Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Northern Division
from the Circuit Court of Ralls County Honorable David C.
LAWRENCE E. MOONEY, JUDGE
defendant, Krystal Tresler, appeals the judgment of the
Circuit Court of Ralls County following her conviction by a
jury of one count of first-degree robbery in violation of
section 569.020 RSMo. (Supp. 2014), and one count of
second-degree felony-murder, in violation of section 565.021
RSMo, (Supp. 2014). The trial court imposed consecutive
sentences often years of imprisonment on each count.
although the initial prosecutor had indicated that in his
opinion the defendant, Tresler, was a witness and nothing
more, we find that the State made no promise that it would
not prosecute her if she testified at a co-defendant's
preliminary hearing. Thus, we do not apply the
equitable-immunity doctrine. Second, we hold that the trial
court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to admit a
letter from the initial prosecutor about the defendant's
cooperation. Third, we hold that the trial court did not
commit prejudicial error when it gave the jury the verdict
director for first-degree robbery. Finally, we hold that the
trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the
defendant's request for a mistrial. Therefore, we affirm
the trial court's judgment.
and Procedural Background
defendant does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence to
support her convictions. Viewed in the light most favorable
to the verdict, the evidence at trial revealed the following.
The defendant, her boyfriend Gary Wiltermood, and three other
persons whom the defendant met through Wiltermood-Amanda
Lehenbauer, Michael Studer, and Cuda Dodd-spent the night of
October 7, 2013 and the early morning of October 8, 2013
driving around the Hannibal area in the defendant's
minivan. Wiltermood drove, the defendant sat in the front
passenger seat, and Studer, Lehenbauer, and Dodd sat in the
second row of seats. While the group rode around Hannibal,
Lehenbauer heard Wiltermood and Studer discuss committing a
robbery. Lehenbauer did not think much about it at the time
because, she explained, Studer "comes up with everything
and never follows through." In his statement to police,
Wiltermood told police that "[e]verybody in the vehicle
knew what was going on because Mikey [Studer] was talking to
all of us."
early morning of October 8th, three members of the group
wanted to use the restroom, so they stopped at Walmart. The
defendant, Studer, and Dodd went into Walmart while
Lehenbauer and Wiltermood waited in the van. The defendant
used the restroom and immediately returned to the van where
she sat in the second row of seats. Dodd and Studer came out
of Walmart some minutes later. Studer carried a pair of
camouflage gloves and a hat, and he took the defendant's
place in the front passenger seat. The group drove back to
the motel where Wiltermood had a room. According to
Wiltermood's statement to police, he retrieved his gun at
this time for Studer to use in the robbery. After about 45
minutes at the motel, the group decided to go for a ride. The
defendant again sat in the second-row seats on the passenger
side of the van. Lehenbauer sat in the middle of the second
row, and Dodd sat behind the driver. Studer sat in the front
passenger seat while Wiltermood drove.
3:00 a.m. on October 8th, the group decided to go to
Abel's Quick Shop on Shinn Lane in Hannibal. The
defendant gave Wiltermood directions to Shinn Lane, and
Hannibal police Sergeant Jennifer Grote testified that the
group would have passed several other gas stations between
the motel and the Abel's on Shinn Lane. Wiltermood
dropped Studer in the parking lot of a bank next door to
Abel's. Wiltermood then drove to Abel's, parked at a
gas pump with the van directly facing the front of the store,
and put $10 of gas in the van as Studer had instructed. In
the meantime, Dodd went into Abel's ostensibly to use the
restroom. Lehenbauer and the defendant remained seated in the
second-row seats in the van with a clear view into the
finished pumping the gas, and went inside to the cash
register just as Dodd came out of the store. At that point,
Studer came around the side of the store wearing the
camouflage gloves and ski hat. Studer carried the gun
provided by Wiltermood. Studer entered the store and
confronted the clerk, Adrienne Arnett. Lehenbauer testified
that she saw Arnett wave a clipboard at Studer. Wiltermood
ran out of the store as Studer fired the first shot.
Lehenbauer heard Studer fire two shots, heard a third shot,
and saw Arnett grab her chest and fall. Wiltermood entered
the van, and began to drive away. Lehenbauer testified that
she was "freaking out, " but that the defendant
remained calm. The defendant and Dodd told Lehenbauer to
"shut up, " that everything would be okay. Studer
chased the van, and Wiltermood stopped so that Studer could
enter the van.
instructed Wiltermood to drive to the Mississippi River,
which he did. At the river, everyone except Wiltermood exited
the van. Studer threw his camouflage gloves, coat, and
presumably the gun into the river. Wiltermood left in the
van. The defendant, Studer, Lehenbauer, and Dodd walked back
to the motel where Wiltermood was staying. They then met up
with Wiltermood at an apartment in Hannibal. At some point,
the defendant retrieved her van and left the others.
interviewed the defendant at about 7:30 a.m. on October 8,
2013, and she told them she was at home at the time of the
robbery. Eventually, the defendant admitted her presence at
the crime, and told Sergeant Grote that "I didn't
know if it [the robbery] was going to be a success. I
didn't know if it was going to be a fucking
failure." The defendant gave a signed statement to
police later that day. She stated that the van belonged to
her; that she gave Wiltermood directions to the Abel's
store; that they dropped Studer off at the bank before
proceeding to Abel's; that she saw Studer enter the store
and heard three shots fired; that she heard Studer admit
shooting the clerk; that she accompanied the group to the
river where Studer disposed of the gun, hat, gloves, and his
jacket; and that she remained with other members of the group
until Wiltermood called her and told her to pick up her van.
