Man from Wright County MO is charged for stabbing murder of 4-year-old boy
DUSTY GUENTHER, age 4
by Linda Russell, KY3 News,
December 8, 2011
HARTVILLE, Mo. — The Wright County prosecuting attorney charged Terry Joe Volner on Thursday for the murder of Dusty Guenther, 4, on Tuesday night. The 22-year-old man was treated at a hospital in Springfield after the boy’s body was found on Wednesday morning in an ice-covered lagoon next to the home of the boy’s family in northern Wright County.
A probable cause statement used as the basis of the charges says Volner called his mother, Tina Miller, on Wednesday morning and said he killed “Gina, her boyfriend, and her four kids. Volner confirmed this by sending Miller a picture via ceullular phone of the boy with his throat
It turned out the mother and three sisters of Dusty were unharmed. Gina Guenther was at work in Lebanon after leaving about 4:30
a.m. Her two older daughters were at Grovespring Elementary School and a younger one was in a crib at the family’s home. The children are now in protective custody, Sheriff Glenn Adler said on Wednesday.
“You don’t get over this. I’m a big ol’ guy, but I’ve got a pretty soft heart, and it ‘s pretty hard to take some of this,” the sheriff said.
Adler says Gina Guenther left her four young children in Terry Volner’s care.
“He’d been living here, been taking care of the children while mother’s at work,” he said.
Investigators haven’t said if they found “a boyfriend” of Gina Guenther whom Volner told his mother he killed. Adler says Volner is not Guenther’s boyfriend.
The Guenthers’ home at 10124 Highway Z is five miles south of Competition and about 12 miles north of Hartville. The home has
a Hartville post office address.
Early Wednesday, the probable cause statement says, Volner sent photos by cell phone to a woman. They show Dusty Guenther’s body “in some tall grass with a laceration to his throat and what appears to be a wet stick holding his chin up.
“Another picture showed Dusty laying in the same position, with what appeared to be an adult’s left arm held up in front of the camera. There was a tattoo on the arm in the picture, which is consistent with a tattoo located on Volner’s left arm. It appears the tattoo is ‘Volner’ in cursive writing. There were also two pictures of what appears to be a small leg submerged in ice covered water,” the probable cause statement says.
Adler said he’d like to hear from anyone else who heard from Volner early Wednesday.
“If they received pictures from him, any texts that he sent, I need to know that,” he said.
The sheriff believes Volner then stabbed himself in the stomach.
“Was he trying to cover up something or make it look like somebody assaulted him? We don’t know,” Adler said.
Volner was at the Guenthers’ home when law enforcement officers arrived. The state trooper who wrote the probable cause statement says Volner confessed on Wednesday that he killed Dusty on Tuesday evening or early Wednesday using “a folding knife to stab Dusty in the neck” and then put the body in the lagoon.
The probable cause statement doesn’t say if Volner made the confession at the family’s home or in the hospital in Springfield. Adler says Volner hasn’t given a reason for killing Dusty, or explained why he confessed to five other murders.
Volner was still in a hospital on Thursday after being treated for a stab wound in his stomach. Adler said Thursday afternoon that Volner was on the way back to Hartville, where he will be held in the Wright County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.
Now a mother is in mourning for the loss of her son, and a place where children usually laugh and play is now quiet. It’s a case no one can understand.
“It’s sick. It’s really sick. You know somebody is not in their right mind, or something is wrong with somebody to act like,” said Adler.
Volner is charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse. If he’s convicted, he could face a death
penalty or a life prison sentence.
Volner went to state prison for a three-year sentence in May 2008 after pleading guilty to charges of stealing animals, burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and knowingly burning. The Missouri Department of Corrections says Volner completed his sentence and was released last March 11.
As an aside, Adler says Volner is related — but he’s not sure how — to four other people who were charged and later convicted of a murder in 2008. Those are Benny Volner; Benny’s brother, Elvis Volner; their cousin, Dennis Volner; and Dennis Volner’s wife, Julia. They ambushed and beat Dustin Skaggs, a cousin of the Volners, in Douglas County and dumped him in his car in a rock quarry in Laclede County. Investigators learned Benny Volner thought Skaggs was having an affair with his wife, so he enlisted the help of others to kill him.
Accused murderer of 4 year old Dusty Guenther in court
The Wright County prosecutor says his gut reaction is the case against Terry Volner is “clearly a death penalty case.”
December 14, 2011|by Linda Russell | KY3 Reporter
HARTVILLE, Mo.– The man accused of stabbing and killing a 4 year-old in Wright County one week ago was in court Wednesday.
KY3′s cameras were not allowed in the court room, but a crew was there for the court proceding. Terry Volner made his second court appearance, a short hearing to set a date for his next appearance.
Volner is charged with 1st degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse in the death of 4 year-old Dusty Guenther.
Dusty’s mother, Gina, and family friends were in the courtroom. They just laid Dusty to rest on Tuesday and declined to speak with KY3 out of sensitivity for the other children in the Guenther family.
We did speak with the Wright County Prosecutor about where the case is going from here. One week ago, Wright County investigators found 4 year old Dusty Guenther’s body in the cesspool behind his home.
Terry Joe Volner gave investigators a detailed confession, stating how he murdered the little boy he was supposed to be babysitting. “Obviously, with a confession, the case is stronger,” says Wright County Prosecutor Jason MacPherson.
Cell phone pictures investigators say Volner sent to his mother and at least one other person are also part of the evidence pool. “I think once a jury sees the photographs; I viewed them myself- they will be pretty powerful evidence,” says MacPherson.
The apparent motive is supported by letters found at the house. MacPherson says it appears that Volner was jealous of a boyfriend who had stayed the night just before the murder. “They apparently had some romantic gestures in the letters,” says MacPherson.
In the coming weeks, MacPherson and other prosecutors will be determining if the case has the legal factors for the death penalty. “My initial gut reaction is that this is clearly a death penalty case. I think most of the public probably feels the same way,” MacPherson says.
It also depends on what Dusty’s family wants. “The possibility of a case being reversed, having to be retried; certainly that’s always a possibility in a death penalty case,” MacPherson says.
Terry Volner’s next court appearance, a preliminary hearing, is scheduled for February 27th.
The prosecutor says Terry Volner is related to the three Volner men convicted in the 2008 murder of Dustin Skaggs. Elvis Volner, who
wielded the weapon in that case, is Terry Volner’s brother.