O’FALLON, Mo. — The wife of a 39-year-old man who investigators say fatally beat another man on the side of a highway is now in police custody pending charges, the Missouri Highway Patrol said Thursday.
Joshua O’Keefe, of the 600 block of Wood Briar Drive in Troy, Missouri, has been charged with second-degree murder following Sunday’s confrontation with Ron Lawson, 68. Missouri Highway Patrol troopers found Lawson, a Winfield resident, unconscious on the side of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) suffering from grave head injuries.
He later died at a hospital.
Authorities searched for O’Keefe until he turned himself in Wednesday.
O’Keefe’s wife, who has not yet been named, was arrested on suspicion of hindering prosecution but formal charges haven’t yet been filed, the St. Charles County prosecuting attorney’s office said Thursday.
Authorities say she was with O’Keefe when he beat Lawson on a portion of Highway 40 in O’Fallon, Missouri.
According to court records, witnesses told investigators that after the men got out of their vehicles Sunday along the highway, O’Keefe ran toward Lawson and punched him, causing Lawson to fall. O’Keefe picked him up, punched him again and then put him inside Lawson’s own vehicle before departing.
It’s not clear what led the men to pull over on the highway or if it was a road rage incident.
After an image of O’Keefe’s truck was released to the public, a tipster in Lake Saint Louis on Monday let investigators know that O’Keefe had come by their residence looking to buy a golf cart. Another tipster in Chesterfield told police the same thing.
O’Keefe’s employer also contacted police, according to court records, and told them that the trailer attached to the truck in the photos looked like a trailer belonging to their company. The employer told police that O’Keefe had in the past taken the trailer without permission. O’Keefe had also called in sick to work that week, which was unusual for him, his employer told police.
O’Keefe wasn’t home when investigators went there Monday to find him. His wife arrived home driving the same truck O’Keefe had been operating at the time of the assault, according to court documents. She told police she didn’t know where her husband was and refused to answer questions without a lawyer.
Court records don’t indicate whether O’Keefe has an attorney . He remained in custody Thursday.
Police said O’Keefe has a criminal history with “several assaults” and has been described by co-workers as having a “temper.”
O’Keefe was sentenced to prison in 2009 for robbery. He has also faced several assault charges in St. Charles County: the first one in 1998, the next three in 2001, then another in 2009 and two more last year. O’Keefe pleaded guilty to all of them and was sentenced to jail several times.
He also pleaded guilty in St. Charles County Circuit Court to resisting arrest and burglary in 1999, driving while intoxicated in 2000, resisting arrest in 2001, fraudulent use of a credit or debit card in 2005, driving while intoxicated in 2006, and robbery in 2007. O’Keefe has also violated parole on more than one occasion.
He was charged with domestic battery and bodily harm in Jersey County, Illinois, in 2014, but the charges were dropped at the request of the victim, according to court records.
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