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Landlord who is charged in March slaying

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A Platte County murder suspect who at the time of his alleged offense was an instructor in the Kansas City Mo. School District intends to rely on a defense of mental disease.

Attorneys for Webber Douglas Gilmer, age 54, filed court papers on Tuesday indicating they will seek an insanity defense. Gilmer is accused of shooting to death Brian S. Harrell, 28, the husband of a woman who had rented an apartment from Gilmer. Gilmer and the woman, Brandi Harrell, apparently had been in a dispute over delinquent rent.

In the filing, Gilmer's attorneys told the court they will seek "defense of non-responsibility for any alleged criminal conduct because the defendant, as a result of mental disease or defect, does not have the capacity to assist in his own defense, or whether the defendant at the time of the alleged offense, as the result of mental disease or defect did not know or appreciate the nature, quality or wrongfulness of his conduct or was incapable of conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law.”

It will be the second consecutive murder case in the county in which the accused proceeds under a defense of mental defect. Just last week, a Platte County Circuit Court judge rejected the insanity defense of Jacob McGinnis (see story in this issue).

Gilmer is charged with first degree murder. Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor, says if convicted the only penalty available is life in prison without the chance of parole. The crime did not meet the requirements of a death penalty case, Zahnd explained.

Gilmer's case had been set for a jury trial to begin on Jan. 14 in the courtroom of Judge Owens Lee Hull. That almost certainly now will be delayed, possibly for months, as a mental exam likely will soon be ordered by the court.

The case could develop in much the same fashion as the McGinnis case did. The court will order a mental exam of Gilmer, an exam that must be done within 60 days from the time of the order. The results will be returned to the court, and either side will have the chance to ask for a second mental evaluation. A third mental exam is possible as well.

With the time it will take to get necessary mental exams completed, it likely will be mid to late 2008 before the case is anywhere near proceeding to the trial phase.

At the time of his arrest in the March 16 shooting, The Landmark verified that Gilmer was employed as an alternative school instructor at the high school level in the Kansas City Missouri School District.

Gilmer owns a tri-plex at 8211 NW Everton, Kansas City in Platte County, and lived in one section of the structure while renting out the other living areas. NW Everton is located several blocks west of Park Hill High School.

Shortly after 3 p.m. on the day of the shooting, a man believed to be Gilmer dialed 911, telling the Platte County dispatcher: "I need the police over at 8211 Everton. I'm getting ready to commit a crime." The call was then transferred to Kansas City police, and the caller believed to be Gilmer then told the Kansas City dispatcher: "I'm getting ready to kill somebody.”

When Kansas City and Platte County authorities arrived at the scene, Brian Harrell was dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Gilmer was found sitting by a vehicle in the driveway, with a laceration to his head.

Court documents reveal Brian Harrell and his wife, Brandi, and Brian Harrell's brother, John, were attempting to remove property belonging to Brandi Harrell from the apartment. Court papers indicate Brian Harrell forced entry into the apartment to remove Brandi's property. The front door was forced open, court papers say, because Gilmer had changed the lock.

Gilmer, allegedly armed with a gun, confronted Brian and Brandi, and Brian Harrell was shot while the two men scuffled on the landing at the top of the stairs leading to the apartment.

Brandi Harrell told police she heard several shots while Gilmer and Brian were fighting on the landing. She said after he was shot, Brian pushed Gilmer down the stairs before Brian collapsed on the landing.

Sources close to the investigation said the weapon allegedly used in the shooting is a .25 caliber handgun. Authorities believe Brian Harrell was shot four times, though more bullets than that were fired.

Clay County court records viewed by The Landmark indicate Brandi Harrell had filed for divorce from Brian Harrell while they were Excelsior Springs residents in 2006. But the divorce was not final. Sources said Brian Harrell had moved to Tulsa, Okla.. It is believed he was trying to help Brandi move to Tulsa so they could work out a joint custody arrangement for their two children.

Gilmer remains in custody on a $1 million cash-only bond. Requests to have his bond reduced have been rejected by the court.

Gilmer is represented by attorney Carl E. Cornwell of Olathe, Ks.


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