Accused murderer abruptly pleads guilty

Prosecutor also plans to file charges on Brandon Church for assaulting Platte County Sheriff’s deputy while in jail

The unusual case of Brandon Church took another twist last week, when the 22-year-old Platte County man charged with first-degree murder unexpectedly plead guilty, bringing an abrupt end to his trial at the Platte County Courthouse.

Church, who offered his guilty plea on April 10, just three days after his trial began, had been accused of first degree murder in the beating death of his girlfriend’s father, Platte City man Kerry Deyo, in July of 2011. He plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. “This defendant literally beat to death his girlfriend’s father, merely because the father was trying to protect his daughter,” Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said. “He committed a horrendous crime and deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.” Church faces up to life in prison for the murder, and Zahnd said he would seek a life sentence in the case. Church is scheduled to be sentenced at 1 p.m. May 16. Zahnd said his office also planned to file charges against Church for an alleged assault that occurred a week before the murder as well as Church’s alleged assault of a deputy sheriff while he has been incarcerated in the Platte County Jail. Church’s plea brings an end to a case which was delayed numerous times and took more than two years for prosecutors to bring to trial. When the trial finally began Feb. 24, it only lasted a few days before Platte County Judge Lee Hull granted the defense’s motion to declare a mistrial due to the discovery of evidence that had not been properly vetted by either side. The mistrial meant that the entire trial process, including jury selection, was begun again on April 7. The actual trial began April 8 and included two days of testimony before Church’s surprising guilty plea. Evidence at trial showed that around midnight on July 22, 2011, Church and Kerry Deyo got into an altercation after Church returned to Deyo’s Platte City home with Deyo’s daughter from the Platte County Fair. Church put Deyo into a headlock, choked Deyo, and pulled him forcibly to the ground. Dr. B. Robert Pietak, a Jackson County medical examiner, testified during the trial that Deyo suffered a broken neck and was likely paralyzed after being choked by Church.