An 80-year-old man has allegedly confessed -- by an accidental recording -- to shooting and killing a Kansas City lawyer last fall, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Raytown, Missouri, resident David Jungerman has been charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 25 death of attorney Tom Pickert, who was shot and killed in front of his Kansas City home in October after dropping his kids off at school, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in a Jackson County, Missouri, circuit court.
According to the complaint, more than two months before Pickert was killed, the attorney helped his client, a homeless man, win a civil $5.75 million verdict against Jungerman, who in 2012 shot the homeless man as he was attempting to break into Jungerman's business property, according to the Missouri Lawyers Weekly. It was unclear whether Jungerman faced criminal prosecution for the 2012 shooting.
After the civil verdict, Pickert told his wife that Jungerman had threatened him, the complaint states. Pickert had also told two other people that after the verdict was read and most people had left the courtroom, Jungerman approached him in an "aggressive manner" while he was gathering his things, according to the complaint.
Pickert thought Jungerman was going to yell or punch him, but instead, Jungerman allegedly said, "None of this matters. I have 186 guns. I did it once before. I will do it again. You can't touch me," according to the complaint.
Jungerman allegedly made the admission of guilt in Pickert's killing during audio recording made on Nov. 16, according to the complaint, which includes a portion of the audio's transcript.
The recorder contained audio from a court hearing in Vernon County, Missouri, but kept recording after the hearing was over. During that time, it caught the conversation between Jungerman and another man, who went with Jungerman to his property to investigate deer poachers who were thought to be hunting there, according to the complaint.
"Hey, you know ... people, uh, know that I murdered that son of a b----," Jungerman said, according to the complaint.
Jungerman later stated that even "police know too" and asked how anyone could ever find out. He then stated, "That motherf----- has caused me a lot of problems, you know," apparently referring to Pickert, according to prosecutors.
The morning of the shooting, Pickert's wife called 911 after she heard a gunshot and found her husband in the front yard, the Kansas City Police Department said after the killing. He had just returned from walking his kids to school.
First, she heard a loud bang, and asked Pickert, who was talking on his cellphone, if he knew what the noise was, according to the complaint.
After he replied, "No," she heard a second "pop" and saw movement in a white van nearby with the driver's side window rolled all the way down. She also saw a man reaching over "as if he was putting something in or taking something from the back of the van," according to the complaint.
The man then put what looked like a black ski mask over his face drove away, the complaint states. Pickert's wife then yelled, "Stop the van!" and saw her husband's body on the ground after she ran to the bottom of the stairs, according to the complaint.
The man who Pickert was on the phone with at the time of his death told investigators that he heard a "whoosh" sound and asked Pickert what it was, according to the complaint. Pickert then answered "I don't know," but stopped responding after the caller asked if he was OK.
The line went silent for 20 seconds before the man heard Pickert's wife screaming in the background, according to the complaint. He then drove to Pickert's house and found him on the ground, dead, the complaint states.
After the shooting, Jungerman voluntarily agreed to go with detectives to police headquarters to give a statement and smiled when they asked if they knew why he was there, the complaint states.
While in the room alone, Jungerman allegedly muttered to himself, "Keep your f----- mouth shut," police said.
After obtaining a search warrant for the van, which was found behind the home of a longtime employee of Jungerman, investigators observed "multiple distinctive identifying characteristics" that matched the description witnesses gave to police as well as surveillance footage from the area, according to the complaint.
On Nov. 9, Jungerman denied his involvement in the shooting, telling the Kansas City Star that he hadn't learned about Pickert's death until his attorney called him around 10 a.m. that day and adding that he could see his van across the street at that time, where he said it had been parked for three or four days, according to the complaint. Jungerman also is said to have stated that he was in possession of the only key to the van.
One of Jungerman's former employees told authorities that Jungerman would often threaten to shoot people when they upset him and "would advise people that he had plenty of acreage where a body could be dumped, the complaint states.
Another former employee told police that Jungerman would become "very angry and aggressive regarding anything that costs him money," and a third former employee said Jungerman used to "brag that he could get away with anything by claiming that he had Alzheimer's disease," according to the complaint.
The police department determined that Pickert was killed with a .17 caliber bullet, which the complaint described as a "relatively rare caliber." Last month, while carrying out a search warrant on Jungerman's Toyota Sequoia, officials say they found a .17 caliber bullet from underneath the passenger seat.
Another witness told police that during a conversation he had with Jungerman in March, Jungerman stated that he killed a lawyer with a gun and got away with it, according to the complaint, saying he did it because the lawyer stole his money.
Emily Riegel, Pickert's widow, said in a statement that she and her family "hoped and prayed" for 168 days for answers surrounding his murder, describing the charges against Jungerman as the "first step to justice."
"We’ve been in the turmoil of the unknown and today we officially have some of those answers and some of our fear can be calmed," Riegel said. "While we are so pleased and grateful that this day has finally come, we know that it does not bring back Tom and it doesn’t give us back the last 24 weeks without him or what our future with him ought to have been."
Riegel thanked all those who came forward with information and cooperated with the investigation, adding that she hopes everyone can "see the kind of justice that Tom believed in" and worked for.
The range of punishment for a first-degree murder conviction is death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, according to the complaint.
Jungerman was also charged with armed criminal action. He has not yet entered a plea to any of the charges against him.