Prosecuting attorney refiles charges against four Hannibal men charged in January 2023 death

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Top row from left, Braden Chestnutt and Robert O'Connell. Bottom row from left, Dakota Laster and Damien McCulley. | Photos courtesy of Marion County Jail

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Four Hannibal men allegedly involved in the January 2023 death of Taurean Snoddy pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to assault and murder charges during an arraignment in the Marion County Courthouse.

Braden Chestnutt, 20, Damien McCulley, 26, Robert O’Connell, 37, and Dakota Laster, 24, all appeared by video before Judge David Mobley in Marion County Circuit Court. All four were charged with: 

  • First-degree assault, a Class B felony punishable for between five and 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections and
  • Second-degree murder, a Class A felony punishable for between 10 and 30 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Chestnutt and McCulley also were charged with: 

  • Armed criminal action, an unclassified felony punishable for a term of no less than three years (without eligibility for parole) in the Missouri Department of Corrections;
  • Unlawful possession of an illegal weapon, a Class D felony punishable for between one and seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections or one year in the county jail.

Luke Bryant, prosecuting attorney for Marion County, refiled the charges against Chestnutt, Laster, McCulley and O’Connell on April 15 to consolidate them. Jennifer Coffin and Corey Geary from the Missouri Attorney General’s office is assisting in the prosecution.

Snoddy was found lying unresponsive in the street in the 1200 block of Lyon on the night of Jan. 25, 2023.  After CPR was performed, he was transported by emergency services to Hannibal Regional Hospital, where he died 45 minutes after Hannibal Police officers first arrived at the scene.

Three witnesses — a mother and her two children who were present at the time of the fight — said in a probable cause statement that the altercation allegedly leading to Snoddy’s death started as a verbal argument, then became physical in a vacant lot on the 1200 block of Church Street. 

One of the minors reported Snoddy was jumped in the alley behind her house and was hit “at least 10 times.” The witness later heard one of the suspects bragging that he was breaking Snoddy’s ribs and cracking him over the head with brass knuckles. 

Chestnutt, Laster, McCulley and Chad Elliott all were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault on Jan. 28, 2023. Elliott and McCulley also were charged with tampering with a victim. Howard J. Rickey, 44, was charged with assault in the first degree and resisting arrest for a felony. O’Connell was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault on May 25, 2023.

Wayne Schoeneberg from St. Charles is representing Chestnutt. Todd Schulze from Hannibal is representing McCulley. Andrew Garnett from Mexico is representing O’Connell. Joseph Whitener from Clayton is representing Laster.

All four men are scheduled for preliminary hearings on June 18.

Elliott, 22, was sentenced to seven years in prison for first-degree assault after a Ralls County jury found him guilty in connection to the death of Taurean Snoddy. However, he was found not guilty of murder in the second degree.

Rickey’s case is set to go to trial on July 15 before Judge Rachel Bringer-Shepherd. Rickey’s attorney is Public Defender Frederich Cruse.

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