Incident connected to missing man Truck theft guilty plea

Friday, May 13, 2016

By MICHELLE FRIEDRICH

Associate Editor

A Poplar Bluff, Mo., man was sentenced to prison Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to stealing the truck he used to flee the area when he was wanted for allegedly assaulting another man who now has been missing for nearly a year.

Eldrid Leon Smith, 24, of the 4200 block of Highway B pleaded guilty as charged Tuesday to the Class C felony of first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle before Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Pritchett.

With his plea, Smith admitted to stealing a 2000 Chevrolet pickup, owned by Donald Evans, on Oct. 2 from Morgan's Bar in Fisk, Mo.

Smith, according to earlier reports, was arrested Oct. 9 in Birch Tree, Mo., on an outstanding warrant, charging him with the Class A felony of first-degree assault and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action.

Evans' truck was found the next day at a Birch Tree residence of Smith's aunt. Smith reportedly had arrived there at about 11 p.m. Oct. 2 and "parked around back as there was a lien on the vehicle."

After accepting Smith's plea, Pritchett followed the state's recommendation in sentencing him to three years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Smith's plea was the result of "an offer because he has no priors," said Butler County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Paul Oesterreicher. "(The sentence) was something that was a plea bargain."

As Smith heads to prison on his tampering case, Oesterreicher said, he dismissed the other case "that had nothing to do with this."

Smith was supposed to appear Monday before Pritchett in Ripley County for a plea or trial setting on his original assault case.

Smith had been accused of taking Edward Goodwin to a place where others allegedly beat on him with metal objects.

Goodwin reportedly was last seen on June 29, 2015, by an individual who dropped him off at a job site on County Road 560, where he was doing home remodeling. There have been no reported sightings of him since that day.

The 32-year-old was reported missing by his mother, Connie Goodwin, on July 5.

"I talked with the sheriff's department, and specifically (Sheriff) Mark Dobbs," Oesterreicher said. "We felt we could not go forward at this time.

"We were waiting on the lab results to come back, and they came back inconclusive, and since we haven't found Mr. Goodwin, I thought it was better to go ahead and dismiss so we can go ahead and gather some more evidence."

Oesterreicher said his "whole purpose" was not wanting to proceed with Smith's assault case and then "come to a point we would be hit with a double-jeopardy question later on.

"It's better to dismiss it now and gather more evidence."

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