Friday, January 10, 2014
The jury will hear closing statements today and will most likely deliberate as well in the murder case against 40-year-old Holts Summit woman Sandra Plunkett.
Plunkett was arrested in January 2011 for the murder of her husband, Paul Plunkett, a former Jefferson City police officer.
Defense attorney, Justin Carver, called Plunkett, to the stand yesterday in court. She told her side of the story from the day of her husband’s death and what led up to it.
Chris Wilson, Callaway County prosecuting attorney, said Plunkett’s motivation for killing her husband was financial. Paul Plunkett had a $100,000 life insurance policy with United Healthcare.
In her testimony, Sandra Plunkett stated she first became addicted to drugs in 2008 after she was prescribed vicodin for an auto immune disease. She later became addicted to heroin — another opiate. The prosecution claims Plunkett wanted the life insurance policy money to support her drug habit. During January 2011 interviews with investigators, Sandra Plunkett said three-fourths of a gram of heroin cost between $200 and $250 and she would spend up to $300 per day on heroin at times.
Yesterday, Sandra Plunkett stated she did not write a check for an insurance coverage period between January and March 2011, was unaware if someone else did and thought the policy was inactive at the time of Paul Plunkett’s death. After his death, Sandra Plunkett said she did not receive any financial gain.
Wilson pointed out to Sandra Plunkett and the jury in court yesterday her statements about insurance from interviews with investigators in January 2011. In the interview tapes, Sandra Plunkett said she had “nothing to gain” from her husband’s death and that they didn’t have insurance — informaion she provided and was not provoked from investigators.
Sandra Plunkett pleaded not guilty and Carver is using battered spouse syndrome as her defense. Her allegations of an abusive marriage came out in court Thursday.
Beginning of the relationship
Sandra Plunkett began her testimony discussing her relationship with her husband. They met in nursing school in the mid 1990s and became friends. She was 21 and he was 37 when they met.
“He seemed like a real nice guy,” Plunkett said in court, after Public Defender Justin Carver asked what her first impression was of Paul Plunkett.
While in nursing school, Paul Plunkett was a police officer with the Jefferson City Police Department. He maintained that position until he was disabled due to an inflammatory colon disease.
Paul Plunkett was in nursing school to have a back up to his law enforcement career and wanted to try something new, Carroll Lee Plunkett, his eldest brother, said.
Paul and Sandra Plunkett graduated from nursing school in May 1997 and were married in September 1998.
While they dated, Sandra Plunkett said, Paul Plunkett did not abuse her. It wasn’t until they were married that the alledged assaults began.
Sandra Plunkett alleges abuse
Sandra Plunkett stated her husband wanted her to stay away from males, keeping her away from his friends and not allowing her to attend police social functions.
“I had to be careful not to have any male interactions,” Plunkett said in court.
The first incident of abuse, she said, was in 1999 after her male coworker stopped to say hello to her at a store. She said Paul become upset and when they returned home, he punched her with a box flashlight.
Plunkett stated her husband abused her until his death in 2011, receiving the most abuse in 2010 when she claimed Paul Plunkett held a gun to her head three times. Several people testified Paul Plunkett always kept a black Glock by his side at home.
Her drug abuse escalated, she said, in correlation with the physical abuse in 2010. When Carver asked if the increase of drug use was her way of “self medicating” to deal with the abuse, Sandra Plunkett said yes.
“I was scared … I would beg him to stop,” Plunkett said in regards to having a gun held to her head.
A friend of Sandra Plunkett’s for 35 years, Tammy Heidbreder, later testified Sandra and Paul Plunkett attended her wedding, but Paul Plunkett would not let his wife attend the reception because he didn’t want her dancing with another man. Sandra Plunkett was a bridesmaid in her wedding.
Heidbreder also said Sandra Plunkett typically didn’t disclose personal details of her marriage but told her in 2001 that Paul Plunkett would delete contacts off her phone. When questioned by the prosecution, Heidebreder testified that she never saw any physical signs of abuse on Sandra Plunkett and met Paul Plunkett twice.
Carver pulled two items of evidence in court yesterday — documentation that was utilized to further Plunkett’s abuse claims.
One medical record was from Jefferson City Medical Group. Carver said the document contains information that Sandra Plunkett had a cut above her left eye, and when the doctor asked how it happened, “she didn’t want to tell me why.” The other medical record was from the University of Missouri Hospital in July 2009. Paul Plunkett was in surgerical ICU at that time. A chest x-ray, the record shows, Sandra Plunkett had right posterior rib fracture.
