Church murder trial moved to Feb. 24

It has been 29 months since Brandon Church was arrested and accused of beating Platte City man Kerry Deyo to death. If a new trial date of Feb. 24 comes to pass, it will be 31 months before the State brings its first-degree murder case before a judge. Last week, at a pre-trial hearing, Platte County Judge Lee Hull heard a motion by Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd asking the court to preclude Church or his attorney from making statements in the presence of the jury or presenting any testimony or evidence in court about Deyo’s mental health at the time of his alleged murder. According to court documents, Deyo suffered from a mild mental disorder. But Zahnd said that there was no evidence that Deyo became violent because of the disorder and suggested in the motion filed that if the defense referred to it in court it would be “improper character evidence…. and has great potential to confuse the issues and mislead the jury.” “I don’t think that it has anything to do with the case,” Zahnd told The Citizen this week. Church’s attorney, James Craft filed a response to Zahnd’s motion to limit the defense’s right to refer to Deyo’s mental health during the trial. Craft’s response alleged that Deyo was taking medications for a diagnosed medical condition, that he consumed them with alcoholic beverages prior to the alleged confrontation with Church and that those actions may have contributed to his death. Hull is expected to rule on the State’s motion at a pre-trial hearing Jan. 9. The delay was the latest in the case, which has seen numerous starts and stops the past two years. A last-minute continuance days prior to the Oct. 28 trial date when Church’s defense sought and obtained over the State’s objection a continuance until Dec. 16 in order to consult with an expert about the victim’s cause of death. Church, 22, is accused of murder in the first degree for the July 22, 2011 killing of Deyo. After waiving his right to a preliminary hearing in December 2011, Church pled not guilty to a Class A felony of murder in the second degree Jan. 5, 2012. According to court documents, Church, then 20, and his then-girlfriend Sara Deyo were at the Deyo residence in Platte City on July 22, 2011. According to the probable cause statement filed by the PCPD, Church and Sarah Deyo, the victim’s daughter, had returned earlier to her parents’ home from the Platte County Fair. Kerry Deyo’s wife reported being awakened by her daughter and Church arguing. Kerry Deyo attempted to intercede in the argument and he and Church began to fight. The witness said Church ended up sitting on top of her husband and struck him repeatedly in the face with his fists. After the incident, both Sarah Deyo and Church left the scene and were apprehended by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Platte County Sheriff’s Department in southern Platte County. Church was arrested as a suspect in the Platte City murder and Sarah Deyo for driving while intoxicated. Sara Deyo reportedly told a Platte County Sheriff’s Deputy “her father hit her hard and that Brandon defended her and hit her father, causing him to not breathe.” If convicted of the first degree murder charge, Church, who has been incarcerated at the Platte County Jail since his arrest, could face the death penalty or life in prison. Zahnd has not said whether his office will seek the death penalty. If it does, it will be the first death penalty case tried by Zahnd during his tenure in Platte County.