Etta Jean Harper, 58, formerly of Shell Knob, is now serving four years in prison after entering an Alford plea of guilty to second degree arson on Sept. 16 in connection with a fire that was set at the lake area home of William and Naomi Nance back in July of 2005.
According to court records, the fire was allegedly set by Harper and Naomi Nance in an attempt to cover up the murder of William Nance. Naomi Nance has also been charged with arson and pleaded guilty to the accusation on July 22. She is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 24 in Barry County Circuit Court.
Harper's boyfriend, Dennis Bisher, 40, was charged with William Nance's murder and is now serving a life sentence for his crime. A Barry County jury found Bisher guilty of first degree murder and armed criminal action following a jury trial in August of 2006.
Bisher, who was living at the Nance's home at the time of the murder, was convicted of bludgeoning William Nance in the head with a mallet and then shooting him while he lay in his bed. Both Harper and Naomi Nance were home when the murder occurred.
According to testimony delivered at the trial, Bisher fled the Nance home with William Nance's body in the trunk of the Nances' Lincoln Town Car. Bisher crashed the car on Highway 39 north of Jenkins and then tried to cover his tracks by burning the car at the crash site.
Bisher then returned to the Nance home in Shell Knob where he got a pickup owned by Harper and travelled back to the crash site. He retrieved William Nance's body and then drove to southeast Missouri where he dumped his victim near the Mississippi River.
Law enforcement officers were able to retrieve the gun and the hammer used in the murder at the crash site in Jenkins.
In a taped confession, Bisher told investigators that he killed William Nance and that he shot him following a struggle.
From the beginning of the investigation, both Harper and Naomi Nance admitted they tried to burn down the Nance home to hide murder evidence but they claimed that Bisher forced them to do it.