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Six southwest Missouri residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a kidnapping conspiracy that resulted in the death of the victim on July 15, 2020.

A press release was issued Friday, July 30, 2021, from the Department of Justice, US Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri with details of the case. The six charged are identified as Freddie Lewis Tilton, also known as “Ol’ Boy,” 48, and Carla Jo Ward, 47, both of Joplin, Mo.; Amy Kay Thomas, 38, of Webb City, Mo.; James B. Gibson, 39, of Neosho, Mo.; Lawrence William Vaughan, also known as “Scary Larry,” 49, of Newton County, Mo.; and Russell Eugene Hurtt, also known as “Uncle,” 49, of Greenwood, Mo.; were charged in a five-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Thursday, July 29.

The federal indictment alleges that each of the six defendants participated in a conspiracy to kidnap the victim, identified as “M.H.,” in July 2020. According to the indictment, Ward picked up M.H. and took him to Vaughan’s residence. Tilton, Thomas, and Gibson arrived at Vaughan’s residence in the early morning hours of July 15, 2020. They bound M.H.’s hands with handcuffs, and duct tape was placed around his mouth and other parts of his body. In Vaughan and Ward’s presence, the indictment says, Thomas cut M.H. repeatedly with a knife and Gibson beat M.H. with a club. Tilton fatally shot M.H. in the head. They wrapped M.H.’s body in plastic wrap and transported it to Hurtt’s property.

In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charges each of the six defendants in one count of kidnapping resulting in death and in one count of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, resulting in murder. Tilton, Thomas, Gibson, and Ward are also charged together in one count of being felons in possession of a firearm on July 14, 2020.

Tilton is also charged with one count of being a felon in possession of firearms on July 28, 2020. Tilton allegedly was in possession of a Rigarmi .25-caliber pistol, an Ithaca .22-caliber rifle, a Remington .22-caliber rifle, a Harrington and Richardson 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger 9mm handgun, and a Taurus 9mm handgun at the time of his arrest.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

Below is the original news story:

Freddie Tilton was located at a residence where a search warrant was executed on July 28, 2020, based on information that there was a deceased body on the property. The residence is located near Cherry and Birch near Downstream Casino on the Missouri side.

When authorities made their presence known at the residence, Tilton opened fire on law enforcement. Authorities fired rounds of tear gas into the residence before Tilton surrendered, was arrested and taken into custody. Officers found the victim's body on the property, reportedly in the woods.

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​At the scene were Newton County Ambulance and METs Ambulance, Newton County SRT, Joplin PD and Joplin Swat, Newton County Coroner, and many others.

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July 28, 2020

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office and ODET received information that an individual had possibly been killed and the body left in the woods at 3517 Cherry Road.

This location is in the Greenwood area in the north end of Newton County.

A search warrant was obtained for the property and we requested the Joplin Police Departments help to search the property due to the size of the acreage involved. Newton County Deputies approached the house to secure the scene and make preparations for the search. After they knocked on the door and announced their presence an individual inside the house began firing upon the officers. Numerous rounds were fired from inside the house at Deputies. Fortunately no officers were injured. Both Newton County SWAT and Joplin Police SWAT were at the location and numerous rounds of tear gas were fired into the residence. One individual was inside the house and he surrendered to the Deputies. He is identified as Freddie Lewis Tilton.

After Tilton was taken into custody an initial search of the property did reveal a body in the woods. The location is now being treated as a Homicide scene. The Joplin Police Department as well as ODET are still assisting in the processing of the scene and further searching. This is a great example of the good working relations between the area agencies. The assistance supplied by ODET and the Joplin Police Department was greatly appreciated.

-Sheriff Chris Jennings

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