JOPLIN — A 58-year-old man was the victim of a homicide in his home early Wednesday morning.
"About 8:20 a.m. (Wednesday), Newton County Dispatch received a 911 call from a Newton County resident at that time he advised dispatch that an intruder had just broken into his home," said Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland in a press conference at noon Wednesday at the department's satellite Joplin location. "He gave his address of 2806 Insbrook Ln. Joplin. He advised the dispatcher that someone had just broken into his home. Units were dispatched. While the dispatcher still had telephone contact with the victim, they could hear the male victim pleading with the suspect not to shoot him. A short time later, you could hear a gunshot. When officers arrived at the residence this morning, they found the body of a 58-year old resident."
The resident was identified as Jeffrey Slama.
"It is apparent that he died from a gunshot wound, however an autopsy will be conducted [today] in Springfield," Copeland said.
"The front door of the residence had been forced opened. When the officers checked with some workmen who were working on a roadway nearby, they were given information that there was a white male subject driving a small black vehicle, they were not sure if it was two-door or four-door, but leaving at high rate of speed. At this time, that is the suspect information that we have."
Deputies also received some similar information from a neighboring county.
"We received other information that – and the officers are still checking on it – that perhaps over in Barry County, they too had had some home invasions over the last couple of weeks with the same type of suspect information," the sheriff added.
Asked if there were any indications that the victim knew the assailant, Copeland said, "right now, there is no information to indicate that he knew the suspect. Unless we find something greatly different, it appears to be a burglary gone bad. For the intruder, there were not any other cars there at the residence that [the suspect] could see. It appears that he was committing a burglary and then ran into the resident."
There was no one else in the house, Copeland said. Slama's next of kin – his wife – was at work and was notified.
"There doesn't appear that anything was taken off of his person or from the residence, however family members will go in later [Wednesday] and make a thorough search to let us know if anything was taken," he said.
The investigation is ongoing. Deputies recovered a bullet, though the type of weapon used and the number of times that Slama was shot was not disclosed during the press conference.
"We will know further on that when we get some lab results back," Copeland said. "We processed the scene thoroughly, found lots of fingerprints, found a rock that was used to break the window, have high hopes that we would obtain some DNA off of some of the evidence."
Page 2 of 2 - Copeland said that the assailant broke the glass in the front door with a rock, reached through and unlocked the door.
"[The body was found] just inside the front doorway," the sheriff said. "It appears as though he came out of the bedroom, probably shot in the hallway, and the victim still had the telephone in his hand."
Copeland said in the meantime, if anyone has information to contact the sheriff's department.
"I would like for the public's assistance if they have any information whatsoever about the suspect vehicle or the suspect," he said. "We have high hopes of finding out who was responsible for this and arresting him."
Copeland also advised people to look out for their surroundings.
"Lock your doors and your windows, be aware of what is going on around you, don't open your door to anybody that you don't know," he said.