Judge Larry D. Harman granted murder suspect Joseph F. Arbeiter a change of venue to the Seventh Judicial Court, Clay County, during a hearing Friday afternoon as prosecutors indicated the State’s intent to seek the death penalty.
“First degree murder is punishable by life without parole or the death penalty,” said Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mittelhauser. “In order to impose the death penalty, the evidence must establish the existence of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance, among other facts. In its notice, the State alleges that the murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture or depravity of mind.”
A trial date was not set as prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty and the Missouri Public Defenders Office Capital Litigation League will join the suspect’s defense. Also, with days to go before the Aug. 5 primary, which will decide the next Pettis County Prosecutor, it is unclear if current prosecutor Jeff Mittelhauser will personally see the case to completion.
According to testimony from the Friday hearing, it will likely fall in the hands of Pettis County Assistant Prosecutor William Chapman, who has prosecuted death penalty cases before. Harman will host a conference call with the prosecution and defense immediately after the primary election to discuss a trial setting.
Meanwhile, Arbeiter, charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape or attempted rape, first degree sodomy or attempted sodomy, first-degree sexual abuse, two counts of armed criminal action, several assault charges, witness tampering and controlled substance and marijuana possession, will remain in the Pettis County Jail without the possibility of bond.
According to court documents, the suspect told detectives he killed the victim, Mandy M. Black, 35, sometime around the beginning of 2014 and dismembered the body to conceal his crime. Detectives stated Arbeiter admittedly stabbed the victim multiple times in the chest and placed her in a metal box and he added he did not know the victim’s name, only that she went by “Mandy.”
Months later, Arbeiter dismembered the body, placing parts of the victim in the metal box and in several shallow grave sites near his residence at the Goodwill Chapel Trailer Park, according to court documents. Black’s remains were first found in the metal box by maintenance workers May 4, and after a search of the surrounding area, a sheriff’s deputy found additional remains in the shallow graves.
Black had not been reported as a missing person. She was identified May 8 due to specific tattoos still visible on the body. Her last known permanent address was in Marshall, but Pettis County Sherrif Kevin Bond told the Democrat at the time of the discovery they had received reports which indicated she had been staying in Sedalia.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Arbeiter was charged with the murder of Nancy Zanone, 28, a married mother of two young children, during a burglary Dec. 2, 1963.
He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, however, in October 1966, the state Supreme Court overturned Arbeiter’s life sentence and sent the case back to the trial court, saying his statements to police were inadmissible because officers failed to take him “immediately” to the juvenile court, as the law required given his age.
After the case was sent back to the trial court, the circuit attorney’s office subpoenaed Arbeiter’s juvenile records over his lawyer’s objections. Arbeiter was convicted again and sentenced to 40 years on a second-degree murder charge.
But the Missouri Supreme Court decided in January 1970 that Arbeiter’s juvenile records should have remained sealed and that without them, the state did not have sufficient proof of his guilt.
Now, more than 40 years later, that case may come into play as prosecutors included it their Notice of Aggravating Circumstances, the notice of the State’s intent to seek the death penalty.
“The State’s Notice of Aggravating Circumstances also alleges that the defendant committed murder in St. Louis in 1963, and committed a sexual assault in Pettis County April 30,” Mittlehauser said. “The latter offense is the subject of a separate case against the defendant. This case was also sent to Clay County on a change of venue.”