Squires man pleads guilty to murder; sentenced to 30 years in prison
Squires resident Tylor Rynard, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery Aug. 7 in connection with the April 21, 2018, murder of 73-year-old Lawrence C. Brostedt in Ozark County. Rynard made the plea in Phelps County Court, where the case was transferred on a change of venue motion, before Circuit Judge John D. Berger of Rolla.
Rynard was sentenced to 25 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on each count. The counts are to run concurrently to one another. However, the sentence is set to run after a five-year probation violation sentence in an unrelated Douglas County drug case. Rynard’s total sentence between the two cases is 30 years; since the crimes are considered “dangerous felonies” by the court, he is required to serve at least 85 percent of of the sentence, or more than 21 years, before he is eligible for parole.
The guilty plea was made as part of a plea agreement with the state, which was represented by Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant. Rynard was represented by David Hoskins and Kevin Gau of St. Louis. The case was transferred to Phelps County in January 2019.
Rynard was arrested by the U.S. Marshalls in Orlando, Florida, after arrest warrants were issued on April 30, 2018. Deputies from the Brevard County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant on Rynard’s hotel room in that area, where he was reportedly staying with a woman. Officers reportedly found a .40 caliber handgun that produced ballistic similarities to a bullet that was found at the murder scene. They also found a ring of keys that matched locks at the Brostedt home.
“The successful conclusion on all three of these cases is due to the expertise and hard work on the part of the Sheriff and his investigators,” Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant said in a news release announcing Rynard’s guilty plea. “I don’t think most folks are aware of how much work and how many hours go into investigations when these kinds of tragedies occur. I was personally aware of three of our investigators who spent 40 hours straight, without sleep, following up on leads, gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. In this case, the assistance of the U.S. Marshals and Brevard County Sheriff only improved on the exemplary work done here in Ozark County. We are grateful to all of them.”
The plea means that Ozark County won’t have to foot the bill for an expensive jury trial in Phelps County.
“The strong evidence led to pleas of guilty from the two primary participants. In pursuing these cases that go out of county, we cannot ignore the potential financial burden trials represent. Among other things, these dispositions represent a substantial savings to the citizens of Ozark County. In that regard, I am pleased with the outcome,” Garrabrant said.
Rynard had two co-defendants in the case: Holly Lucas and Michael Smith, both of Mansfield.
Lucas pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in the Missouri DoC on each count. The counts are running concurrently. Because the charges are considered violent felonies, Lucas is required to serve at least 85 percent, or 8 1/2 years, before she is eligible for parole.
Lucas made her guilty plea as part of a plea agreement with the state in which she agreed to give her truthful testimony against Rynard if his case went to trial. Garrabrant said Lucas had been fully cooperative with law enforcement officers since her arrest.
The third co-defendant, Michael A. Smith, has been charged locally with conspiracy to robbery in connection with the case. However, when he was arrested in the Brostedt case, officers found images of child pornography on his cell phone, and he is now in the custody of federal authorities, facing federal charges in relation to the reported child pornography. According to Garrabrant’s press release, Smith faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
‘Fearing someone may be in distress’
According to court documents, the Mountain Grove Police Department called Ozark County authorities on April 30, 2018, reporting that an officer there had stopped Rynard in Mountain Grove for a traffic violation and found Brostedt’s bank checks in the car. The call prompted Ozark County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Curtis Dobbs to make a well-being check at 290 Up Hill Lane, off JJ Highway northeast of Thornfield, where he found the body of 73-year-old Lawrence C. Brostedt.
MGPD called Dobbs after a MGPD officer arrested a man for an unrelated incident and found two of Brostedt’s checks on the suspect. MGPD was unsuccessful in trying to reach Brostedt by phone and called the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office to ask if officers here could visit his house.
When Dobbs arrived on scene, he immediately noticed that the home appeared to have been burglarized. According to the probable cause statement in the case, furniture was turned over, and cabinets appeared to have been gone through.
“Fearing someone may be in distress and in need of assistance, I gained entry through an exterior door,” Dobbs wrote in the report. When inside, he noticed that two TVs appeared to be missing from the living room and bedroom, with dust rings around where the bases would normally have sat.
Human remains wrapped in a tarp
Officers immediately noticed a pungent odor consistent with that of decaying human remains, the statement says. When officers lifted a blue tarp in the middle of the garage floor, they found blood stains on the floor and what appeared to be a body wrapped up in a second tarp bound with ropes and straps. Officers removed a section of the tarp and found the body of a man that matched the description and photograph the officers had of Brostedt.
