Latham could get life in prison for assault
Wright County Associate Judge Lynette Veenstra on Dec. 9 sentenced Gainesville resident Jonathan W. Latham, 48, to the maximum sentence allowed under Missouri law in two 2016 cases before her in Ozark County. Veenstra, who is assigned cases when Circuit Judge Craig Carter has a conflict or a full trial schedule, was assigned the cases on May 9, 2018. Carter presided over the case before then.
Veenstra sentenced Latham to seven years and four years in the Missouri Department of Corrections in the two cases. The two terms are to be served concurrently, for a total term of seven years.
In addition to those 2016 cases, Latham is now facing three new charges, one of which, a first-degree domestic assault charge, could earn him life in prison. In that case, he is alleged to have beaten a victim so badly that she had a difficult time speaking; an individual who saw her after the incident described her as “bruised from head to toe,” court documents say.
Multiple attorneys, a lengthy process
Due to procedural issues involving multiple changes in Latham’s defense representation, the two 2016 cases have just now worked their way to disposition.
According to online court records, Latham was first represented by public defender Lauren Kate Welborn when the charge of property damage was first filed in April 13, 2016.
A private attorney, Ryan David Reynolds, entered his appearance as Latham’s attorney on May 6, 2016. In response, Welborn withdrew as defense counsel on May 16, 2016.
Latham was scheduled to go to trial Nov. 13, 2017, before Carter, with Reynolds as his attorney. An online court record indicates that Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant was present, as well as Latham, who was transported on a writ from the Missouri Department of Corrections to appear for the trial; however, Reynolds did not appear and requested a motion for continuance because he was “enroute to a hospital for a serious medical condition.”
The trial was continued. Later that day, Reynolds filed a motion to withdraw as Latham’s counsel.
Acting as his own attorney, Latham submitted two motions to dismiss his cases on Nov. 20, 2017.
Carter sustained Reynolds’ motion to withdraw as defense counsel on Dec. 6, 2017, and ordered Latham to reappear to reset his trial.
Latham appeared on Jan. 3, 2018, and indicated he wanted to hire another private attorney. A jury trial was scheduled for Feb. 26, 2018.
Latham filed several more motions, acting as his own attorney, and he was initially denied the assignment of a second public defender. An appeal hearing was held, and public defender Spellman Robertson was assigned to represent Latham on Aug. 17, 2018. Matthew Thomas Weatherman was assigned as co-counsel.
His original public defender, Lauren Kate Welborn, filed an entry of appearance “in lieu” of Robertson and Weatherman on April 12, 2019, and public defender John Kizer also filed an entry of appearance on July 30, 2019.
Kizer and Welborn were the assigned public defenders who represented Latham at his Oct. 24 jury trial.
Dec. 9 sentencing hearing
In the property damage case, Veenstra sentenced Latham to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on the class E felony. The case is in connection with an April 8, 2016, incident in which Latham reportedly bulldozed down a manufactured home and burned it, along with a John Deere tractor. The property was part of the estate of Latham’s uncle, the late Jerry W. Latham and had been transferred to Jerry’s widow, Judy Latham, after his death.
The charge involving the destruction of the home was dismissed by the judge due to statute of time limitations, but, on the charge related to destroying the tractor, Latham was convicted by an Ozark County jury after only 18 minutes of deliberation during the Oct. 24 jury trial.
The range of punishment for a class E felony is generally up to four years in prison; however, Latham was sentenced as a prior and persistent offender, meaning the range of punishment is elevated to that of a class D felony. The seven-year sentence was the harshest punishment Veenstra could hand down.
The second case, in which Latham was convicted of damage to jail property, stems from Latham’s alleged actions on May 11, 2016, when, in a fit of rage, he ripped a TV from the wall of the Ozark County Jail, destroyed an overhead light and damaged a smoke detector.
In that case, in which Latham pleaded guilty Aug. 16 to the class E felony of damage to jail property, Veenstra sentenced him to four years in prison, the harshest punishment allowed for that charge.
Both sentences are to be served at the same time. Because the two charges will be served concurrently for a total of seven years, Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney Garrabrant chose not to charge Latham as a prior and persistent offender in the charge of damage to jail property.
Garrabrant told the Times recently that he requested that Latham be given the harshest sentence available in the cases because Latham has continued to violate the law with serious violations. He referred to the two new cases that were filed against Latham in the last month.
New domestic assault case
In the first of those two new cases, Latham was charged Nov. 19 with first-degree domestic assault.
The file in the domestic assault case was initially sealed upon filing. It remained that way until the court unsealed the records Dec. 11.
Court documents in that case indicate that the alleged assault resulted in the following injuries to the victim: bruises to her face, both arms, torso, back, both legs and both feet; two fractured ribs and multiple nasal fractures; a concussion; subconjunctical hemorrhaging in both eyes; an inner ear injury and abrasions to the top of her feet and her spine that “are consistent with dragging,” the probable cause statement says.
An individual who reportedly arrived at the home sometime after the alleged assault told authorities there were puddles of blood on the floor, blood stains on the bedding and smeared blood on the walls of the dwelling.
The victim was later transported to Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where she told emergency room personnel that the injuries were the result of a domestic assault.
First-degree domestic assault is usually classified as a class B felony. However, because Latham is charged as a prior and persistent offender, he could be sentenced as if it were a class A felony, a charge that requires a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment. The sentence is the harshest punishment available under Missouri law besides the death penalty.
Latham was arraigned Nov. 26 in that case.
Possession of meth, unlawful possession of a firearm
In an additional case, the newest case filed, Latham was arraigned Dec. 5 on charges of possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a weapon (possessing a weapon and a felony-level controlled substance). He was charged as a prior and persistent offender in that case also, meaning his sentencing will be elevated one class higher than the charges normally allow.
The case was filed after Ozark County Deputy Justin Urich arrested Latham on a felony warrant at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, the same day the domestic assault charges were filed.
When Latham was booked into the Ozark County Jail on the warrant arrest, officers reportedly found a plastic bag with a rolled dollar bill and a white crystal substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine.
While Urich transported Latham to the jail, the defendant reportedly told the officer he had gotten his truck stuck in a mud hole near the lake at Tecumseh. After Latham reportedly told the officer where to find the truck, officers contacted the co-owner of the truck, who gave consent to search the vehicle, recover it and return it to the Latham household.
Officers reportedly found the truck with all four windows down and a key in the center console. Urich and Ozark County Deputy Steve Ator searched the vehicle and found a Weatherby scoped rifle in the truck bed’s toolbox. The gun had three cartridges loaded in the magazine, and additional ammunition was recovered in the console of the vehicle. Because Latham is a convicted felon, it is illegal for him to possess a weapon.
Latham was transported back to the Missouri Department of Corrections following the Dec. 9 hearing. He was scheduled to return to Ozark County court to appear before Associate Judge Raymond Gross for a criminal setting Dec. 17. Results of that court appearance were not available at press time.
Upcoming court appearances
Latham is currently incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corrections in connection with a parole violation that was filed earlier this month in a separate case where he pleaded guilty to property damage in July 2015.
The underlying allegations in that case involve an Oct. 18, 2014, incident in which Latham drove a bulldozer, while drunk, on County Road 308, significantly damaging the roadway, hitting a tree and telephone pole and initiating a power outage in the area.
He has been transported back to Ozark County court for the sentencing hearing and arraignment on the new charges.
If he is released from the sentence in that parole violation, Latham will still remain in custody because he is ordered to continue to be held without bail on a warrant in the domestic assault case and is being held on a $10,000 cash-only bond for the possession and firearm charges.