JOPLIN, MO.--- Dispatch received a 911 call around 8:20 Wednesday morning. A man called saying someone had broken into his home.
"They could hear the victim telling the suspect to please not shoot him, and then a short time later you could hear what could be like a shot, and then the phone went dead," said Ken Copeland, Newton County Sheriff.
Deputies arrived on scene and found the body of Jeffrey Slama, 58. Finger prints, DNA, and a bullet were discovered at the scene.
"It was clear the suspect had entered the residence from the suspect breaking a window in the front door with a rock, then reaching through and undoing a dead bolt," said Sheriff Copeland.
The home is in an isolated and wooded area, but utility workers were working along a road leading up the house. A worker who didn't want to share his name said he glanced up and saw a black car headed in that direction. "From what the other guys says, it was a black car and the black car I'd seen headed that way was a newer model."
Utility workers told deputies a white male was driving the car and fled the area at a fast pace around the time of the burglary.
"As of now, this appears to be random. It appears to be a burglar who was going to break into someone's house and steal," said Sheriff Copeland.
In light of the homicide, the sheriff is reminding people to be cautious.
"Be alert, lock your doors, lock your windows. I'm not trying to scare anybody or make them afraid in their own home, but you certainly have a right to protect yourself. But don't open your door to anyone you don't know who it is," said Sheriff Copeland.
The sheriff says it's apparent Slama died of a gunshot wound, still an autopsy will be performed tomorrow morning in Springfield. Sheriff Copeland says that several robberies in Barry County over the last few weeks have reports of a car with the same description. The sheriff is asking anyone who has seen someone matching this description, especially in rural areas, contact their office.
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