JOPLIN, Mo. — A 58-year-old man was gunned down Wednesday as he dialed 911 to report a burglar inside his Missouri home.
Jeffrey Slama, 58, called 911 at 8:20 a.m. to report a burglary at his home near Joplin. The intruder apparently shot him as he talked to a dispatcher, said Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland.
“You could hear the caller stating, ‘Please, don’t shoot me,’” said Copeland. “Then you heard what sounded like a gunshot.”
Deputies discovered Slama’s body inside the front door, the telephone in his hand. He had been alone at the time. His wife, Joanne, left for work earlier in the morning.
Their house is several hundred feet from the road, surrounded by woods. No cars were parked outside, said Copeland, so the burglar may have thought the house was empty.
The burglar apparently used a rock to break glass in the front door, then reached inside to unlock it, Copeland said. Slama may have called for help when he heard glass breaking.
A construction crew working nearby reported seeing a small, black car driven by a man speeding from the area. Deputies searched for the car, but no one was arrested. Copeland said the crime may be connected to recent break-ins in a nearby county.
“We found lots of fingerprints,” he said. “We found a rock that was used to break the window. We have high hopes that we obtain some DNA off the evidence.”
Jeff Lehr writes for the Joplin, Mo., Globe.