One eight ball of methamphetamine was all it took to convince Bobby Lingle to participate in the murder of a woman, her three children and the full-term baby she was carrying. Lingle, 38, Joplin, suffered another blow today in his continuous effort to escape the life sentence he received for making that unfortunate decision.
The Missouri Supreme Court will not hear Lingle's appeal. That decision was among a list issued by the court this afternoon.
Erin Vanderhoef, 36, her children Darlene Vanderhoef, 8, Jimmy Vanderhoef, 11; and Chris Franklin, 10, were strangled Jan.19, 1999, in her north Springfield home. The murders, police say, were committed by Lingle, Richard DeLong and DeLong's live-in girlfriend, Stacie Leffingwell.
DeLong and Leffingwell and their son, Scooby, lived in the same apartment complex as Lingle and his wife, according to court records. DeLong had previously had a relationship with Ms. Vanderhoef, who allegedly was trying to get back together with him.
At times, when Ms. Leffingwell was out of town, Ms. Vanderhoef would come to Joplin and sleep with DeLong, according to the court decision. Instead of dropping DeLong and getting as far away from him as possible, Ms Leffingwell, who was dying from AIDS, according to the court record, decided on another course of action. She did not want Ms. Vanderhoef to replace her as Scooby's mother.
"Because (Ms. Vanderhoef's) children would be witnesses to the event," the court decision said, "DeLong and Leffingwell also intended to kill the children. They asked Lingle if he wanted to participate"
At first, Lingle said no. All it took to change his mind was the promise of a little methamphetamine.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1999, the three drove to Springfield, carefully planning the brutal murder along the way. They decided on just the right way to murder three innocent children. Lingle said he did not want to have any part of killing the kids, so he was asked to lure Ms. Vanderhoef away while DeLong and Leffingwell eliminated the children.
After they arrived, Lingle took Ms. Vanderhoef to Dillon's Supermarket to buy doughnuts. While they were gone, the demented duo strangled the three children and waited for their final victim to return.
When Lingle and Ms. Vanderhoef returned, they sat down on the couch and began watching television. DeLong told her the children had been disciplined and had been sent to their rooms. DeLong moved behind Ms. Vanderhoef, on the pretext of putting a necklace on her, then wrapped a cord around her neck. She struggled , grabbing at the cord. They fell off the couch onto the floor. She was winning the struggle when Lingle stepped in, grabbed her hands and pulled them down to her waist, according to the court decision.
That gave Leffingwell the opportunity to shove a rag in Ms. Vanderhoef's mouth so her screams could not be heard. It took another 10 minutes for Ms. Vanderhoef to pass out. DeLong and Leffingwell bound Ms.Vanderhoef's feet with another cord, pulled them up tightly behind her back, then wrapped the end of the cord around her neck so the weight of her feet and legs would help suffocate her.
After another 10 minutes passed, Ms. Vanderhoef and her unborn child were dead.
Having completed their task, Lingle, DeLong, and Leffingwell returned to Joplin. "Later that evening," the court decision said, "DeLong gave Lingle the promised eight ball of methamphetamine for participating in the murders." Lingle immediately spent his pay.
In his appeal, Lingle claimed that the trial court made a mistake when it did not force DeLong to testify in Lingle's behalf and by not ordering a mistrial when Lingle asked for one. That argument was rejected by the Southern District Court of Appeals on June 15. It won't be heard by the Missouri Supreme Court.
The last two days have been big ones for court decisions that relate to moral issues. This morning, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings are law in the state of Missouri, backed the claim of an eastern Arkansas teacher that he should not have to go to in-service meetings that include prayers.
Steve Warnock, an art teacher and part-time bus driver in the Devalls Bluff School District, was required by the district to go to a local college for in-service sessions. At those sessions, the court decision says, Charles Archer, the district superintendent, conducted prayers. Archer also displayed his Bible and a framed scriptural quotation in his office.
When Warnock asked Archer to stop praying at the meetings, the superintendent refused. Warnock filed his lawsuit against Archer and the school district, claiming he had been harassed by students, parenets, and a fellow teacher because of his strong opposition to the prayer.
At the district court level, both sides won part of their arguments. The court ruled that the meetings could not begin with prayer, but said Archer had the First Amendment rights to have the Bible and the framed verse in his office.
Even though evidence had been presented that Warnock had been harassed, it was also obvious that school officials had taken appropriate action each time it happened. Warnock was awarded $1,000 in damages, plus attorney fees.
In his appeal, Warnock asked the court to award him additional damages. The school district countersued, asking that it not be forced to pay Warnock's legal fees.
In the ruling, the judges said, "We agree with the district court that the practices at issue in this case are unconstitutional, but we think they are constitutionally unfirm not because they offended Mr. Warnock, but because they endorsed religion."
The decision continued, "We believe that prayers at mandatory teacher meetings and in-service training convey a decisive endorsement (of religion)."
At the district court level, the school board was ordered to allow Warnock to opt out of these meetings if the prayers offended him. The appellate court ruling today says it does not matter if Warnock is offended and that even if he is not at the meetings, the prayers should not be given.
The appellate court rejected Warnock's claims that the religious items in Archer's office constituted religious harassment. "People do not give up their free-exercise or free-speech rights when they become government employees," the decision said.
Warnock also claimed it was harassment when two students, at the request of their parents, walked out of his class to protest against his beliefs. The court decision said that even if the state's compulsory education laws could make the students return to class, "even (those) laws must yield to the free-exercise claims of parents in rearing their children."
In the other case, which was little more high profile, the U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear Michael Newdow's latest effort to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The court had initially rejected Newdow's effort on behalf of his 10-year-old daughter, claiming that he had no standing to sue because he did not have custody of the daughter.
This lawsuit was frivolous in the first place. There may come a time when someone brings a legitimate lawsuit against this in U.S. courts. Newdow is just an egotist who wants to put his name in the history books.