by Ivan Foley
The path now seems clear for a first degree murder trial to take place in Platte County starting Oct. 22.
In an appearance in Platte County Circuit Court last week, murder suspect Jacob E. McGinnis waived his right to trial by jury. His fate will be determined by Judge Abe Shafer, who will preside over the bench trial.
McGinnis has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of Steven J. Sandoval, 32, of Platte City in September of 2005. He is also charged with the forcible rape of Sandoval's wife, two counts of armed criminal action, and one count of burglary in the first degree.
If convicted by the judge, McGinnis faces life in prison.
It is expected McGinnis' trial will last two to three days, attorneys said in open court last week. McGinnis is being represented by attorneys William Dick Fickle and Charlie Dickman of Platte County.
McGinnis, now age 27, has had multiple mental exams since initially being charged with the crimes. In April of 2006, the Missouri Department of Mental Health conducted an exam and reported to the court it found McGinnis competent.
In July of 2006, the court ordered another evaluation to be conducted by a psychiatrist or psychologist of the defendant's choosing. No finding of competency was reported to the court.
Subsequently, prosecutors asked for an order to have McGinnis examined by the prosecution's own expert.
Finally, about six weeks ago McGinnis' attorneys asked for a competency exam. That exam, conducted again by the state health director, found that the suspect is competent to stand trial.
Prosecutor Eric Zahnd explained that the initial three exams were based on whether the suspect was sane or insane at the time of the acts. The final exam "was solely limited to can he stand trial" and the finding was that McGinnis is competent to proceed with a trial.
McGinnis' attorneys did not contest the opinion set forth in the final exam that the suspect is competent to proceed.
The murder victim's body was found around 5 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2005 on a dead-end outer road east of Interstate 29 near North Bethel Avenue, just south of the city limits of Platte City. Authorities say he had been shot in the back three times.
Platte City police, responding to a 9-1-1 hangup, arrived at the Sandoval residence on Maple Drive about 1:30 a.m. that morning where Sandoval's wife alleged McGinnis sexually assaulted her. Authorities believe Sandoval had been killed prior to the alleged rape. The couple's three-year-old son was in the home at the time of the alleged rape, authorities say.
McGinnis was arrested later than morning in Putnam County, naked in the back of his car that was parked in a cornfield. A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper arrested McGinnis, believing he was high on methamphetamines. Authorities then discovered McGinnis was wanted for questioning in the Platte County rape and murder.
Police say McGinnis and Sandoval were friends and had spent time together the night of the murder. Court documents allege that during the act, McGinnis led the rape victim to believe that her husband was duct taped and being held in the trunk of McGinnis' vehicle.
Sandoval's wife told authorities that McGinnis and her husband had left the Sandoval home earlier that evening to go to an area park.
Court papers indicated police found three spent 12-gauge shotgun rounds at the murder scene, as well as Camel cigarette butts, empty Natural Light beer cans, and an empty red bag of peanuts.
Later when police searched McGinnis' apartment on Barry Road, they found empty cans of Natural Light beer, an empty Camel cigarette pack, and several red bags of peanuts, court documents indicate.
Court papers also detail how authorities in Putnam County found blood on the outside of McGinnis' vehicle, red shotgun shells similar to the shells found at the murder scene, and a shotgun.
Sandoval's obituary described him as an accountant who attended the First Baptist Church of Platte City. His parents were staying at a motel in Platte City at the time of his murder, having come to town to help celebrate the third birthday of Sandoval's son.