Marion County Prosecuting Attorney, the initial prosecutor,
immediately filed complaints against Studer and Wiltermood.
The State subpoenaed the defendant to testify at Studer's
preliminary hearing, and the defendant consulted an attorney
("preliminary-hearing counsel") about whether she
should do so. According to his hearing testimony on the
defendant's motion to dismiss the charges,
preliminary-hearing counsel stated that he spoke via
telephone with the prosecuting attorney because he was
concerned that his client might be the focus of an
investigation or a suspect. Preliminary-hearing counsel
understood from his discussion with the prosecuting attorney
"that, in [the prosecutor's] opinion and his review
of the case, that [Tresler] was a witness and nothing more
and he had no intention of charging her with any offense
regarding the incident." On cross-examination,
preliminary-hearing counsel testified that he did not
negotiate an agreement that the State would not charge his
Q. Okay. And at that time did you all negotiate any sort of
plea (sic) agreement-
Q. -that if she were to testify, she would not be
A. No. I mean, I-at that point, based on what [the
prosecutor] told me, he said she was not going to be charged.
Q, Okay. She was not the focus and that he did not have
intent to charge her at that time?
A. That he had-yeah. That he, as far-I think his words to me
were, "1 consider her to be a witness and
nothing more. "
preliminary-hearing counsel did not state that the initial
prosecutor told him if Tresler testified against Studer
and/or Wiltermood, she would not be charged. No other
witnesses testified at the hearing on the defendant's
motion to dismiss.
defendant testified at Studer's preliminary hearing. She
acknowledged that she owned the van the group used the day of
the robbery and murder, and she described the group's
Walmart stop, Studer's exit from Walmart with a
camouflage hat and gloves, the seating arrangements in the
van, Studer's exit from the van in the bank parking lot,
his walk from the bank around the back of the Abel's and
into the store, the confrontation in the store, Studer's
shooting of Arnett, and the group's travel to the river
where Studer disposed of clothing and presumably the gun. On
cross-examination, the defendant denied knowing that anyone
in the group was drinking alcohol or using drugs, and she
denied hearing anyone talk about robbing a gas station. She
also denied that she made any deals with the State in
connection with the case or in exchange for her testimony.
Q. Have you made any deals with the State of Missouri to
testify here today?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. Or in this case at all?
A. No, ma'am.
and Wiltermood each pled guilty to murder. Several weeks
after the defendant testified at Studer's preliminary
hearing, the initial prosecutor wrote a letter for the
defendant to her legal counsel in an Arkansas child-custody
matter. The letter stated:
Krystal Treasler (sic) is a witness for the Prosecution in a
robbery/murder case which I filed. She is not a suspect or
co-conspirator and will not be charged with any crime. Her
unfortunate presence at the scene of this crime should not be
used against her in any custody dispute. She has been
cooperative with my office and with the police.
thereafter, the elected Marion County Prosecuting Attorney
became a judge, and the new Marion County Prosecuting
Attorney sent the cases against Studer and Wiltermood to the
Attorney General's Office for prosecution because of a
conflict of interest. The Attorney General eventually charged
the defendant with first-degree robbery and second-degree
felony murder in connection with the death of Arnett. The
record gives no indication about what prompted the filing of
charges against the defendant. Lehenbauer, Wiltermood, and
Studer testified for the State in the defendant's
four-day trial. The defendant did not testify. After
deliberating for less than three hours, the jury found the
defendant guilty of first-degree robbery and second-degree
felony murder. Following the jury's recommendation, the
trial court imposed consecutive sentences often years of
imprisonment on each count. The defendant appeals.
points on appeal, the defendant challenges the trial
court's denial of her motion to dismiss the charges, the
court's refusal to admit into evidence the letter from
the initial prosecutor about the defendant's cooperation,
the verdict director for first-degree robbery, and the
court's denial of the defendant's request for a
first point on appeal, the defendant claims the trial court
abused its discretion when it denied her motion to dismiss.
She argues that she had an implicit agreement with the Marion
County Prosecuting Attorney that she would not be prosecuted
if she testified at Studer's preliminary hearing, that
she fulfilled her duty by testifying at the hearing, and that
this prosecution is directly related to the matters about
which she testified.
review the trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss a
criminal charge for an abuse of discretion. State v.
Williams, 411 S.W.3d 315, 319 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013).
Atrial court abuses its discretion when its ruling is clearly
against the logic of the circumstances and is so unreasonable
that it indicates a lack of careful consideration. State
v, Sanders, 481 S.W.3d 907, 913 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016).
Missouri, prosecutors lack the inherent authority to grant
immunity. State ex re], Munn v. McKelvey, 733 S.W.2d
765, 770 (Mo. banc 1987). Section 491.205 RSMo. (2016),
however, provides that a prosecutor can obtain a court order
to compel a person's testimony in exchange for full
transactional immunity under certain
circumstances. The procedures of section 491.205 were not
followed here. Instead, the defendant contends that she had
an implicit agreement with the prosecutor that she would not
be charged in connection with the events surrounding
Arnett's death. The defendant argues that, as a result of
this implicit agreement, she is entitled to equitable
Munn, the State counters that "[prosecutorial
promises of immunity that are not authorized by statute are
not binding and constitute no bar to a subsequent prosecution
of the immunized witness[, ]" and that "the only
avenue for immunity to be granted is an agreement approved by
a judge under the provisions of section 49l.2O5[.]" We
expressly reject this argument for two reasons. First, the
question presented in Munn was not about the
doctrine of equitable immunity, but the authority of the
prosecutor to promise immunity in the first place.
Id. More importantly, we reject the State's
argument because of the due-process rights implicated when a
governmental promise of ...