PETTIS COUNTY - The man who owns the property where human remains were discovered Monday was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in the mid-1960s before two Missouri Supreme Court cases, in 1966 and 1970, eventually overturned his conviction on the basis of a series of police missteps involving Joseph Arbeiter's then-juvenile status.
Arbeiter, now 65, allegedly stabbed and killed Nancy Zanone in December 1963 on Chippewa Ave. in St. Louis during a botched home invasion.
Arbeiter was arrested and charged May 1 for sexually assaulting a neighbor, sodomy, rape, and drug possession, among other charges. The discovery of the remains came after deputies obtained a warrant to search his trailer and the area around it Sunday and Monday.
Arbeiter was only 15 years old when the crime was committed, and according to court documents, had been fingered as a local "daytime residence burglar" by police.
St. Louis police linked a theft in the area with the murder, which began as a home invasion.
A series of missteps in the St. Louis Police Department's investigation into then-juvenile Arbeiter ensued, as police picked Arbeiter up and took him to the police station for questioning.
Police allegedly coaxed a confession out of Arbeiter without reading him his rights or notifying the juvenile court of his detainment or implied charges. The juvenile court was notified only after hours of detainment by police.
A juvenile court ordered he be prosecuted under general law, and he was subsequently indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder.
A trial court overruled Arbeiter's objections to the police evidence introduced in court and he was eventually found guilty by jury, which led to the case being taken to the state's Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court labeled the trial court's judgment to overrule Arbeiter's objections as "erroneous", and primarily on that facet of the case, called for a remand of the case, though not an outright reversal.
A motion for rehearing or transfer to another court was denied only a month later, on November 14, 1966.
After the case, the circuit court's lawyer moved to subpoena the juvenile records containing Arbeiter's case.
After four years, the Missouri Supreme Court again took up the case, this time with Arbeiter facing second-degree murder charges and 40 years in prison.
The court determined that the juvenile records could not be used to implicate Arbeiter, as the process disrupted the chain of custody for juvenile record protection, and was the sole basis by which Arbeiter could be found guilty.
The court recognized that Arbeiter could not incriminate himself in the crime, and the only way that the state could pursue valid charges would be by the self-incrimination contained in the juvenile records, which were confidential.
The final judgment states:
"The retrial of this case makes clear that the state must rely upon the statements of appellant to supply the proof of his guilt. The proof relied on in this case evidences that fact. In view of the decisions of this court rendering such statements inadmissible, we must conclude that the state does not have available to it legally admissible evidence of the defendant's guilt. Therefore, the only alternative is to order the discharge of appellant."
The murder charges against Arbeiter were subsequently dropped, but several periods of incarcaration followed for drug and motor vehicle charges.