A 33-year-old Missouri homicide case is no longer moving through the court system after first-degree murder charges were dropped Wednesday.
Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter said Wednesday he had "no doubt" in his own mind that the killer of Cynthia Smith - a California native whose body was found Aug. 7, 1988 in the Dry Valley Cemetery area five miles northwest of Pierce City - was the man indicted by a grand jury in September 2019.
But, Trotter told the News-Leader, this week he entered a motion to dismiss a first-degree murder charge against Pierce City resident Larry Timmons, 67, because he no longer had enough evidence to prosecute the murder charge.
The primary reason for dismissing the murder charge in the matter of Smith's death, Trotter said, was that two witnesses he deemed "crucial" for the prosecution have died since the 2019 indictment. Trotter declined to release the names of the two deceased witnesses.
From 2019: Pierce City felon Lawrence G. Timmons, formerly of Springfield, indicted in 31-year-old murder case
Trotter also said that a new Missouri statute took effect Aug. 28 limiting certain aspects of victim testimony. "Before we could use (the victim testimony), we have to prove that the defendant murdered the person to keep her from testifying." That was not the circumstance in this case, thus some testimony collected by prosecutors could not be used as previously planned, Trotter said.
Trotter said he would continue prosecuting Timmons on separate charges of forgery and six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. Each of those alleged offenses carries a potential punishment of 10 years in prison, Trotter said.
In a news release, Timmons' attorney, Adam Woody, said his office had "worked tirelessly" for two years to "provide additional evidence" to Missouri prosecutors in order to secure the case's dismissal. "The case has been unfairly portrayed in the media and on nationwide television as 'solved,'" Woody said in the release. "This case makes clear, however, that the mere charging of a crime is no evidence."
Trotter responded by saying, "The only turn in this case has been the fact that we've lost witnesses."
From 2019: 'We call him an opportunist' - Lawrence Timmons suspected in at least two other homicides
Trotter added that two unsolved murders in Oklahoma remain under investigation and that he plans to meet with an Oklahoma prosecutor on the matter. As the News-Leader and the USA TODAY Network reported two years ago, Missouri law enforcement regarded Timmons as a serial "opportunist" and suspected Timmons' involvement in the two Oklahoma deaths and possibly others.
Lawrence County investigators previously told the News-Leader that authorities in Oklahoma were re-examining two homicides: the 1994 murder of Timmons' first wife, Deborah Jean Timmons, and the 1998 drowning death of an 11-year-old girl who was friends with a daughter Timmons had with Deborah Jean.
Before the current charges, Timmons had a history of run-ins with the law: As the News-Leader reported earlier, from 1976 to 1994, he was linked to five separate violent crimes in Missouri, despite spending seven of those 18 years in prison or on parole.
He was charged in the kidnapping and assault of a young boy, the home invasion robbery of a female college student, the gunpoint rape of a woman, and he was questioned in the homicides of his first wife and Smith.
Timmons was acquitted of the rape charge at trial, had his robbery conviction overturned on appeal, and was sentenced to seven years in prison for kidnapping and assault, although he served just three years before getting paroled.
While living in Oklahoma in the '90s, Timmons met a single mother from New York state, Mechele Lokar, whom he later married. (They divorced in Oct. 2019, Missouri court records show.) The couple relocated to the Rochester, New York area in 2006, where Timmons became a real-estate agent, served as a shuttle driver for senior citizens, and worked as a parks watchman for the Rochester suburb of Perinton.
The 31-year-old Smith, who worked as a caretaker for Aurora, Missouri nursing-home residents, was last seen in the early morning hours of July 28, 1988 leaving Checker's bar in the company of an unknown male, according to news accounts at the time.
Later that morning, a babysitter filed a missing person's report when Smith did not pick up her sons, Jason Smith, then 4, and Shawn Goodspeed, then 8. Smith was estranged from her husband, Ed Smith.
Reached Wednesday afternoon, Goodspeed said he had no comment on the dismissal of the murder charge as he had not yet been able to communicate with Missouri prosecutors.
Reach News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman by emailing email@example.com. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Murder charge against Missouri man Larry Timmons in 1988 homicide