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Youngblood trial opens: Accused of Doniphan murder

Thursday, January 31, 2013

By MICHELLE FRIEDRICH

SEMO News Service

EMINENCE, Mo. -- The daughter of the woman accused of the 2010 murders of a Doniphan, Mo., couple described their deaths as "another trial run" for a bigger plan her father and others hoped to carry out.

The second day of Melissa "Lisa" Youngblood's trial began Tuesday with opening statements from Assistant Attorney General Richard Hicks and Youngblood's attorney, Donna Anthony with the Public Defender's Office.

Over the next approximately five hours, the 10-woman, four-man jury then heard testimony from eight witnesses, including from two teenagers, who were living in the Youngblood home at the time the July 10, 2010, deaths of Edgar Atkinson, 81, and Bonnie Chase, 69, occurred.

Melissa Youngblood, 35, is charged with two Class A felonies of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of the couple.

During the summer of 2010, Stysha Youngblood, now 17, told the jury her father, David, discussed a plan in which he wanted to rob the Bank of Grandin and then leave the country with her older sister, Chantale, who was then 17, and Chantale Youngblood's then 18-year-old boyfriend, Keith Boyles, who also lived in the single-wide mobile home with the family of five.

David Youngblood, she said, would be in the living room during these discussions, while her mother was either in the kitchen or at work.

Stysha Youngblood said her mother had told her "she thought (the plan) was stupid."

On the day prior to the June 23, 2010, fire at the home of David Youngblood's aunt and uncle, Gladys Irene Piatt and Loyd Eugene Piatt, the teen said, she, her parents and sister had been at the home.

"Great aunt Irene had asked (David Youngblood) to take her to Springfield" the next day for a doctor's appointment, said the teen. While David Youngblood told the Piatts he would drive them, his daughter said, upon arriving home, he told them, "he didn't want to take" her.

Stysha Youngblood said her father wanted Boyles and her sister to "kill the Piatts and burn their house" as a "trial run" because "he wanted people to help him" rob banks.

The teen said her father wanted to make sure Boyles and her sister could do it.

The teen said her father dropped Boyles and her sister off near the Piatts' home. Boyles, she said, was armed with a gun, a 9mm.

"There was gas at the house," said Stysha Youngblood. "It was dad's idea to get the gas out of the shed."

The teen, as well as her parents, and younger brother then went to a Doniphan pool hall, so they would have an alibi.

When David Youngblood was asked where his daughter and Boyles were, "he said they were at one of mom's client's houses," Stysha Youngblood said.

After her sister called her dad's cellphone, the girl said, they went and picked up the teens; her dad told those at the pool hall he was picking them up at "mom's client's" house.

Boyles, she said, was worried "about the blood on his shirt."

During the drive home, Stysha Youngblood said, her father "didn't believe" the teens allegedly had killed the Piatts.

Upon arriving home, the teen said, Boyles took off his clothes, including his shoes and her father "instructed" her to burn them.

The teen confirmed her mother was in the car when Boyles and her sister were picked up and was in the kitchen when Boyles changed his clothes.

Stysha Youngblood and her sister and Boyles described "very vividly" what had happened.

"They told us Keith shot great aunt Irene" and her husband, then they retrieved the gas and burned the house, the teen said.

The family, she said, later were notified about the fire at the Piatts' home and her father went over there.

After the Piatts' death, Stysha Youngblood said, Lakeisha Brooks, who was "my friend for a little while" and a friend of her sister's, moved into their trailer.

The teen confirmed her father was trying to recruit Brooks, who, like herself, was 14 at the time, to be a participant in his bank robbery plan.

At one point, the teen said, her mother told Boyles that David Youngblood (who is serving four consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to the deaths of the Piatts, Atkinson and Chase) planned on killing him once the robbery was over.

Boyles "confronted Dad" in the living room, while the teen's mother was in the kitchen.

