By Alan Scher Zagier
ST. LOUIS – A former Independence man initially suspected in the 1990 shooting death of a Chillicothe farm wife and mother of five told a California commodities investor with whom he was embroiled in a business dispute that "he got away with murder and was not scared to do it again."
Newly released investigative records show Brandon Hagan – also known as Brandon Thormure – made that threat in a 2010 conversation with Los Angeles businessman Sam Gabrielle, who said he lost $500,000 in a fraudulent futures trading deal brokered by Hagan.
Hagan, who lost his trading license for failing to disclose a previous felony drug conviction, was initially suspected in the shooting death of Cathy Robertson, his ex-girlfriend's mother. But he insisted he was asleep 90 miles away in Independence at the time and was never charged – even though forensics tests revealed trace elements of gunpowder on his hands. Police said too much time had lapsed after the shooting to rely on the tests.
Hagan did not immediately return phone messages left Tuesday by The Associated Press.
The records stem from an investigation by Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox. He reopened the case after a 2009 Associated Press investigation raised questions about the conviction of Mark Woodworth, the victim's neighbor.
Woodworth's conviction was vacated by the state Supreme Court in January, and he's been free on bond since February. State prosecutors want to retry Woodworth a third time and are appealing a ruling by a northwest Missouri judge who threw out key ballistics evidence in the case.
Gabrielle, an Australian entrepreneur who has homes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, said his business relationship with Hagan unraveled after the economy soured in 2008 and 2009.
Gabrielle subsequently found out that a Lake of the Ozarks' company where Hagan worked was affiliated with Peregrine Financial Group, a Cedar Falls, Iowa, futures brokerage whose founder admitted stealing millions from more than 13,000 investors after he attempted to commit suicide in July 2012. Russell Wasendorf Sr. was later sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Gabrielle – a mixed martial arts fighter with his own workout DVD and who uses the first name "Bass" – said Hagan exploded in rage when Gabrielle shared details of background investigations he belatedly conducted on a broker he met through a mutual connection in Dubai.
Since Hagan left Chillicothe after Robertson's death, he has been accused of assaulting or threatening the lives of five different people. Judges in each case granted protection orders that required him to stay away. A Miller County man told Cox that Hagan threatened to kill him and his family in 2008 after he declined to invest $5,000 in a mixed martials arts company started by Hagan, a would-be promoter. In May, Hagan was charged in Camden County with felony burglary, stalking and property damage.
Page 2 of 2 - "You never would think that your commodities trader had a background as a suspected murderer," Gabrielle said in an AP interview.
Hagan, 40, has previously denied involvement in Robertson's death. At a June 2011 appeals hearing that led to Woodworth's recent release, he refused to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. He was then escorted out of the courtroom and arrested on a bad check charge.
Hagan didn't testify at Woodworth's first trial in 1995. Four years later – after the first Woodworth conviction was reversed on appeal – Hagan testified he was home sleeping the night Cathy Robertson and her husband Lyndel were shot in their sleep. Lyndel Robertson, who survived that attack, initially pressured prosecutors to charge Hagan with his wife's murder.
The Livingston County investigative reports contained in a new round of court filings by Woodworth and the Missouri Attorney General's Office include an October 2012 interview with a Chillicothe man who said he saw Hagan in town the morning after Robertson's murder.
The deputy who interviewed Joe Marshall in October 2012 said he could find no mention of those details in a 1990 investigative report, even though Marshall said he provided his account more than two decades ago to deputies investigating Robertson's death.
Cox said that while the threat against Gabrielle "is not conclusive," he thinks "there's enough probable cause to make an arrest" of Hagan – but not until Woodworth's case is resolved.
A state appeals court in Kansas City is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the disputed ballistics evidence in mid-September.
Susan Ryan, a Robertson family spokeswoman, said her clients remain convinced that Woodworth is guilty.
"The criminal or alleged criminal history of Brandon Thomure, while a distraction in this case, does not make him responsible for Cathy Robertson's murder," she said.
"Once this case goes to trial, and provided the jury can hear all of the evidence, the truth again will be presented to a jury, and 12 more people will see the evidence that has twice convicted Mark Woodworth of murder."