Tommy K. Whetzell photo

A judge on Tuesday dismissed an armed criminal action charge against a man in a Texas County cold-case murder because the statute of limitations had passed.

Tommie K. Whetzell, 63,  of Liberal, was indicted on an armed criminal action charge by  a Texas County grand jury. He is still charged with first-degree murder of Ricky Luebbert, 42, of Tyrone in 2007.

The indictment against Whetzell was returned June 27, 2022 more than three years after the crime, the limitation period.

Whetzell had earlier been identified as a suspect in an investigation conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Texas County Sheriff’s Department. That initial inquiry led to Whetzell’s conviction on a federal weapons charge.

In January 2022, the sheriff’s department re-opened the cold case and received resources from the television program, “Cold Justice.”

Based on the original investigation and the new effort, a case was presented to a Texas County grand jury, which returned an indictment against Whetzell of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and discharge of a firearm at or from a motor vehicle. If convicted, Whetzell faces life in prison or the death sentence.

Circuit Judge John Beger issued the order after hearing arguments on Aug. 4.

Whetzell also has been granted a change of venue to Phelps County. A reduction in bond also was denied. Whetzell, who is represented by Lacon Smith of Springfield, appears next in court for a case setting on Aug. 23.

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