Brostedt’s body had what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the upper right front of the head, the statement says. Officers processed the garage for additional evidence and designated the area as an active crime scene. The residence was also processed for evidence, the statement says. During the course of the investigation, officers determined that a white Ford F-150, a Kubota UTV and several firearms belonging to Brostedt were missing from the residence.
Checks led to clues about possible suspects
Dobbs contacted Great Southern Bank, which held Brostedt’s checking account with the missing checks. A bank employee told the officer the checks appeared to have been written and signed from Brostedt to other individuals; however, upon closer observation, it was noticed that Brostedt’s signature on previous checks did not match the signature on the checks written and cashed between April 23 and April 28, 2018.
The bank provided photographs of the individuals and vehicles involved with the cashed checks during that timeframe. One of the vehicles photographed at the bank appeared to be a white Ford F-150 matching the description of the truck owned by Brostedt. In the bank’s photographs, Smith was seen exiting the passenger’s side of the truck, and Rynard was seen exiting the driver’s side. Great Southern Bank reportedly told Dobbs that Rynard had forged and cashed three of Brostedt’s checks, totaling $11,150.
Smith’s side of the story
After finding Brostedt’s body and learning of Smith and Rynard’s appearance at the bank with Brostedt’s forged checks, the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office got an address for Smith in Mansfield, and Dobbs and Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed went there in search of Smith. He reportedly granted the officers permission to search his residence, and they found a flat-screen TV in plain view matching the dimensions of the TV stand that was removed from Brostedt’s residence. Smith was read his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with the officers, the statement says.
Smith reportedly told Dobbs that he and Rynard had devised a plan to rob Brostedt, whom the two men had worked for in the past. Smith said they believed Brostedt had a lot of cash at his residence, along with several firearms. Smith said on April 19, 2018, the pair drove to Brostedt’s home to stake out the place and create a plan, according to the probable cause statement. They returned the next night (April 20, 2018), Smith said, walking through a field to gain access to the property.
Smith reportedly told the officers he had brought a knife, and Rynard brought a 40-caliber pink semi-automatic pistol. Smith said the two men walked all the way up to the garage, watching for Brostedt, but Smith said he lost his nerve and told Rynard he couldn’t go through with it. So the two left, and Rynard dropped Smith off at a gas station in Mansfield, the statement says.
Smith said a couple of days later, he met Rynard, who was driving a white Ford F-150 pickup with an orange side-by-side UTV in the bed. Smith said a Winchester 30-30 rifle, a single-barrel shotgun and a revolver with a long barrel were in the backseat of the truck.
Smith said Rynard told him he had gone back to Brostedt’s residence, lured Brostedt into the garage and shot him in the back of the head, wrapped his body in a tarp and left it in the garage, the statement says.
Lucas’ side of the story
Officers were also able to identify Lucas from bank photographs after she also reportedly cashed some of Brostedt’s checks. While Dobbs and Reed questioned Smith, Ozark County Chief Deputy Winston Collins and Sgt. Vesa Phelan found and questioned Lucas, who was at a Mansfield residence.
Lucas was placed under arrest and transported to the Mansfield Police Department, where she was interviewed by investigators. At the end of the interview, Lucas reportedly gave officers permission to search her residence at 109 S. Lincoln Ave. in Mansfield. The report says Collins accompanied Lucas to the home, where she showed the officer a TV matching the dimensions of the one removed from the Brostedt home. Lucas also gave the officer $3,032 in cash that she said was left over from the forged Brostedt checks.
After turning over the TV and the remaining cash, Lucas directed Collins to another residence, at 1924 Burlington Road in Mansfield, where officers found a white Ford F-150 matching the truck that was stolen from Brostedt’s home. The vehicle was recovered and transported to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office.
While in route to the Ozark County Jail, Lucas reportedly asked for writing paper and provided three voluntary statements. In the statements, Lucas reportedly wrote that she was at the Brostedt property the morning of April 21, 2018, when Rynard shot and killed the 73-year-old man. Lucas said Rynard had used her pistol to shoot the man. She also wrote that after Brostedt was killed, she cleaned up the murder area with buckets of water and ammonia while Rynard wrapped Brostedt’s body in the tarps.