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Man from Wright County gets life prison sentence for killing 4-year-old boy

TJ Volner slashed the throat of Dusty Guenther and dumped his body in a cesspool last December.

September 28, 2012|by Gene Hartley | ghartley@schurz.com

HARTVILLE, Mo. -- Terry (TJ) Volner pleaded guilty on Friday in Wright County Circuit Court for killing a 4-year-old boy last December.  Circuit Judge John Moody sentenced Volner to life in prison without chance of parole for first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Volner slashed the throat of Dusty Guenther and put his body in a cesspool behind the family’s home near Durbin, north of Hartfville between Grovespring and Manes.  The murder happened while Volner was babysitting the boy while Dusty’s mother, Gina Guenther, was away.

After the murder, Volner sent cell phone pictures of Dusty’s body to his mother and another person.  He also cut himself.  He was treated at a hospital in Springfield for his injuries.

Investigators said Volner gave a statement in which he confessed to what he did to the boy.  He also wrote some letters that were found in the family’s home.  Investigators said it appears Volner was jealous of a boyfriend of Gina Guenther who had stayed the night just before the murder.  The letters described Volner’s romantic feelings for the mother.

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The Missouri State Attorney's General's Office prosecuted the case after the Wright County prosecuting attorney recused himself.  A grand jury indictment in May replaced charges filed by a prosecutor in December.  Prosecutors did not seek a death penalty, possibly because of evaluations of Volner by the Missouri Department of Mental Health.  Volner was committed to that department last summer.


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