From Abuse Victim to Killer to Public Defender – Stacey Lannert

14th February 2020  •  5 min read

Stacey Lannert was sexually abused by her father, Tom, from when she was a young girl. When she turned 18, she snapped & shot him dead. She was sentenced to life in prison before her sentence was committed.


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When Stacey Lannert was a young girl, she doted on her father, Tom Lannert. She felt like her father “was like superman.” However, when Tom and Stacey’s mother, Tina,  divorced and her mother moved from St. Louis to Guam, Tom’s drinking escalated.

Stacey began to notice her father physically abuse her younger sister, Christy. When Stacey turned eight, Tom turned his attention to her and not only did he begin to physically abuse her, but he began to sexually abuse her as well. He threatened both sisters, and out of fear, they remained quiet although the signs of abuse were evident.

After a decade of abuse, Stacey decided that enough was enough. On 4 July, 1991, 18-year-old Stacey crept downstairs as her inebriated father was passed out on the couch. She raised a rifle and shot him once in the shoulder and then once in the head.

Stacey confessed to the murder and explained the prolonged abuse of herself and her younger sister was the catalyst. However, following her arrest, Capt. Dan Chapman declined to comment on her account and instead, said that police believed Stacey had murdered her father for monetary gain.

According to police, Stacey had been writing checks on Tom’s account and had been using his credit cards. They also said that Stacey had “contacted people within the last three weeks who she wanted to kill her father,” adding that “we have incriminating statements from witnesses and associates.” Stacey was subsequently charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence.1

During the investigation, prosecutors announced that Stacey had paid one or two hitmen to kill her father. One man was identified as Ronald Barnett and according to prosecutors, Stacey had given Ronald a .22-caliber rifle but he sold it to a friend. He was arrested and charged with tampering with physical evidence.

Stacey’s 16-year-old sister, Christy, was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit in the first degree. According to authorities, Christy was working alongside Stacey when she attempted to hire Ronald to kill their father.2

As prosecutors and the defence were preparing for Stacey’s upcoming trial, Christy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to five years in prison. During Christy’s sentencing phase, it was revealed that Stacey and Christy had raised money to pay for a hitman by cashing their father’s checks and getting cash from his credit cards.3

During a hearing before the trial, Stacey’s attorney, Chris McGraugh, suggested that she was suffering from a mental illness that was comparable to battered wife syndrome. According to St. John police detective, David House, Stacey’s demeanor when questioned didn’t fit the profile of a woman suffering from battered wife syndrome. He described how she had a “cool, calm demeanor” that was inconsistent with a tragic event. He also said that Stacey didn’t make eye contact.4

The trial began in October of 1992. During opening statements, McGraugh said that Stacey had been sexually abused and had been suffering from mental illness. He described how the seeds of “a horrible tragedy” transcended generations. Initially, Stacey had been sexually abused by her paternal grandfather. However, the prosecution during her trial alleged that she had killed her father to gain his life insurance and claimed that the abuse was fabricated.

A tape-recorded interview was played out during trial during which Stacey told police that “somebody else was there in my body and did it.” She described how she had told her boyfriend, Jason, about the murder and said that he didn’t believe her. “He laughed about it. I laughed about it. We laughed about it together,” she recollected. She described how after shooting her father once in the shoulder, he woke up and held a pillow over the wound and said that his collarbone was broken. Without saying a word, Stacey shot him a second time.5

When Stacey testified on her own behalf, she told the jury: “I remember debating with myself whether or not to shoot him. I pointed the gun over at him. I didn’t aim. I closed my eyes, and I pulled the trigger.” She testified that her father had been sexually abusing her from when she was a young girl and that when he drank, the abuse exacerbated. Speaking of her sister, she said “I was afraid she would have to go through everything I went through.”6

When questioned by the prosecution, Stacey confessed that she had spent money on her father’s credit card the day before the shooting and had forged his signature on checks that she had cashed. She denied that she was financially motivated.

Psychologist Marilyn Anne Hutchinson testified that Stacey was not in control of her actions when she killed her father. She claimed that Stacey had “snapped,” adding that she had “acted out of terror.” Hutchinson specialized in treating sexual abuse survivors and said that it was evident that Stacey had been suffering from a dissociative disorder that was the result of prolonged sexual abuse. According to Hutchinson: “Her family failed her, the school system failed her, and she didn’t get any help from anyone.”7

Stacey’s defence lawyer, Chris McGraugh, told the jury that Stacey had been victimized by a “conspiracy of silence” by a baby sitter who she had confided in about the abuse, and by her mother, who suspected that Stacey was being molested but did nothing to stop it.8

Rejecting an insanity defence, the jury convicted Stacey of first-degree murder. She was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, in 2009, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt commuted Stacey’s life sentence stating: “After an exhaustive review of the facts in both cases, I am commuting the sentences of Stacey Lannert and Charity Carey, who suffered extensive abuse before they took action against the men who raped them and subjected them to other horrible physical and emotional abuse.”

Stacey Lannert. Credit: Brittany Ruess.

Following her release, Stacey said she regretted taking her father’s life before he had a chance to repent for his own crimes. Since her release, Stacey has founded a resource website and also a non-profit organisation called Healing Sisters. The purpose is to offer aid for women who have suffered abuse. She graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 2014 with a degree in psychology. She now works as a public defender.

Footnotes:

  1. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 July, 1990 – “Daughters Charged in Murder”
  2. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12 September, 1990 – “Teen to Stand Trial as Adult in the Murder of Her Father”
  3. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 April, 1991 – “Girl Gets 5 Years In Plot to Murder Her Father”
  4. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 July, 1992 – “Defendant in Murder Case Claims Sex Abuse by Father”
  5. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 October, 1992 – “Jury Hears Rambling Confession to Fatally Shooting Father”
  6. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 October, 1992 – “I Didn’t Aim, I Pulled the Trigger”
  7. St Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 October, 1992 – “Psychologist Says Woman Snapped, Shot Father”
  8. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 31 October, 1992 – “Jury Convicts Daughter of First-Degree Murder”

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