Marvin Rice was sentenced to death Friday morning as ruled by Judge Kelly Parker. A jury previously found Rice guilty Aug. 10 for the 2011 killing Annette M. Durham on a first degree murder charge, and her boyfriend Steven W. Strotkamp on a second degree murder charge. The case garnered widespread attention after Rice fled north after the murders on Highway 63 through Rolla to Jefferson City where the chase ended in a shootout in the lobby of the Capital Plaza Hotel.
Parker made the ruling after the jury deadlocked 11-1 on Aug. 12 over whether to sentence Rice to execution or life imprisonment without parole for first-degree murder. They unanimously chose life imprisonment without parole on the second-degree charge.
Parker sat in silence with hands clasped tightly to his face prior to reading the decision. Rice did not stoop as the judgment was read, but stood with his head facing Parker while flanked by his attorneys. Rice later spoke with an unbroken voice in answering procedural questions. He declined to make a statement to the court.
Parker said he made his decision after considering the factual findings of the jury, sentencing assessment, issues relating to the proportionality of the punishment when weighed against the crime and other relevant evidence. He succinctly concluded that based upon the totality of the evidence death was justified and the most appropriate sentence.
“The conclusion of this trial resulted in as much justice as can be found in the law for the victims and their families,” Dent County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Curley said following the verdict. “A special thanks to the Dent County Sheriff's Office, Missouri Highway Patrol, Cole County Sheriff's Office, Jefferson City Police Department, St. Charles County Court Staff, St. Charles County Sheriff’s Office, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner and his staff. We are proud to serve this community.”
Durham’s sister Tammy Brown addressed the court for the prosecution. Brown said she is still regularly traumatized on the yearly anniversary of her sister’s death. She further lamented she remembers helping raise Durham as a child, and is burdened by the fact that following a long absence while serving with the military, she’ll never know her sister as an adult.
No one addressed the court for the defense, but a letter from Reverend Vernon Covington was submitted.
Attorney Robert Lundt made four post-trial motions for the defense prior to the ruling. They included declaring the trial unconstitutional, challenging the proportionality of the sentence and asking for consideration of the fact the jury deadlocked 11-1. Lundt also objected to the case being tried in St. Charles and asked for retrial in another location. He claimed politics was muddling the process in St. Charles. In dramatic moments, he rhetorically asked Parker when he was next up for election, and further loudly complained of the presence in the court room of Curtis Bohannon, the former Jefferson City police officer who Rice had attempted to shoot during his run from justice following the 2011 murders. In rebuttal, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner said Bohannon was a victim of Rice, just like the Durham and Strotkamp families in the room.
Parker took the proportionality motion under advisement in his ruling but overruled the others.
Rice is the second Dent County resident to be sentenced to state execution. Earl Forrest was previously sentenced to death in 2002 for killing Harriett Smith, Michael Wells and Dent County Sheriff’s Deputy JoAnn Barnes in 2001. He was executed May 11, 2016.
Court documents from the Rice document that he confronted Durham and Strotkamp at a residence on Dent County Road 3300 on Dec. 11, 2011. An argument occurred during which Rice shot the victims multiple times in their chests.
Durham's six-year-old daughter was hiding in the bedroom with her brother and heard two sets of gunshots, according to a highway patrol probable cause statement.
Rice then began fleeing north on Highway 72 before merging onto Highway 63 in Rolla. Police officials began pursuit near Westphalia after identifying his white Subaru station wagon and using Rice’s cell phone signal to determine his location. During the chase speeds exceeded 80 miles-per-hour. Rice got as far as Jefferson City. He exited the highway after his tires were ruptured by a spike strip and fled into the downtown Capital Plaza Hotel. A holiday party happened to be occurring in the hotel at the time.
A shootout broke out between Rice, a pursuing Jefferson City police officer and an off-duty Cole County sheriff’s deputy who was serving as security for the holiday party. Rice fired several shots toward the officers with a .40 Glock. He was apprehended after being struck by bullets in the abdomen and forearm.
Since the 2011 incident, Rice has been incarcerated in Cole County and St. Charles County while awaiting trial. Proceedings were initially scheduled to begin in November of 2012, but were delayed when the state informed Rice’s attorneys that they would be seeking the death penalty. The case was again delayed in 2016 when a jury could not be formed in Wayne County. It was subsequently moved to St. Charles.
Prior to the 2011 shooting, Rice was serving as a correctional officer at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking. From 2004 to 2009 Rice served as a deputy with the Dent County Sheriff’s Office.