After 17 years, Missouri officials say they have made an arrest in connection to a 2004 cold-case murder.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies reportedly found James Summers, 47, dead in his driveway from gunshot wounds in the back and in the face around 8 p.m. on April 27, 2004, according to the Missouri Attorney General's Office.
They also reportedly found a .22 caliber handgun on the ground in between Summers’ body and the house, according to the probable cause statement.
At the time of the shooting deputies interviewed Summers’ girlfriend, Alice Weiss, 65, of Columbia, Missouri, on the day of the shooting. She reportedly told them the .22 caliber handgun was hers, and she stored it unloaded in a bedroom closet.
Weiss reportedly told police, at the time of the shooting, Summers left to pick up his daughter from a gymnastics class while she went to shower. Weiss claimed she heard gunshots from the bathroom and went to investigate.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies reportedly noticed several inconsistencies in Weiss’s statements and story. According to court documents, Weiss attempted to stall and use the restroom when deputies requested to perform a gunshot residue swab on Weiss’s hands.
Officials said Weiss changed her story and stated that she fired the handgun earlier in the day, apparently for the first time in 20 years, when deputies would not allow her to use the restroom.
Investigators also found “materials on the left sleeve of the robe Weiss was wearing the night of the murder that are consistent with gunshot residue,” according to the probable cause statement. Weiss reportedly told police she was not wearing the robe when she shot the handgun earlier in the day, and gave “differing statements and stories about the storage and previous firing of the gun.”
Officials said Weiss’s late father, who was suffering from late-stage dementia at the time, was the only other person in the house and he could not provide a coherent statement or recounting of events.
Detectives reportedly recreated Weiss’s account of hearing gunshots by putting an audio recording device in the shower and firing the handgun. They concluded that a gunshot would be “barely audible” and “incredibly hard to recognize the sounds of gunfire unless you knew exactly what to listen to,” according to court documents.
The probable cause statement also included testimony from Weiss’s cousin, who told authorities Weiss said she “f***** up” while talking as she drove her cousin home from the Sheriff’s Office the day after the murder.
The cousin also told police he’d heard Weiss reference the murder while the two shopped in a Wal-Mart in 2008, when she reportedly said, “even if she was charged in Summers’ murder, she could say her father shot Summers because he was dead and could avoid prosecution.”
Officials said they could not identify any other credible suspects during their 17-year-long investigation.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt said it is “crucial that we do not neglect or forsake the often forgotten victims of violent crime whose cases have not been solved or have gone cold. The passage of time does not, in any way, diminish the importance of certain cases,” in a press release on Thursday.
“I’m proud to yet again announce that a cold case has been solved and charged by my Office’s Cold Case Unit with the help of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. We will continue to fight for the families and loved ones of victims of violent crime who have little hope, who have waited long years and sometimes decades for justice to finally be served.”