Stysha Youngblood said her father accused his wife of being a lying -----.

The teen said she and her family had been to the Atkinson/Chase residence at times and had been paid to do some work for them.

Stysha Youngblood said they all, including her mother, had been inside the home.

David Youngblood, she said, was wanting to do a second trial run on Atkinson and Chase. Melissa Youngblood, she said, was at work for some of the discussions.

The teen said her father wanted his oldest daughter, his wife and Brooks to participate. "He wanted to make sure (Brooks) was in or out" and whether she was capable of helping with the robbery, she said.

On July 10, 2010, the teen said, she stayed home with her brother, while her parents, sister, Boyles and Brooks left for a "last minute thing."

"I was scared for my mom ... my brother ... and my sister," Stysha Youngblood said. "He threatened to kill us all ... ."

Since her father had "talked about it," the teen said, it was "like they did to the Piatts, go there, kill them, get their money and guns. ... He said he knew (Atkinson) kept some money on him" and there were guns and knives in the home.

Stysha Youngblood said her father also said "something about buying gas" before leaving.

When her parents, sister, Boyles and Brooks returned home, the teen said, she saw them getting guns and knives out of the car.

The teen said she was told to burn her dad and Boyles' clothing and later helped in cleaning the guns.

"There is no doubt your mom knew about the guns," Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner asked.

Stysha Youngblood replied no and indicated her mom was in the kitchen. "She just kept quiet," he said.

When initially questioned by officers, the teen reported: "I didn't know anything" to them.

"I was afraid my dad was going to kill me," she said.

More than a year later, while in foster care, the teen said, she told officers the truth about what she knew, but "I didn't want to testify against my mom."

On cross-examination, Anthony asked whether David Youngblood had threatened to kill his "whole family if they talked" and threatened they would be considered accessories/accomplices in the crimes.

Stysha Youngblood confirmed he had.

The teen said her mother was "almost always" working when she and other family members would hang out at the pool hall. Her mother, she said, rarely drove and usually was dropped off by her husband and sometimes her oldest daughter.

The teen confirmed her mother worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week. She said it was her mother who took care of household chores although she sometimes helped her mom.

The teen said her mother spent a lot of time in the kitchen, as well as "off to herself" in the bathroom or her bedroom.

The trailer, she confirmed, had three window air conditioner units, including one in the kitchen, as well as living room. The TV and PlayStation were housed in an entertainment center in the living room, closest to the bar separating it from the kitchen.

"My dad loved it loud," referring to the TV, the teen said. "When he cranked (the radio) up (in the car), the vehicle would be shaking."

Stysha Youngblood denied her mother was ever part of any plan.

Stysha Youngblood answered yes when asked whether Brooks was "all for it" in regards to the bank robbery, as well as killing Chase and Atkinson.

In her testimony, Brooks said, at some point after the Piatts' deaths, she met Boyles and the Youngbloods, including Melissa, at a Doniphan pool hall. With talk of a floating trip, she said, she left with them.

"When we were going out to the house, the Piatts, they explained to me it wasn't smoke inhalation that got them; they're the ones who killed them," said Brooks, referring to David Youngblood and Boyles.

Brooks said she also was told of what Zoellner called the "grand plan."

The men, she said, told her they wanted to "rob the Bank of Grandin at Grandin, Mo., take the bank president ... and then move to another state. ... They wanted me to go along with the whole thing."

Melissa Youngblood, she said, was in the kitchen when she was told this. There also was a plan, she said, to kill Atkinson and Chase and take their money and guns.

"There was a plan to go down there and be friends with them," said Brooks, who lived with the Youngbloods for about two weeks. "After (Atkinson and Chase) let them in the house, they were going to kill them."

Brooks said she saw David Youngblood and Boyles each had to pistol, thought to be 9 mm.

The plan, she said, included her, Chantale Youngblood and her mother looking for guns and knives in the home.

