Independence Examiner, Tuesday 04/30/02

Friend recounts slaying

Defense stands by teens' original version of events

The Examiner

The only eyewitness in the murder trial of Byron Case told the jury Monday that she saw Case shoot 18-year-old Anastasia WitbolsFeugen in the face on Oct. 22, 1997.

Kelly Moffett, 19, said Case and his best friend, Justin Bruton, schemed to kill WitbolsFeugen because of her tumultuous relationship with Bruton.

"I didn't believe they would really do it. They were always coming up with crazy schemes but they never did anything," she told the jurors.

In his opening statements, defense attorney Horton Lance said WitbolsFeugen was "the victim of a random act of violence by a stranger," a theory that reflects the version of that night's events as originally told by Anastasia's friends.

According to Moffett's testimony Monday, Case and Bruton picked her up at her Lenexa home on the afternoon of the murder. She called Anastasia, at the boys' request, to set up a meeting at the Dairy Queen on U.S. 24, across from Mount Washington Cemetery. During the drive there, Moffett said Case and Bruton outlined their plan to kill WitbolsFeugen.

"Justin said, 'Who's the biggest problem in my life right now?' I said, 'Your parents.' He said, 'No, Anastasia. Wouldn't it be a lot easier if she was just gone?," Moffett testified.

Bruton and WitbolsFeugen had been dating for several months, Moffett said, but the relationship was falling apart in the fall of 1997. WitbolsFeugen was desperate to keep Bruton, Moffett said, and would call his apartment constantly. Case was living with Bruton at the time. WitbolsFeugen frequently called Case about her problems with Bruton.

Moffett said that Bruton said he could not do the shooting, so Case volunteered to do it. Moffett said Case often "wondered what it would feel like to kill someone."

She said the three of them met WitbolsFeugen at the Dairy Queen and drove to Mount Washington Cemetery. They stayed there briefly until a groundskeeper came around. The teens then drove a few blocks to Lincoln Cemetery, Moffett said.

At Lincoln, Bruton and WitbolsFeugen got out of the car to talk. They were standing by the driver's side of the car, arguing about their relationship. Moffett said Case then got out and got a shotgun from the trunk.

"I saw Justin (Bruton) like waving his arms and saying stop. Then, I saw Byron (Case) with the gun up to his shoulder and I heard a loud bang," Moffett said.

According to Moffett, Case ordered Bruton into the car and said they all had to remain calm. On the way back to Bruton's Kansas City apartment, Moffett said Case and Bruton came up with a cover story to tell police.

They would say that WitbolsFeugen was angry with Bruton and that she got out of the car near Interstate 435 and Truman Road. They later told police that WitbolsFeugen walked away east on Truman Road and they never saw her again. Moffett told that story to police for three years before finally coming forward with her current version of the shooting in September 2000. The defense questioned the credibility of her story, repeatedly asking if she lied to police and family about what happened.

Moffett admitted she lied for three years and said the strain destroyed her life. She became hooked on crack cocaine and was in and out of drug treatment several times, she said.

The defense plans to stay with the original story that Case and Moffett told police.

Case will take the stand later this week in his own defense, Lance said. Prosecutors will present several more witnesses today, including the victim's sister.

Bruton was found dead a few days after Anastasia's death. He apparently committed suicide.

Arguments are expected to wrap up on Thursday. Case is charged with first-degree murder but prosecutors will not seek the death penalty. If convicted, Case faces life in prison without possibility of parole.

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

Next article.

Return to list of news accounts.