Prosecutor drops, refiles charges in Miller County murder case

2 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago Monday, April 08 2019 Apr 8, 2019 Monday, April 08, 2019 11:00:00 PM CDT April 08, 2019 in News
By: Steve Lambson, KOMU 8 News Content Manager

COLUMBIA - Miller County Prosecutor Ben Winfrey filed a new case against a Chicago man accused in a tri-state drug deal and murder in 2018.

Tyler Worthington was found shot to death in a rural area near Tuscumbia in June. Authorities later identified Joseph McKenna as the suspect, and he was arrested in Chicago.

McKenna was previously charged with second-degree murder for Worthington's death. Winfrey dismissed that case and filed the new one on April 3 with elevated charges, including first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with a witness. Winfrey said in a press release the changes happened because of "additional information" that came to his attention.

Court documents in the case said Worthington and McKenna worked together to try and distribute marijuana oil disguised in vapor pen cartridges. Worthington reportedly flew to Chicago in early June to meet McKenna, and the two later drove separately to Missouri and delivered their products to two locations. Records show each man's vehicles passing through toll stations out of Chicago early on June 4. Deputies said a man identified as Tyler Kroll was with McKenna in his truck during the trip. Later that same day, only McKenna's truck went back through the toll stations; the car Worthington rented did not, though Worthington was reportedly planning to fly back to California from Chicago.

The updated probable cause statement includes details from deputies' interviews with McKenna in which he said he and Kroll followed Worthington outside of Chicago, where they loaded the marijuana oil and cartridges into Worthington's car. McKenna denied going to Missouri.

The statement also said McKenna was arrested in August 2018 in Arkansas, where police found him with a gun and nearly 70 pounds of marijuana. Forensic tests done in April 2019 found the gun McKenna had with him in Arkansas was the same that fired a shell casing recovered at the scene of Worthington's death.

On April 2, a witness in the investigation told authorities McKenna called him and threatened him, telling him to "watch his back." McKenna was reportedly angry about the witness talking to investigators.

The statement concluded that McKenna planned to kill Worthington over payments for prior drug deliveries, and that McKenna lured Worthington out of California and to Missouri to kill him.
Kroll was charged with first-degree murder in February.

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