of first-degree murder because his actions more than 30 years ago were premeditated.

Rothganger’s friend, David Nicholas, testified Wednesday. He said Priest made him ask Rothganger to get into the car with them. Priest then drove to a remote road.

The prosecution said Priest drove to a secluded area on purpose because he planned to harm Rothganger.

Nicholas revealed he and Priest both sexually assaulted Rothganger during his testimony.

Prosecutors said Nicholas described heinous moments of his childhood and did so on his own free will to find justice for Rothganger.

However, the defense claims Nicholas was lying and said his story has changed in interviews with law enforcement through the years.

The case was originally filed in Miller County but was moved to Laclede County earlier this year.

The jury will deliberate Thursday on the conclusion of closing arguments.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.

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