In court, Plunkett said she received the fracture from any injury she sustained a month before when her husband used his police baton to beat her.
Sarah Hunt, who said she was a close friend of Sandra and Paul Plunkett, testified that Sandra Plunkett told her in 2009 that the injury was caused by her coughing. Hunt said Sandra Plunkett told her she was suffering from bronchitus at the time.
The abuse, Sandra Plunkett said, stemmed from her husband’s jealousy and control issues.
She added that he would repeatedly call her while she was at work to check on her. She said he would also check her odometer three or four times a week to see if she traveled anywhere other than work.
The defense called several of Sandra Plunkett’s former coworkers from St. Mary’s Medical Center to testify to her conversations with them about abuse. They testified that Sandra Plunkett confided in them about abuse, but they never saw any physical signs.
They also testified that Sandra Plunkett wore clothes underneath her scrubs to cover up more of her body — an order Sandra Plunkett told them was from her husband. Sandra Plunkett said her husband made her wear additional clothing “even in the warm months.”
To further her allegations, Sandra Plunkett testified that Paul Plunkett forced her to wear very little clothing or be naked while he took photos of her for the Internet.
“He didn’t give me much of a choice,” Sandra Plunkett said.
Those photos were never presented to the jury.
Sandra Plunkett also stated that her husband tied her to their bed — once for three days, only untieing her to allow her to use the restroom.
Wilson asked Sandra Plunkett if the only evidence she has of Paul Plunkett’s abuse was her testimony. She responded yes. No one testified in court to witnessing Paul Plunkett abuse his wife or seeing physical signs of abuse. She also stated that Paul Plunkett never abused her or mistreated her in front of others because he had a secret side.
Sandra Plunkett said she never reported abuse to police because of her husband’s connection to the Jefferson City and Holts Summit police departments. She also said she feared a report would mean more abuse.
“I felt like they (police officers) would be on his side,” Sandra Plunkett said.
Wilson presented documents from rehabilitation facilities in which Sandra Plunkett was a patient. None included information of her reporting abuse.
Paul Plunkett’s ex-wife, Toni Schmalzried, testified on behalf of the state and said Paul Plunkett never abused her in any way during their 13-year marriage. Josh Plunkett, Paul Plunkett’s son with Schmalzried, also said his father never abused him or his mother. While living with his father and Sandra Plunkett for three months, Josh Plunkett said he never witnessed his father abusing Sandra Plunkett and described their relationship as normal.
Sandra Plunkett testified she didn’t leave her husband because she needed to run their pest control business and care for him while he was ill.
Sandra Plunkett’s intention to commit suicide
Sandra Plunkett said in court yesterday that she attempted to escape her relationhip with her husband with a suicide attempt in 2008.
“I had had enough,” Plunkett said.
Paul Plunkett came home in 2008 and found suicide notes laying on the kitchen counter, as stated by his nephew, Larry Plunkett Jr. Paul Plunkett called him for help when he couldn’t find his wife. Larry Plunkett Jr., at the time, was a Missouri State Trooper with Troop F.
Larry Plunkett Jr., Paul Plunkett and law enforcement — as Larry Plunkett Jr. testified — searched for Sandra Plunkett. Paul Plunkett mentioned to his nephew she may go to a casino in Booneville.
“It was a shot in the dark, but it was something to check,” Larry Plunkett Jr. said in court on Wednesday.
She was discovered at the casino, where Sandra Plunkett testified she intended to book a hotel room and overdose on pills.
Larry Plunkett Jr. said Sandra Plunkett was upset when he and Paul Plunkett came to the casino to save her life, stating she was agitated and appeared to be coming down from a high.
Dispute over witness testimony
Randy Deppe, a former acquaintence of Sandra Plunkett’s through a drug circle, testified in court on Wednesday that in 2010 Sandra Plunkett asked him if he knew someone who would murder her husband. He said she told him the reward was a split of an insurance check.
Plunkett denied that conversation in court yesterday.
Glenn Brantley, who knows Plunkett and Deppe from their drug circle, testified for the defense in court yesterday. After recollecting a 2011 interview with a detective, Brantley said he remembered Sandra Plunkett telling him Paul Plunkett held a gun to her head.
He also testified to Deppe’s character, saying Deppe, “makes stories up.” Brantley and Deppe both have a criminal history that includes drugs. Deppe is currently in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Trial continues today for the fourth consecutive day. Attorneys will make closing statements and jurors will most likely deliberate the case.
Follow @FultonSun on Twitter for updates during the trial.
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