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Lawrence County prosecutor says lack of evidence causes dismissal of murder charges in decades old cold case

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 10:42 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - First degree murder charges against a Lawrence County man have been dismissed.

It’s the latest development in a 33 year-old cold case.

In 2019 a grand jury indicted Lawrence Timmons for Cynthia Smith’s death.

He was questioned by investigators after her body was found in a Pierce City cemetery back in 1988 but was never charged until 2 years ago.

Prosecutors say they are relying on witness testimony to make their case.

Timmons’ attorney, Adam Woody says his client has always maintained his innocence.

But without the evidence to convict Timmons the case against him was dropped.

“I do believe this man is a murderer. I believe he murdered not only just our victim but he’s murdered two others that we know of in Tulsa. We’ve been told that he’s a suspect in five other killings in New York. We do believe he’s a serial killer,” said Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter.

He says detectives worked for years to build their case against Timmons.

“In 2019 I thought we had this. Between now and then it’s just been slowly unraveling,” said Trotter.

He says a recent change to Missouri Law and lack of evidence left his office no choice but to drop the charges against Timmons.

“I can’t use his ex-wife’s statements against him. Another witness died. Another witness that we would have needed also died,” said Trotter.

The state can re-file murder charges but Trotter says his office lacks physical evidence. He says most of it has been lost over the years.

“We did an exhaustive search for that. If, by chance, some of that evidence, like her clothes on her came back there could be a chance of a possible DNA,” said Trotter.

Woody says he doesn’t agree.

“Frankly once we got the case, conducted our investigation, worked the case I was surprised that it was even filed in the first place,” he said.

Woody believes investigators got ahead of themselves.

“The sheriff’s department in Lawrence County I think really made a mistake when they re-opened this investigation and brought it to the attention of a national program, sort of one of those “Dateline” type programs,” he said.

He says the case was discussed on a true-crime series even before charges were filed.

“The program aired and sort of made it sound like we got it case closed. They skipped that one crucial step of proving it in court,” he said.

He says over the past few decades no new evidence has been discovered.

“As we sit here today there’s no more evidence than they had back in 1988 when the offense was committed,” said Woody.

He says Timmons intends to reclaim his life not that he’s been cleared.

“This is a reminder that you shouldn’t draw conclusions until the full case plays out,” he said.

But prosecutors say it’s not over.

“We’re not done. We’re still pursuing these other charges,” said Trotter.

Those other charges are 1 count of forgery and 6 counts of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

Prosecutors intend to seek the maximum sentence up to 70 years if convicted.

Timmons will stay in the Lawrence County Jail until that case is resolved.

His attorney intends to get him out on bond.

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