FORSYTH, Mo. -- Two men were indicted on Wednesday for the murders of a couple from Willard in April 2011. Tony Friend of Springfield and Dusty Hicks of Walnut Grove are each charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action and two counts felonious restraint.
Prosecutors and sheriffs from Greene and Taney County announced the indictments at a news conference at the Taney County Courthouse. A grand jury handed up the indictments at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The Porters disappeared from their home on Highway HH northeast of Willard in rural Greene County on April 17, 2011. The home was unlocked. Visitors smelled a strong bleach odor.
Their remains turned up in a remote area of Taney County near Pro Tem in July 2011. Each died of a gunshot wound to the head. The indictments accuse Friend and Hicks of killing the Porters on April 18, 2011.
Investigators from the two counties have been working together on the murder investigation. They believe Friend and Hicks took the the Porters alive from their home and took them to Taney County, where they were killed and hidden. That's why a Taney County grand jury investigated and indicted the two men.
Hicks was arrested on Wednesday morning. Friend was already in custody. Each has a bond of $500,000. Both were in the Greene County jail on Wednesday.
Last spring, investigators identified Friend as a suspect for the murders when Friend was arrested on an unrelated federal charge of being a felon in possession of a weapon. In a plea agreement announced in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Sept. 12, Friend pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition. The U.S. Attorney's Office dropped two other weapons charges in exchange for the guilty plea. Friend faces a federal prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Court documents indicate investigators found a weapon and ammunition at Friend's trailer home at 3155 W. Brower St., just west of Springfield in Greene County, when they served a search warrant during the murder investigation last May. One court document describes Friend's home as "heavily fortified" because the doors had several dead bolt locks and a metal bar, and the windows were boarded up from the inside.
Friend's past felonies make him ineligible to have firearms and ammunition. The prior convictions include unlawful use of a weapon and domestic assault in Greene County, both for crimes in the early 2000s. He also has a felony conviction in Arkansas.
During the raid on Friend's home, investigators found evidence of meth use or production. Greene County prosecutors charged Friend and his wife with drug possession after the raid. They dropped those charges in August but declined to give a reason.
Windy Friend, Tony Friend's wife, was charged last year in Barry County with tampering with a motor vehicle. That case is still pending, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for next Jan. 3. Windy Friend is free on $15,000 bond from Barry County.
Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell asked Circuit Judge Mark Orr to convene a grand jury in July. Merrell said then that the grand jury would look at several complex cases. A county grand jury in Missouri can meet up to six months unless the prosecutor requests an extension up to two more months.
Because the charges are from indictments, less information is available to the public about how investigators believe the crimes occurred. The cases skip associate circuit court, where a judge decides if there's enough evidence for the case to go to trial, and go straight to circuit court.
At the news conference, the sheriffs and prosecutors refused to describe the way or the reason the murders happened. They also wouldn't provide information on whether the suspects are related to the Porters. They did say it's possible others could be charged.
The group wouldn't say what the break is that helped them bring charges in the 18-month-old case. Grand juries have powers of subpoena for reluctant witnesses that aren't available to detectives who interview witnesses and associates of suspects.