Man convicted in Lake of the Ozarks woman’s death 3 decades ago set for release early following Supreme Court ruling

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 4:57 PM CDT
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MACKS CREEK, Mo. -- It has been more than three decades since Trudy Darby was killed in Mack’s Creek.

A judge ordered her murderer released from prison because of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling. The court said during the Miller vs. Alabama decision that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.

Trudy Darby was finishing her shift at the K&D Convenience Store in Macks Creek. She had called her son who was at her home because she saw a suspicious man outside. Her son immediately came, but Trudy was already gone. Her belongings were still in the window of the store.

“She said, ‘there’s a strange man outside. I would like you to be up here while I try to get this store closed,’” said Waylyn Darby, Trudy’s son.

He ran into the store, calling for her.

“Everything was just laying there in the window. Her coat was still where it always was. You know she was just gone,” said Tamara Weidman, Trudy’s daughter.

Police immediately came and began to search for Trudy. Retired Camden County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Moulder responded.

“The doors open, the lights are on, the cash register is open. There is Trudy’s son Waylon, but Trudy is not there. That went through the evening, there were some searches done in the immediate area. Some tips had come in,” said Moulder.

Darby’s body was found two days later in the Little Niangua River. She had two gunshots to the head. Moulder was surprised when he found out Jess Rush was involved.

“I was a little shocked when it all came around that Jess was involved. He was just a typical kid,” said Moulder.

Rush was 15 years old at the time. His half-brother Marvin Chaney was charged with the crime too. Chaney died in 2017.

KY3 covered Rush’s trial in 1996. Evidence showed Rush had admitted to other people about being involved. He even wrote letters to another inmate, which ended up being used in court. Judges then in Missouri, and many other states, only had two options for capital murder: death sentence or life without parole. The judge sentenced him to mandatory life without parole.

“He doesn’t deserve to live a normal life. Ever. I feel like he needs to be in prison, and he needs to stay there. That is the only way I feel safe,” said Weidman.

The conditions surrounding his parole are still pending. The Missouri Department of Corrections told KY3′s Marina Silva that Rush has completed multiple rehabilitation programs and has not caused any issues in prison.

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