Independence Examiner, Monday 04/29/02

Maybe now, answers

KC man goes on trial in 1997 death of Independence teen

The Examiner

The web of mystery surrounding the 1997 shooting death of an Independence teen-ager may finally unravel in a Jackson County courtroom this week.

The trial of Byron C. Case, 23, of Kansas City, was to open this morning at the County Courthouse in Kansas City. Case is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen on Oct. 23, 1997.

Prosecutors say they will not seek the death penalty. If convicted of first-degree murder, Case faces life in prison without possibility of parole.

A Jackson County sheriff's deputy discovered the body of Anastasia, 18, during a regular patrol at Lincoln Cemetery about 4 a.m. that day. She was shot once in the head. Lincoln Cemetery is in Blue Summit, the unincorporated area between Independence and Kansas City.

About the same time, Anastasia's father, Bob WitbolsFeugen, was making a missing persons report at the Independence Police Station. He told police that his daughter's boy friend, Justin Bruton, had called him about 10 p.m. Bruton had said that he and Anastasia argued and he left her on the street near Interstate 435 and Truman Road.

Two days later, police discovered Bruton's body in a rural area near DeSoto in Johnson County, Kan. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Jackson County Sheriff's Department investigators initially focused on a murder-suicide scenario but with little to go on the case lingered with no resolution.

Bob WitbolsFeugen continued to push the investigation. He said sheriff's investigators were ignoring other possibilities because of Bruton's suicide. Investigators denied that and said they were pursuing all leads.

It wasn't until September 2000, though, that investigators got their first break. A friend of the victim, Kelly Moffet, came forward and told police that she was present when Anastasia was shot. She named Case, her former boyfriend, as the shooter.

According to court documents, Moffet said she was with Case and Bruton that night. They were on their way to pick up Anastasia when the two men told Moffet they planned to kill the girl.

Moffet said they took Anastasia to Lincoln Cemetery, where Case shot her once in the face with a shotgun.

The court documents do not reveal any motive for the killing. Anastasia's family hopes the trial might tell them why she was killed.

"We can hope that the trial will give us some the answers to some of those questions. I will be listening for that but I can not speculate on the reasons behind (the killing)," Bob WitbolsFeugen said last week.

"Since his (Case's) arrest, I've been able to kind of put things in place but it is still unresolved. It (Anastasia's death) was just senseless."

To reach Darla McFarland e-mail or call her at 350-6321.
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