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Suspect in Hermann police shooting pleads not guilty to murder, other felony charges

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been corrected to note Simpson pleaded not guilty.


The man accused of killing a Hermann police officer and gravely wounding another pleaded not guilty Wednesday by video in his first court hearing on murder and four other felony charges.

Kenneth Lee Simpson is accused of killing Sgt. Mason Griffith and wounding Officer Adam Sullentrup on Sunday night during a confrontation at a Casey's convenience store. Authorities say the officers were trying to arrest Simpson on warrants from other counties when a scuffle ensued and Simpson shot the officers.

The Gasconade County Courthouse in Hermann was filled with the fallen officers' family members and their Hermann Police Department colleagues.

A memorial with pictures of the killed and wounded officers along with flowers and blue-lit lamps were set up in front of the courthouse.

The purpose of Wednesday's hearing was to read the charges Simpson is facing, and make sure he understands the penalties that could potentially come with a guilty verdict. Simpson pleaded not guilty.

Simpson is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, first-degree assault and illegal gun possession.

Simpson said he briefly spoke with a public defender but would eventually like to hire a lawyer. Simpson's public defender asked the judge to recuse the case because of the relationship between the county court and the police department.

"A judge has a duty to recuse themselves in any case where they don't think they could be fair or impartial," Jill Harper, a partner at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer. "A lot of times judges and law enforcement officers do have that close personal relationship, so it's very likely in a case like this for a judge to be impartial in a case."

Harper said relationships like this form due to officers calling judges constantly to ask for warrants to be signed.

Prosecutor Mary Weston said she plans to hand the case over to the Missouri Attorney General's Office because of her conflict of interest.

Simpson's next hearing was set for 9 a.m. April 19 for an update on attorney status and scheduling a preliminary hearing.

Check back for more on this developing story.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

Ethan Heinz


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