Auxvasse man pleads not guilty to murder, assault charges

Editor's note: this article has been updated and corrected as of 3:50 p.m. after initially posted at 2:30 p.m.

An Auxvasse man pleaded not guilty to murder and assault charges this week.

Jake Ollie Gastler, 23, of Auxvasse pleaded not guilty to second degree murder and first degree assault in an arraignment Monday in Callaway County.

Gastler is accused of beating his neighbors a little before 1 a.m. Aug. 31, 2013.

A press release from the Callaway County Sheriff's Office on Aug. 31, 2013, stated that Gastler was in custody for attacking Zachery W. O’Conner and his father, Michael W. O’Conner, at their home on Blue Ridge Road east of Auxvasse. Deputies from the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office reported that Gastler called at 12:58 a.m. to report two of his neighbors lying on the ground covered in blood. Zachery O’Conner was found dead and Michael O’Conner was transported by helicopter to University Hospital in Columbia.

The sheriff's office said that Gastler had first told deputies he found his neighbors in that condition but a few days later sent news media a press release stating Gastler admitted to attacking the father and son.

Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson said even with a confession, 90 percent of the time a defendant will plead not guilty in the initial arraignment hearing.

"It is not unusual at all," Wilson said.

Wilson said Judge Jodie Asel would decide March 17 the next step in the court proceeds, which could include when the case would go to trial.


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