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James Crocker cannot claim 'Castle Doctrine' in shooting along Meramec River, says sheriff

5:52 PM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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By Farrah Fazal

STEELEVILLE, Mo. (KSDK) - A fight along the Meramec River in Steeleville, Missouri is a case of second-degree murder.

Sheriff Randy Martin said James Crocker shot an unarmed floater named Paul Dart in the head. He said it's the first time a fight along the banks in the floating capital of the world of the river turned deadly.

"This individual claimed he owned this property and the people floating on the river were trespassing on his property," Martin said.

Deputies don't know if Crocker owns the property. The law allows floaters to get off the river into gravel areas or high water marks. Martin said the high water marks are hard to identify. The rules of the river are murky.

"We don't know where the property owners land begins and ends, it makes it a difficult situation for us to enforce," Martin said.

A raft rental company owner for 28 years in Steeleville said he gives the drill about the lay of the land to his renters.

"No trespassing signs tell you (that) you need to move on," said Paul Wilkerson.

He said there are areas floaters can pull up to that may not belong to landowners.

Sheriff Martin and his deputies end up refereeing battles between landowners and floaters every now and then.

"Nobody's willing to back down, bad things can happen," he said.

Martin said the Castle Law that gives landowners the right to shoot people on their property doesn't apply in this case. Nothing in witness statements shows Crocker was afraid for his life.

The sheriff is waiting for tests that could show whether alcohol was a factor in this murder.

 

KSDK

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