The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals has scheduled a June 13 hearing in Springfield for Jim Edward Ryan, 44, Lamar, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year after being a Cedar County jury found him guilty of first degree murder.
Ryan was convicted to murdering his brother-in-law, John Kullie, with a tire jack on May 25, 2005, in Lamar Heights. The case was heard in Cedar County on a change of venue from Barton County.
The court opinion gives the following account of the murder:
Rebecca Kullie ("Rebecca" and her husband, John Kullie ("Victim") lived with her brother Johnny Ryan and his girlfriend Pattie Coy in a mobile home in Lamar, Missouri. Defendant, who was Rebecca's adopted brother, did not live at the mobile home, but would stay there on occasion with his wife, Oleta, and his girlfriend, Evette Noe ("Evette").
On May 25, 2005, Victim was resting in the back bedroom of the mobile home after an evening of "partying" at a neighbor's house, where he had consumed alcohol and Xanax.(FN3) Rebecca was in the kitchen of the mobile home, while Defendant, Oleta, Evette, Michael Wilkinson ("Michael"), and Zachary Dominguez ("Zachary") were in the living room. At some point during the evening, a small dog went into the room where Victim was resting, and Rebecca heard the dog growling. Oleta went to the bedroom, retrieved the dog, and came out cursing.
At some point thereafter, Defendant went outside and returned carrying a bumper jack.(FN4) As he was walking toward the back bedroom where Victim was located, Defendant looked at Rebecca and smirked. Rebecca heard a thump and heard Victim say "No. Don't. Stop. Why?" When she ran into the bedroom, she saw Defendant swinging the jack at Victim, and saw that Victim was gurgling blood and had an open cut on the side of his neck. When Rebecca tried to stop Defendant he threatened to kill her, so Rebecca ran next door and called 911. Michael and Zachary also heard three or four loud blows from the bedroom after they had seen Defendant go back there with the jack. Victim died as a result of his injuries.
After attacking Victim, Defendant and Evette went to a neighbor's house and Defendant asked the neighbor if she could "put [him] up." After Evette informed the neighbor that Defendant had killed somebody, the neighbor said she could not hide Defendant and that she would have to turn him in. Defendant then hid in the brush near Victim's home, where he was later discovered and arrested. When Defendant was arrested, he told officers, "I wasn't going to let him beat me." After Defendant was given the Miranda warnings, he spoke with police, but told them he could not remember what had happened.
Dr. Keith Norton performed an autopsy on Victim and determined the following: Victim died of multiple blunt injuries to his head and neck; he had fourteen lacerations on his body caused by five to fourteen blows; he had defensive wounds on his arms; and he had large amounts of alcohol and Xanax in his bloodstream, a combination that would have sedated a person and impeded his ability to respond quickly to an emergency.
Ryan testified on his own behalf at the trial, according to the appellate decision:
He saw Victim choking a little dog and he told him to stop, to which Victim responded, "[y]ou want some of it?"; Defendant got the women out of the house because Victim appeared angry and he thought he was going to wreck the place; when Defendant stepped outside he saw the jack, and brought it inside to get Victim to "turn loose of the . . . dog"; when Defendant went into the bedroom, Victim threw the dog at him and pressed down on the jack which was resting on Defendant's foot; Defendant fell on top of Victim and the two exchanged blows; as Defendant was trying to get up Victim kicked him in the groin area knocking him against the wall; as Victim was grabbing Defendant's foot, Defendant swung the jack at Victim hitting him in the face or throat area; he hit Victim with the jack a total of three times; Defendant thought that he was fighting for his life.
Ryan was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the murder and 10 years for armed criminal action.
The appellate court rejected Ryan's contention that evidence of his previous violent acts should not have been admitted. Also rejected were defense claims that Ryan's case was prejudiced by the failure to give directions for conviction for a lesser offense and failure to admit evidence that might have cast doubt on the verdict.