UPDATE: Court docs say murders happened during drug deal, then truck arson
RANDOLPH COUNTY - Court documents filed against one of the suspects in a double homicide in Moberly said the deadly shootings happened during a drug-related robbery.
20-year-old Christopher Esry, 40-year-old Aaron Bloss, 29-year-old Travis Koenig and 22-year-old Steven Bell have each been charged in connection with the shooting deaths of Darren Tharp and Shane Austin Hare. Tharp and Hare were found dead from gunshot wounds in a vehicle on December 29. The shootings, according to court documents, happened early in the morning of December 28.
All four suspects were arrested on January 1, the same day charges were filed. Bloss, Esry and Koenig have bonds set at $1 million cash. Bell has bond set at $100,000.
Initially, Esry, Bloss and Koenig were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder with Esry facing an additional charge of robbery. Updated information on the counties website show update information.
Esry is facing one count of first degree murder, Bloss is facing one first degree and one second degree murder charge and Koenig is facing on second degree murder charge.
Bell is still charged with tampering with physical evidence.
Randolph County Prosecutor Stephanie Luntsford said this is normal. The charges, she said, will most likely change.
"I don’t file every potential charge that I could," Luntsford said. "I'll go back and review after the investigation is complete. There may be additional charges as we go along or amended charges."
Documents filed against Steven Bell, said Tharp's vehicle was parked between Bud's Place and West Side Inn on Concannon Street. According to the probably cause statement, surveillance video showed two people approach Tharp's vehicle, then running away two minutes later.
Randolph County deputies later reported finding Bloss' truck on fire in a rural area. The fire appeared to have been intentionally set.
A witness interviewed by Moberly police said they saw Bloss and Esry loading handguns and talking about going to commit a burglary in Columbia. The witness said they later got a message from Bloss, saying "he was going to prison for something he didn't do."
While interviewing Bloss, police said he told them he got a call from Esry requesting a ride. He and Koenig went to get Esry, who reportedly told Bloss he was meeting with people at Bud's Place with the intent to steal drugs from them, and that he needed Bloss' help. Bloss told police when refused, Esry pointed a gun at him, and said if Bloss messed anything up he (Esry) would kill Bloss' family.
According to the statement, Bloss and Esry then got in Tharp's car, at which point Esry demanded drugs from Tharp and Hare - Bloss identified the drugs as methamphetamine. Bloss told police he was getting out of the vehicle when he heard a gunshot. He started running, and heard a second gunshot. He told police he, Koenig and Esry all then left the area in his truck.
According to Bloss, Esry chose Tharp and Hare because they would "be an easy pick because they're lame."
Bloss then told police he burned his clothes at Bell's suggestion, with Bell saying "he knew [a] place they could do it." The probable cause statement said Bell was planning to get a trailer to haul Tharp's vehicle and the bodies away to a place where they could be burned and disposed of.
Bell reportedly told police he looked around Tharp's vehicle for Bloss' cell phone at Bloss' request. He said Bloss told him they'd have to find a way to get rid of the vehicle and bodies, telling Bell to either blow up the vehicle or set it on fire.
On Tuesday, Luntsford said she does not believe the incident was random.
"I do believe that the contact with the victims in this case, you know, was specific, and it was related to that incident or contact," Luntsford said. "Obviously, the nature of the charges are quite serious, but I don't believe it was random."
Luntsford's first day as the Randolph County Prosecutor was Monday.
“It’s my first couple days, flying solo if you will, it’s a big case to have for your first week.”