‘It was the worst night of my life’

Brandon Church murder trial finally begins with emotional testimony from victim’s family members

The first-degree murder trial of Brandon Church in the death of Platte City resident Kerry Deyo got under way this week after a full day of jury selection on Monday.

On Tuesday, the testimony of the victim’s wife, Ann Deyo, brother, Jeff Deyo, and Platte City police were heard. The trial is expected to last all week. “It was the worst night of my life,” Ann Deyo said of the night of her husband’s death. “I lost my husband. I lost my best friend.” Church was arrested July 22, 2011, marking almost three years from the crime to the start of the trial. Church waived his right to a preliminary hearing in December 2011 and pled not guilty to murder in the second degree January 2012. An October 2013 trial date was delayed by the defense, and the trial was again delayed after Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd asked the court to preclude Church or his attorney — public defender James Craft — 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. The case is being heard by Judge Lee Hull, who retired at the beginning of the year but has remained to see the case through. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson made the state’s opening statements, describing the crime to the jury. On July 21, 2011, Church and his girlfriend Sara Deyo — daughter of victim Kerry Deyo — attended the Platte County Fair. At the fair, Church proposed to Sara and gave her an engagement ring, which was then lost. At around 11 p.m., the two returned to the Deyo residence in Platte City, where both were living at the time, and argued over the lost ring. As the argument grew louder and moved to the front lawn, Kerry and Ann Deyo were awakened and called the couple back inside. During her testimony, Ann Deyo said she realized both her daughter, Sara, and Church were “very drunk” and though the pair wanted to return to the fairgrounds to search for the ring, Kerry and Ann Deyo advised them against it. The argument grew loud enough that Kerry Deyo’s brother, Jeff, who was living in the basement apartment of the home, was awakened by Sara screaming and went upstairs to investigate. Jeff Deyo found all the residents of the home in the living room, tense after the argument, which he believed to be over. During his testimony, Jeff Deyo said he went back to bed. Kerry and Ann Deyo also returned to bed, but Church and Sara Deyo moved to Church’s bedroom in the home, where their argument began again. Kerry Deyo interceded in the argument and stepped between Church and his daughter. During Ann Deyo’s testimony, she admitted she did not see who started the physical fight as she was trying to corral the family dog, but she saw Church put her husband in a “head lock.” Zahnd, who conducted the examination with Ann Deyo, asked what she meant by a head lock, and used Gibson to demonstrate – Church behind Kerry Deyo, with his arm wrapped around Deyo’s neck. Ann Deyo said she saw Church force Kerry Deyo to the floor and pin him, then begin beating him. “I said no, no, no, and every time I said it he hit him harder,” Ann Deyo said, becoming emotional. “He said ‘I think he’s dead’ and he kicked him — he kicked him. He said ‘he’s dead, I’m going to get out of here.’” She said Church emptied her husband’s pockets and took the keys to the car before running from the home. Sara Deyo followed and jumped in the passenger seat of the car. “He tore out of our neighborhood like a bat out of hell,” Ann Deyo said. Returning to her husband, she said she attempted to wash the blood from his face and believed his eyes were open. “I was in shock,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe that he was dead, so I got my brother in law.” Jeff Deyo testified he awoke to Ann pounding on his bedroom door asking for help.