Although no date was set, Brooks said, on July 10, 2010, David Youngblood told her and the others to get in the car.

"I knew basically what we were going to do ... we were going to go down there and do it," she said.

After leaving the Youngblood home, Brooks said, they stopped at Casey's in Doniphan to fill the gasoline cans.

Upon learning of the alleged intentions, Brooks confirmed no one protested what was about to occur.

"You agreed to help," Zoellner asked.

Brooks answered yes.

Upon arriving at the Atkinson/Chase home, Brooks said, the five of them got out of the car. Atkinson and Chase, she said, were outside.

"Keith helped Edgar carry a (large) bag of sugar or flour in," said Brooks, who described Atkinson and Chase as having entered the home first. "David went inside. After, Melissa went inside."

While the Youngbloods and Boyles were inside, Brooks said, she didn't hear any voices or angry words, but did hear multiple gunshots.

Subsequently, Brooks said, she heard a voice, she believed to be David Youngblood's, yelling at her and Chantale Youngblood to "come in here."

Inside, Brooks said, she saw Chase and Atkinson laying on the floor. Boyles, she said, was standing over Chase, while David Youngblood was standing over Atkinson.

"Keith and David both had pistols," she said. " ... Melissa walked around looking for stuff."

David Youngblood, she said, told her to "go through Edgar's pockets and look for his wallet. ... I found a little bit of change," which was given to David Youngblood.

At one point, Brooks said, Chantale Youngblood "popped the truck" and the teens got the gas cans and carried them into the house.

Brooks said she helped in carrying guns from the home, including a .22-caliber rifle with a squirrel carved into the stock.

Brooks recalled hearing a "boom" inside the home, which David Youngblood was the last to leave.

Upon arriving back at the Youngblood home, Brooks said, she and Chantale Youngblood were told to carry the guns in. "We cleaned them and put them back together," she said.

Brooks said she assisted in burning Boyles and David and Chantale Youngblood's clothes, as well as Melissa Youngblood's flip flops.

Further, Brooks said, she was present when some of the guns were sold/traded at a Doniphan pawn shop, as well as when the Youngbloods' car was traded for a Nissan Pathfinder.

On cross-examination, Brooks confirmed she spoke with officers multiple times, including on July 16, 2010, when she told them she was stuck at home with Stysha and her brother.

"All you knew was because you heard talking?" Anthony asked.

Brooks said yes, indicating that also is what she told officers in an April 2011 interview when she also described an argument she had over a PlayStation game.

"You said you told them the God's honest truth" then, Anthony asked.

Brooks answered affirmatively, just as she did when asked whether she had reported telling officers then she had never been to the Atkinson/Chase home.

"Before my (November 2011) birthday, I told them the truth," said Brooks, who confirmed being part of the plan, going to the house, going through Atkinson's pockets and carrying the gas cans in.

"You didn't get along with Lisa," Anthony asked.

Brooks said she and the woman never talked and confirmed the woman complained about her being there and David Youngblood treating her better than his own children and her sitting on the man's lap. She also confirmed the woman kept to herself and didn't really talk to anyone in the household.

Brooks confirmed she never heard a conversations between the Youngbloods, other than David Youngblood yelling at his wife, who did all the household chores.

David Youngblood, she said, threatened her and her family, as well as his own family and threatened she would be an accessory/accomplice to the crime.

Upon stopping at Casey's, Brooks said, she "had a clue" as to what was taking place because she had been part of the planning.

" ... Someone said 'Are we going to do it,'" Brooks said.

The teen answered no when Anthony asked whether her client had a gun, had carried guns out of the house, harmed anyone inside the home or threatened her.

Brooks said she was "threatened with my life; I was threatened from the beginning. I felt very threatened" after being told what had happened to the Piatts.

"You participated in planning ... you did go through Ed Atkinson's pockets ... all this you did and you have an agreement with the state ... what happens to you," Anthony said. "You're not being prosecuted."

