By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Missouri Attorney General's Office will prosecute the cases of two men accused of killing a Hannibal convenience store worker after Marion County's new prosecuting attorney recused himself from the case.
David Clayton, who last month was named as Marion County's prosecuting attorney, said he had to remove himself from the case involving the Oct. 8 shooting death of Adrienne Arnett, 61, of Hannibal, because he had been privy to communications with the defendants' attorneys.
"I very much desire the opportunity to prosecute these individuals and secure their convictions for the atrocious acts," Clayton said in a news release. "If I remained a prosecutor, the defendants could later claim that a conflict of interest existed and seek to overturn their convictions on a technicality. I want to do everything possible to prevent this from happening."
Under Missouri law and the rules of professional conduct, an attorney should avoid even the appearance of impropriety in dealing with cases.
"The Attorney General's Office has assured me they will take over, and I feel supremely confident in their ability to convict these men," Clayton said. "The family and friends of Mrs. Arnett, as well as the community, can have confidence in that fact. I personally spoke to Wendy Arnett, the daughter of the victim, so she would know immediately of the change."
Two Hannibal men -- Michael A. Studer, 30, and Gary J. Wiltermood III, 22 -- have been charged with second-degree murder in Arnett's death, which happened in the early morning hours of Oct. 8 at Abel's Quik Shop, 100 Shinn Lane, west of Hannibal.
Arnett was working at the store when she was shot to death.
Wiltermood told the Hannibal Police Department in a statement that Studer had planned to rob the store and that Studer was the one who shot Arnett. Wiltermood and Studer had hoped to rob the store and obtain money for methamphetamine.
Studer is scheduled to go to trial in March, while Wiltermood has a trial scheduled in April. Both men will be tried in Boone County after a change of venue request was granted.
Both men have been lodged in the Marion County Jail in lieu of $500,000 cash-only bond.