Original article no longer available
Hannibal Courier Post
By BEV DARR of the Courier-Post
Published March 9, 2005
Kent (Kenny) Gollaher, 35, of Hannibal, was sentenced to 27 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to second degree murder and armed criminal action for the death of Steve Stricklin.
Kenny Gollaher is led up the steps by Sheriff John Waldschlager Tuesday morning before is trial begins for the murder of Steve Strickin. (C-P photo/Dan Dalstra)
Stricklin, 53, of St. Louis, died Oct. 19, 2003, of stab wounds suffered at Gollaher’s home, 1202 Vermont St. in Hannibal.
In a plea bargain agreement, Judge Robert Clayton II sentenced Gollaher to 27 years in prison for each of the two charges, to be served concurrently. Gollaher’s trial had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, prior to the plea bargain being announced.
Additional charges against Gollaher were dropped. They included kidnapping, regarding holding his girlfriend, Kim Reed, hostage for five hours after the stabbing incident in which Stricklin was killed, and assault for injuries suffered by Reed’s mother, Rose Reed, who also was living in Gollaher’s home where Stricklin died.
Andrea Jones, the murder victim’s daughter, came from Cincinnati to hear the outcome of the case. Jones was seated with a group of Reed family members, including Rose Reed and Kim Reed.
After the court session, defense attorney Wayne Schoeneberg explained that he advised Gollaher to plead guilty after talking to several prescription drug experts about Paxil, a drug Gollaher had been taking prior to the murder. He said Kim Reed had taken Gollaher to a doctor for treatment of depression, and Paxil had been prescribed. Schoeneberg said Gollaher had been taking Paxil but had quit taking it prior to the date Stricklin was killed.
Schoeneberg said Kim Reed and Rose Reed had told him Gollaher’s behavior on the night of the incident “was not Kenny – he had never been violent.” When he learned Gollaher had been taking Paxil and had stopped on his own, Schoeneberg said, “I thought there might be some relation to the drug” that led to his actions. “Paxil can have after-effects.”
However, after talking to drug experts, he determined that there would not be much chance for a successful defense regarding the prescription drug, Schoeneberg said. “We talked at some length about the facts of this case, and there has only been one case where a Paxil defense has been successful.”
Later Tuesday, Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Redington acknowledged that he had been informed about the defendant taking the drug, Paxil.
Redington explained that if the case had gone to trial, “the evidence would have shown a few weeks before this murder Kent Gollaher went to the doctor and said he was feeling a little depressed, and doctor gave him four boxes of samples of Paxil. The samples had three or four pills in each box.
“He took a box and a half or two of the Paxil – five or six pills,” Redington said. “He then stopped taking the Paxil, and a few days later this murder occurred. He never filled a prescription. They (the defense attorney and his staff) couldn’t find any doctor anywhere who would say taking five or six Paxil would make you kill somebody.”
Additional charges dismissed
Tuesday’s court session began with Schoeneberg announcing that Gollaher was withdrawing his not guilt pleas and pleading guilty to count 2 and count 3 (second degree murder and armed criminal action).
At that point, Redington announced he was dismissing count 1, which also was a murder charge.
Redington reported Gollaher had two previous felony convictions.
Regarding the possible penalties for the two charges Gollaher pled guilty to on Tuesday, Redington said the second degree murder charge had a penalty of no less than 10 or more than 30 years in prison or life in prison; and the armed criminal action charge carried a penalty of not less than three or more than 30 years in prison or life in prison. He added that a life sentence is defined as 30 years.
Redington said if the case had gone to trial he expected to prove that Gollaher caused the death of Stricklin by cutting or striking him with a machete.
When Gollaher testified to the judge, he said he took a machete and struck Stricklin across the neck with it. Judge Clayton asked if Stricklin was asleep, and Gollaher said, “I think so.”
At this point Redington said he agreed with the penalty of a sentence of 27 years for each count, to be served concurrently. Redington added that he was dismissing the additional charges that were filed on Friday, March 4, (regarding the assault of Rose Reed and the kidnapping of Kim Reed).
After Gollaher agreed to dismiss any request for a presentence investigation, the judge said he accepted the guilty pleas, and “the court finds him guilty.”
Gollaher was ordered to pay court costs and $68 to the Crime Victims Fund. He was ordered to serve 27-year sentences for count 2 and count 3 with the Department of Corrections (DOC) of the State of Missouri.
He was informed that within 120 days of his delivery to the DOC he has the right to file a motion to set aside the convictions that were the result of the plea bargain agreement.
Later Redington explained that he had offered the 27-year sentence as a plea bargain “some time ago,” and on Monday the defense attorney informed him Gollaher would accept this offer.
A jury pool had been notified to be in court on Tuesday, but the potential jurors were notified that they would not be needed, he said.
Explaining why he decided to offer Gollaher a 27-year sentence in the plea bargain, Redington said life in prison is defined as equaling 30 years, “and after meeting with the families – both the Reeds and Stricklin familie
s – they really wanted closure.
“I explained (to the Reed and Stricklin families) we could go to trial, and I thought we could get a life sentence, but then there would be an appeal and then another appeal and maybe a third one,” Redington said.
“They really wanted it to be over. When I explained to them that with a 27-year sentence he would do about 24 years before he was eligible for parole they were comfortable, and I was comfortable, knowing he would be 60 before he got out of prison. I spoke to about 12 or 15 members of both sides of the families this morning. And they were all pleased with it.”