"Not that I know of," said Brooks, who confirmed officers told her there would be a "little problem" if she lied under oath.

Dr. Russell Deidiker, who performed the autopsies on Atkinson and Chase, said Atkinson suffered both direct (fire contact with body) and indirect (radiant heat) injuries from the fire.

The front of Atkinson's body, he said, had more direct fire damage, leading him to believe the man, "at least the time of the fire, he was on his back."

An X-ray, Deidiker said, showed fragments consistent with a gunshot wound to Atkinson's head.

Deidiker said evidence indicated a "partial through and through" from behind the "high point of (Atkinson's skull), from left to right" and exiting behind his right ear.

Deidiker said he also found an apparent bullet entrance wound on Atkinson's back. Due to the damage to Atkinson's body, he said, he was not able to identify an exit wound, but believed it was probably in his left abdominal area.

The bullet, he said, entered Atkinson's right back, traveling back to front, right to left and upward.

Deidiker said there was no way to tell which shot was fired first, but it was his opinion they occurred before the fire.

"There was no soot in (Atkinson's) airway," Deidiker said.

Atkinson's cause of death, Deidiker said, was gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen.

In regards to Chase, Deidiker said, her autopsy was more "technically difficult; she was more severely burned."

Deidiker said he was unable to definitively say Chase suffered any gunshot wounds.

"There was no soot in her airway, either," Deidiker said. " ... She was not breathing at the time of the fire."

Based on his autopsy, Deidiker said, he couldn't determine Chase's cause of death.

"Based on the circumstances, I would describe it as a homicide by undetermined manner," Deidiker said.

The Piatts, Deidiker said, both died of gunshot wounds and suffered direct and indirect injury in the fire. Each, he said, was dead before the fire.

Jeremy Walter, a Ripley County sheriff's deputy, was the first officer to arrive on the scene of the Atkinson/ Chase home, which he found "fully engulfed."

Walter said he later went into the home after one of the firefighters reported finding a body.

"At that time, I was only advised of one," but later learned there was a second one, Walter said.

When one of the bodies was moved, Walter said, a red gasoline can was found beneath one.

Rod Hoelscher, a retired investigator with the State Fire Marshal's Office, said he was unable to determine the cause or point of origin of the fire. "I classified it as a criminal investigation," he said.

A gasoline can, he said, was found underneath Chase's body and a second one, which was melted to its base, was found as he was sifting through the debris.

The partially melted can, Hoelscher said, contained a liquid, which had the characteristics and odor of gasoline.

In regards to the fire at the Piatts' home, Hoelscher said, he was not able to determine its cause due to the damage.

Ripley County Coroner Mike Jackson said he initially met David Youngblood the night of the fire at the Piatts' home.

On the day of Chase's funeral, Jackson said, David and Chantale Youngblood came to his funeral home office. "He was telling me, the Piatt family would be in agreement if we need to reinvestigate" the Piatts' death, he said.

Jessica Baugus told jurors she had known Chase since she was about 7 years old, having gone to church with her and only met Atkinson after Chase introduced them.

Baugus said she had helped clean Chase's home in uptown Doniphan, and after Chase took "some clothes to go out and stay" with Atkinson, she had done some housework there.

While at the couple's home, she said, she saw a shotgun in a bedroom and a pistol in Atkinson's truck.

Angela Reed, Chase's daughter, said she "first heard about Ed" in 2005.

Reed said her mother lived in town, but later moved in with Atkinson, who she never married.

"Ed had guns; I knew he had rifles" and long guns, Reed said.

Chase, she said, canned vegetables and fruit preserves, including peaches.

Once while on the telephone with her mother, she said, Atkinson was outside talking with David Youngblood.

On cross-examination, Melissa Youngblood's other attorney, Thomas Kondrow, asked whether Reed knew his client.

"(Chase) may have mentioned the whole family; I knew there was a wife," she said. .


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