‘You took my son. You could have walked away’: Hannibal man pleads guilty to assault in January 2023 death

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Howard Rickey | Photo courtesy of Hannibal Police Department

HANNIBAL, Mo. — It took nearly four hours with three judges and two courtrooms before Howard Rickey of Hannibal finally admitted guilt for his role in the January 2023 death of another Hannibal man.

Rickey, 43, appeared Tuesday afternoon in Marion County Circuit Court with Public Defender Fredrich Cruse. His day in the Marion County Courthouse began at 1 p.m. before Judge David Mobley in a small second-floor courtroom. Tenth Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Rachel Bringer-Shepherd assigned the case to Mobley on June 7. However, when Tuesday’s hearing began, he said he heard testimony during a preliminary hearing as part of Rickey’s case. Mobley recused himself, saying he believed it would be improper to hear the plea.

Attorneys, family members and court personnel moved down the hallway to the larger second-floor courtroom to bring the case back to Bringer-Shepherd. She said she didn’t have time to take the case on Tuesday. She also told Cruse and Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Luke Bryant, “It’s just not a plea I’m willing to accept.”

Bringer-Shepherd suggested reaching out to another judge, and Judge Talley Smith eventually heard the case late Tuesday afternoon in the smaller second-floor courtroom.

Taurean Snoddy was found lying unresponsive in the street in the 1200 block of Lyon on the night of Jan. 25, 2023. 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. 

Rickey was arrested on Jan. 26, 2023. He was charged with first-degree assault, a Class B felony punishable for between five to 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, and resisting arrest, a Class E felony punishable for between one and four years in prison.

When Smith asked Rickey to explain what he did that made him guilty, Rickey said, “I stated that I was going to run over the victim, Mr. Snoddy.”

Bryant told Smith that Rickey was flagged down on Church Street by his daughter, who said Snoddy was around the block. 

“Mr. Rickey exited his pickup truck and got into a physical altercation with Mr. Snoddy,” Bryant said. “Mr. Snoddy got the best of Mr. Rickey. Mr. Rickey returned to his vehicle stating, ‘We’re going to run that N-word over.’ 

Bryant said several other people showed up around that time. Snoddy backpedaled out into an open lawn area. Rickey then drove his pickup over the curb into an open lawn area. 

In a probable cause statement regarding Rickey, he is alleged to have “admitted to making multiple comments about running the victim over, as well as driving through a field toward the victim who was found deceased a short distance away.”

After the incident ended, Bryant said Rickey returned to his vehicle, which ran out of gas near Central Park. He went to his mother’s home. Law enforcement officers arrived on the scene to look for Rickey. When Officer Jonathan Borgmeyer of the Hannibal Police Department found Rickey, he fled on foot and was eventually captured a block away.

Bryant’s recommendation for sentencing was that Rickey receive 15 years for assault and four years for fleeing arrest, but the execution of those sentences should be suspended while he helps with the prosecution of other cases. He also would be released to reside in a permanent rehabilitation program for one year and have GPS monitoring.

Smith scheduled Rickey’s sentencing for Dec. 5.

Two of Snoddy’s family members, wearing “Justice for Taurean” T-shirts and sitting only a few feet from Rickey, addressed him before he left the courtroom.

“You deserve so much more,” said a woman who said she was Snoddy’s sister but did not provide her name in the courtroom. “What you did was so wrong. You took a life. You took a piece of me that we will never get back, yet this is what we get. It’s not fair to us in any way. I’ll never forgive you. I’m supposed to, but I can’t. It’s just wrong. So wrong. You could have walked away. You chose to stay there and do what you did.

“I hope you mess up and go to prison.”

“You took my son. You could have walked away,” Patricia Blackwell, Snoddy’s mother, said. “You’re a coward. You’re a human being like everybody else. It gave you satisfaction to take my son’s life, to prove you’re a man. Wow. What a man.

“I forgive you because it’s up to God. His plan is bigger than mine. I forgave you because that’s what you do. That’s my choice to make. My decision. My soul. Your soul is going to have to stand on Judgment Day — not here, but before God. I hope you have the balls to accept everything that’s coming to you.”

Smith gave a final warning to Rickey.

“If you get kicked out of (the rehabilitation program), you’re going back to jail,” she said.

Chad Elliott was sentenced in September 2023 to serve seven years in the Missouri Department of Correction for first-degree assault after a Ralls County jury found him guilty in connection to the death of Snoddy. 

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