Nance widow bound over to stand trial

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The wife of a murdered Shell Knob man appeared in Barry County Associate Circuit Court on Friday to waive her right to a preliminary hearing on arson charges filed against her in connection with a fire that was set in an alleged cover-up of her husband's murder.

Naomi Jean Nance, 62, decided to bypass the preliminary hearing process at the associate court level upon the advice of her attorney, Dee Wampler, of Springfield. Based on that decision, Judge Michael Garrett bound Nance over to stand trial for second degree arson in Barry County Circuit Court.

Nance is scheduled to be arraigned before Circuit Judge J. Edward Sweeney on Friday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 p.m.

Nance is currently free on a $25,000 surety bond. She was arrested by Barry County law enforcement officials on July 11, 2005, almost a week after she and her friend, Etta Jane Harper, reported William Nance's death to Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly.

Harper has also been charged with second degree arson. Harper is the fiance of Dennis Ray Bisher, the man who authorities believe killed William Nance in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005, by beating him with a hammer and shooting him once in the head.

The Nances, Harper and Bisher were all living in the Nance home north of Shell Knob at the time of the murder. According to information contained in probable cause affidavits, Bisher directed Harper and Naomi Nance to clean up following his alleged attack on William Nance. The two women are accused of trying to burn down the house rather than clean it up.

The affidavit, signed by Sgt. Miles Parks of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, states that Naomi Nance told Parks that Harper poured gasoline throughout the home and ignited the gasoline with a cigarette lighter.

Bisher has been charged with murder in the first degree. His jury trial is scheduled to be begin in Barry County Associate Court on Aug. 24.

Harper, who is represented by Cassville attorney John Lewright, is set for a preliminary hearing in Barry County Associate Circuit Court on Monday, Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. Her bond was also set at $25,000.

Bisher remains incarcerated in the Barry County Jail in lieu of a $500,000 bond.

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