Clayton death sentence is upheld

Thursday, February 7, 2008

On Feb. 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and death sentence of a Purdy man who murdered Barry County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Castetter on Nov. 27, 1996.

Cecil Clayton was convicted of first degree murder in connection with Castetter's shooting death and was sentenced to die by lethal injection by a Jasper County jury on Oct. 20, 1997.

According to the Missouri Attorney General's office, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Clayton's conviction and death sentence on direct appeal in 1999 and again in 2001.

Clayton challenged the constitutionality of his conviction in federal district court, and that petition was denied. Most recently, all three judges on the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling.

"Deputy Castetter was protecting the law-abiding citizens of Barry County when he was shot and killed without warning by Cecil Clayton," said Attorney General Jay Nixon. "The jury appropriately determined Clayton should face the ultimate punishment. My office will continue to fight to have this sentence carried out."

Castetter's widow, Christine Speno, who now lives in Florida, said she was aware of the recent court decision and stays in touch with the attorney handling the case for the Attorney General's office.

"I am pleased that the process is moving along," said Speno, "even though slow, it is still progress toward justice."

Clayton has been behind bars since his arrest on the night of Nov. 27, 2007. He was apprehended at his residence in Purdy approximately 45 minutes after Castetter was shot in his patrol car while responding to a suspicious vehicle call.

According to court records, Clayton shot Castetter at point blank range when the officer rolled down his window. The shooting occurred outside a rural Cassville residence that was owned by the mother of Clayton's estranged girlfriend.

Castetter was 29 at the time of his death. His funeral was attended by more than 500 uniformed law enforcement officers.

Sometime later this year, a portion of Highway 112 will be renamed the Christopher Lee Castetter Memorial Highway in honor of the slain deputy. Speno hopes to incorporate a small memorial service with a formal road dedication ceremony.

Money has been raised from local businesses by the Barry County Sheriff's Department to purchase signs to mark the stretch of highway.

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