Judge Michael Wagner’s courtroom was once again filled with emotions as 54-year-old Jeffrey Moreland was escorted back to his cell after being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole for the murder of a Harrisonville mother.
Moreland, appearing in a black and gray Cass County Jail jumpsuit and shackled in handcuffs around his waist in court Oct. 28, was sentenced after being convicted of murdering 30-year-old Cara Jo Roberts by a jury last month.
The jury found Moreland guilty of first degree murder, punishable by life in prison, and armed criminal action, which carries a 50 year sentence.
Roberts was found dead, curled up in a fetal position in a bathtub inside with a gunshot wound in the back of her head Nov. 5, 2008 while she was at home putting together a “big boy” bed as a surprise for her two-year-old son, Carter.
In the courtroom Monday, Wagner asked Moreland if he had anything to say.
He answered, “No, sir.”
Looking straight into Moreland’s eyes, the victim’s mother read a statement inside the courtroom Monday morning.
“I constantly mourn the loss of Cara,” said Theresa Matthews. “I no longer feel safe in my home…Nights are filled with terror.
You ruined my life, you ruined my family's lives, and the emotional impact you have caused will be felt for years.”
Roberts’ family has been waiting for this day for almost five years.
The investigation of Robert’s murder went cold within two years after detectives looked into more than 180 leads with no solid answers.
Evidence showed that an “unknown man” had sexual intercourse with Roberts before he put a bullet into the back of her head.
The “unknown man” then became a suspect in the case of another murder in Kansas City in Oct. 2010 when the DNA found on Roberts matched the DNA left on the second victim.
Detectives still didn’t know the DNA from both murders were that of Moreland’s until a woman from Harrisonville went to police after Moreland allegedly raped her in June 2011.
Moreland was also scheduled to appear in court on the sexual assault charges following the sentencing, but the case review has been delayed until 1:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9.
Following the murder conviction last month, Moreland’s attorney, Jeff Martin filed an acquittal motion Oct. 7, stating that the court erred to the prejudice and violated his defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Martin was seeking for judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict of the jury, or a new trial.
Wagner denied the motion this week.
After delivering the sentencing, Wagner also had a few words for Moreland before he upheld the jury’s decision.
“You took the life of an innocent human being,” he said, with a few tears in his eyes.
Moreland was escorted out the courtroom by Cass County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Moreland’s sentence will be served at a Missouri Department of Corrections facility and the two charges are to be served consecutive.
Members of Robert’s family held a press conference following the sentencing.
"He’s an animal for what he did to my daughter," Matthews said.
She says the death of her daughter has caused an extreme amount of distress for the victim’s family, from financial burdens to depression.
"We’re relieved he won’t hurt anyone else," said Roger Keefer, Robert’s father.