Gregory first-degree murder trial set for Sept. 11-13

By: 
Dave Marner

Toby Franklin Gregory is scheduled for a jury trial in September 2018 for the August 2016 murder of his estranged wife, Inez Christilina “Nessa” (Tulk) Gregory outside an Owensville motel.

Gregory remains jailed in Steelville on a $500,000 cash only bond following his arrest after he was released from medical care required after apparently attempting to take his own life on the night of Aug. 4. He failed in that attempt and instead shot himself in the chin and mouth.

Gregory is accused of shooting his wife to death outside her motel room where she had been staying during her return from Arizona earlier that week in an attempt to resolve divorce proceedings which he had begun that June. She was 30 at the time of her death and was a U.S. Army veteran with convoy tours of duty to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was also a U.S. Army veteran of deployments to both war zones and was wounded when a rocket struck near him. 

The couple had one son together and he was staying with Gregory’s parents near Bland at the time of the shooting. Her son from a previous relationship was with her relatives in another state at the time. The couple’s 2-year-old son was subsequently placed into the custody of her father and an aunt following court proceedings during the fall of 2016.

Senior Judge Gael D. Wood on Feb. 20 set the three-day period of Sept. 11 to 13 as trial dates for Gregory’s first-degree murder case. Gregory also faces one felony count of armed criminal action.

The hearing last week in Union was continued from Feb. 8 at the agreement of both the Gasconade County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Weston and Gregory’s attorney, Brice J. Donnelley, according to records on Case.net.

Weston said she and Donnelley met with Wood to set the trial date. Gregory was not in court, she said.

The case was assigned on Dec. 26 to newly appointed Circuit Judge Craig E. Hellmann. He, however, told The Republican the case would remain with Wood since it began with the now retired former presiding circuit judge.

Weston said that was a procedural issue since Wood reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in December. She said the judge petitioned the Missouri Supreme Court to retain the case first-degree murder case.

“Procedurally speaking, when Judge Wood retired it was assigned to Judge Hellmann,” said Weston. “A retired judge can petition the Supreme Court to keep certain cases.”

Back on Oct. 20, 2017, Gregory was in court in Hermann for what was expected to be a plea hearing before Wood. His attorney met behind closed doors for 15 minutes with the judge. When his attorney returned to the defense table, he was overheard telling Gregory “I’m sorry” and exited the courtroom.

Donnelley afterward told The Republican that no plea deal was rejected. He would not elaborate if a deal was in the works, citing the on-going case. “We just needed a new court date,” Donnelley said then.

Following Gregory’s exit, Weston told The Republican the case was continued out to Dec. 15, and would most likely go to a jury trial sometime in 2018. She recommended sentencing Gregory to life in prison, and said due to a gag order, she could not say more.

Donnelley had obtained a protective (“gag”) order from Associate Circuit Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger in the days immediately following Gregory being charged with murder. The order prohibits investigators from commenting publicly on the case.

On Tuesday, Weston confirmed the case is still be pursued  as a “murder one case” and that the “base sentence is life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

She reiterated she could not make any additional comments due to the gag order. “I don’t want to say anything to put this case at risk,” she said. 

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