The trial begins today for the first of two teen-agers who are accused of murdering a fellow student at a boarding school for troubled youths in southeastern Missouri.
The killing took place on March 25, 1996, at the Mountain Park Baptist Church and Boarding Academy, a 165-acre campus deep in the hilly woods of Wayne County, 110 miles south of St. Louis.
William Andrew Futrelle II, 16, of Boca Raton, Fla., was killed while he collected kindling with the two schoolmates who are charged in his murder.
Investigators said the two wanted to silence Futrelle out of fear that he would reveal their plan to steal guns from the teachers' on-campus homes, take over the school and attract national attention.
The trial of Anthony G. Rutherford, 19, of Siloam Springs, Ark., is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Waynesville, Mo., in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Waynesville is 30 miles west of Rolla. The case was moved there on a change of venue. The trial is expected to last one or two days.
Rutherford and another former student are charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for allegedly slashing Futrelle's throat and beating his head with a stick and a brick. The other defendant is Joseph S. Burris, 16, of Los Angeles, whose trial will not be scheduled until a psychiatric evaluation is complete.
Rutherford will be tried without a jury before Circuit Judge Douglas E. Long Jr. Rutherford agreed to a bench trial in return for Wayne County Prosecutor Jon A. Riser's promise to drop his plan to seek the death penalty. That agreement in writing was filed with the court.
Kiser said one reason he did so was that Futrelle's father, Andrew Futrelle of Philadelphia, "had some misgivings about the death penalty."
If Long rules that Rutherford is guilty of first-degree murder, the only sentence available by law is life in prison without parole.
Robert Wolf rum, of the state capital-crime public defender's office in St. Louis, is defending Rutherford. He has been held without bond in the Phelps County Jail in Rolla. Burris awaits trial in the Pulaski County Jail in Waynesville.
Rutherford's father, Bruce Rutherford, is the former presiding administrative judge of Benton County in far northwestern Arkansas.
The Mountain Park academy is a private, independent boarding school that houses about 200 students, most of them girls.
The Rev. Bobby Wills and his wife, Betty Wills, founded the school in 1987. They are fundamentalist, independent Baptists who use a formula of biblical instruction, strict rules and, on occasion, paddling, to work with youths who have gotten into trouble or whose parents consider them overly rebellious.
Shortly after Futrelle was slain, regional chief juvenile officer Roger Barr of Salem, Mo., visited Mountain Park and left with 21 of the students.
On April 12, 1996, about 160 of the students and 130 of their parents staged a rally in defense of the school at the Wayne County Courthouse in Greenville, Mo.
On Feb. 28, eight more students left the campus with juvenile officers.