Byron Case

Jackson County, Missouri
Date of Alleged Crime:  October 22, 1997

Byron Christopher Case was convicted of the alleged murder of 18-year-old Anastasia WitbolsFeugen. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. On the night of her death, Anastasia had been with her boyfriend, Justin Bruton, 18, and another couple, Byron Case, 18, and Kelly Moffett, 15. The four had met at around 8:30 p.m. According to Byron and Kelly, Anastasia was angry at being picked up three hours late, got into an argument with Justin, and soon left the vehicle at a stoplight. Anastasia was found shot dead at 3:45 a.m. that night in a nearby cemetery. Justin never talked to the police and less than 48 hours later, he was found shot dead 30 miles away from a self-inflicted gunshot blast to the head.

Police initially believed that Justin had killed Anastasia as such a theory established a motive for Justin's suicide. They thought Byron and Kelly were lying to protect their friend. If Byron had killed Anastasia, one would suppose he would have implicated Justin or at least hinted at his involvement. Police interest in the case soon waned. However, Anastasia's father, Robert WitbolsFeugen, began pursuing it. He did not know Justin well, but he thought the theory that Justin had killed Anastasia was too simple and too obvious. He began interviewing Anastasia's friends and associates, listening to hearsay, rumors, and gossip. Some rumors said that Byron or a jealous girl killed Anastasia. Some said Byron and Justin were actually lovers. Others said that Anastasia was killed by a “goth” who hated both her and Justin. Another theory said Justin himself was murdered. WitbolsFeugen offered a $10,000 reward for information. Byron and Kelly, as well as Justin and Anastasia, were followers of the Goth subculture, a group which made them appear malevolent to those unfamiliar with the subculture.

WitbolsFeugen thought Gary Kilgore, the investigator assigned to Anastasia's case, was not doing enough to solve it. WitbolsFeugen became relentless and sent about 150 e-mails to the detective's personal account in the span of several months. At one point, Kilgore replied and told Anastasia's father to “stop harassing [him], both indirectly and directly.” Police reportedly contacted Kelly every few months to ask for statements or to clarify details. Prodded by WitbolsFeugen's demand for a living culprit, they may have suggested scenarios to Kelly as to how Byron could have committed the murder.

Three years after the murder, Byron and Kelly's relationship deteriorated. After Byron hung up on Kelly during an argument, Kelly called the police and reported he was threatening to kill himself with an overdose of sleeping pills. The police responded to Byron's house and searched for the sleeping pills. They found none. They took Byron to a mental hospital for mandatory 23-hour observation. The opinion of all the professionals who examined and observed him was that he was definitely not suicidal.

Kelly, it turns out, is a serial accuser. She has accused multiple people (including her father and a husband she later married) of abusing her, being suicidal, or of murder. Only the last charge was ever believed.

To get away from Kelly, Byron left Kansas City and moved to St. Louis. Six days later, Kelly, with her attorney, met with the Jackson County Prosecutor. Kelly changed her previous story about Anastasia's death and now claimed she saw Byron murder Anastasia. With police help she tape recorded her phone conversations with Byron. Although Byron never said anything directly incriminating, one could conjecture that one conversation was incriminating because Byron failed to object to Kelly's vaguely incriminating ramblings and instead expressed a desire not to talk about Anastasia's death or Justin's death. Byron explained he was bedridden with a high fever at the time and described Kelly as a “traditional psychotic ex-girlfriend.”

Kelly could not corroborate the story she gave about Anastasia's death in any way. She claimed to know where the murder weapon was disposed of, but it could not be found at the location she designated. There was no motive for the crime on Byron's part. At trial the prosecution presented no medically determined time of death.

Anastasia had her eyes open when her body was found at 3:45 a.m. Her corneas were clear. Medical evidence indicates that if the eyes remain open after death, the corneas cloud over in 2 to 4 hours. Thus Anastasia must have been killed sometime after 11:45 p.m. According to Kelly's story, Byron murdered Anastasia around 8:30 p.m.

Some have questioned Byron's account of his last encounter with Anastasia. It is unlikely that a stranger killed her as he likely would have assaulted her for sex or money and there is no evidence of such an assault. It is also unlikely that Justin killed Anastasia, as he presumably would have satisfied whatever motive he had for her killing and would not have killed himself so soon afterwards.

However, it is plausible to believe that Anastasia and Justin both died as a result of a mutually agreed upon suicide pact. Anastasia was known to be suicidal and expressed suicidal desires in writing on Justin's computer just days before her death. Anastasia was shot in the nose at point blank range, consistent with a self-administered suicide. Following Anastasia's suicide, Justin must have taken her gun and left with it. Perhaps he wanted to rethink his agreement to their pact or perhaps he wanted to take care of some last-minute business. In any event, he did ultimately go through with the alleged pact. A suicide pact also fits in well with the death focus of the Goth subculture that both Anastasia and Justin followed.

A 2010 book was written on the case, entitled The Skeptical Juror and the Trial of Byron Case by J. Bennett Allen.  [2/11]


References:, The Skeptical Juror

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Missouri Cases, Homicides That Are Possible Suicides