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11-2-2011


Wheel man in drive-by
shooting pleads guilty

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

A 20- year-old male pleaded guilty to second degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon Thursday for his involvement in the drive-by shooting death of Spencer J. Crosthwait at Parkville.

Stephen Ellis of Kansas City, was the driver in a drive-by shooting that occurred around 1 a.m. on July 29, 2010.

According to the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, Ellis, Justin Dougan, and an additional person pulled up to the intersection of Tom Watson Parkway and Hwy. 9.
Crosthwait and his friend were stopped at the traffic light. Dougan fired a deadly shot with a .30-.30 caliber rifle hitting Crosthwait, said Zahnd.

The uninjured passenger of Crosthwait's vehicle drove to the nearby Price Chopper where 911 was called. Crosthwait was pronounced dead at the scene.

Crosthwait was a senior at Park Hill High School and was not Dougan's intended target.

Hours prior to the incident, Crosthwait and his friend arrived at Dougan's house and engaged in a dispute between Dougan and Crosthwait's friend concerning a girl, as well as some cash, said Zahnd. Following the verbal argument, Dougan fired shots at Crosthwait's friend.

“This defendant was in the driver's seat that night in more ways than one. While he never put his finger on the trigger of the murder weapon, drive-by shootings, by definition, do not occur without a gunman and a driver,” said Zahnd.

Ellis, Dougan, and third person in the car fled the scene and disposed of the gun in Kansas City, Kansas.

Zahnd said that the evidence showed that Ellis made a telephone call to someone later in the evening in which he asked where Crosthwait and the other young man were and stated, “if we find them, we are going to kill them.”
Less than 30 minutes later, Ellis pulled up to Crosthwait's car and Dougan shot Crosthwait, Zahnd said.
Ellis pleaded guilty to second degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 12. Dougan earlier pleaded guilty to the same charges and is serving two life sentences.

Zahnd said he would ask the court to impose a prison term for Ellis of more than two decades at the sentencing hearing.

“The defendant knew before he ever pulled out of the gunman’s driveway that the plan was to go shoot someone,” Zahnd said. “When that fateful time came, the defendant yelled ‘shoot,’ and his buddy did just that, murdering an innocent man.“

Ellis was 19 at the time of the incident.

The case was investigated by the Parkville Police Department, with the assistance of the Riverside Department of Public Safety, Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, and Platte County Sheriff’s Department. It was personally prosecuted by Zahnd and Myles Perry, assistant prosecutor.