A detective’s brain cancer diagnosis has led to murder and conspiracy charges being dropped against a Missouri woman and three others accused of conspiring to kill two teens who were witnesses against the woman’s son in a 2013 murder case.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Missouri attorney general on Friday dropped a plethora of murder and conspiracy charges against Latashia Mopkins; 40, her brother, Cortez McClinton, 28; a nephew, Frederick Mopkins, 27; and another man, Travon Knighten, 29.
Prosecutors last month filed a motion asking for a delay in the case, dubbed the “murder mom” case by investigators, because a key witness in the case is fighting brain cancer and was unavailable to testify at trial, the Post-Dispatch reported. The trial was supposed to begin next week.
The ill detective was expected to testify about the forensic evaluation of the defendants’ cellphones, which investigators allege tied them to the teens’ killings.
A judge denied the state’s request.
Latashia Mopkins was accused of orchestrating a plot to kill two witnesses against her son, Tyrell Davidson, in the Sept. 27, 2013, drive-by shooting death of 16-year-old Chauncey Brown. Davidson, now 21, was also 16 at the time, but was ordered to be tried as an adult.
The Post-Dispatch reported that within months of Brown’s death, two witnesses to the homicide were killed. James Moore, another 16-year-old who had been with Brown on the night he died, was chased from a school bus stop and shot to death Oct. 22, 2013, on a ball field at a nearby park, the newspaper reported following the indictment.
Frederick Mopkins and Knighten were accused of killing Moore.
Frederick Mopkins and McClinton were accused of killing the second witness, Noah Barnes, 16, who was found shot to death April 22, 2014, on a St. Louis street. According to the Post-Dispatch, Barnes was in the car with Davidson the night he was accused of killing Brown.
The murder charges were dropped against Davidson in October 2015 after other witnesses in the case refused to testify, the newspaper said. All five defendants were indicted in July 2016 in the alleged plot to kill Moore and Barnes.
Brown’s grandmother, Margaret White, told KMOV in St. Louis in 2016 that her grandson’s death led her daughter, Noah’s mother, to die of a broken heart a month later.
“This was an evil, premeditated, disgusting act that took my grandson,” White told the news station. “It not only took him, but my daughter.”
A prosecutor said at the time of the indictment that Latashia Mopkins had obtained a police report on Brown’s murder that had a list of potential witnesses on it, the Post-Dispatch said. Investigators believed she used that list to target the two teens.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office told the newspaper that the state plans to refile the charges against Latashia Mopkins, McClinton, Frederick Mopkins and Knighten once another expert witness can be retained to testify about the cellphone evaluation.
Davidson’s charges in Brown’s slaying remain active, KMOV reported. He is being held at the St. Louis City Justice Center.
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