« on: February 18, 2008, 07:09:43 PM »
"Cold blooded murder. Four of them!" said the stepfather of a young man from Ava whose body was found Saturday morning. Four of his cousins are charged with first-degree murder in Douglas County after the body of Dustin Skaggs, 20, of Ava was recovered from an old rock quarry in Laclede County.
The four people charged are Elvis Volner, 20, of Mountain Grove; Dennis Volner, 31, of Hartville; Benny Volner, 30, of Ava; and Julia Monnahan, 28, of Hartville. Officials say Benny and Elvis are brothers, Dennis is a cousin, and Julia is married to Dennis. A judge set each of their bonds at $500,000.
Dustin Skaggs was on his way to work at the Mountain Grove Nursing Home early Sunday morning. He left his grandfather's house between Mansfield and Ava, which is where he had been living, but never made it to work. Saturday, his body was recovered from the deep waters of a Laclede County rock quarry.
Nearly a week after he disappeared, his family's fears were confirmed. Dustin Skaggs' body was found inside his car in a rock quarry two counties away from where he disappeared.
"Yes, it is very difficult," said his mother, Debbie Skaggs.
Dustin was last seen leaving his grandpa's house for work at 3 a.m. Sunday. His family filed a missing person's report with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, and Sheriff Gary Koop says he received information of possible foul play on Wednesday. That information led them to believe Dustin Skaggs' body and vehicle were in a Laclede County rock quarry but they didn't know which one.
"So we started looking Wednesday night and continued Thursday and Friday, looking at the different rock quarries, but due to the 2 or 3 inches of ice on the ground, we really couldn't find much," said Laclede County Sheriff Richard Wrinkle.
Friday night, authorities discovered tracks leading the the water's edge at the Phillipsburg Quarry.
"Then today, in the daylight, we could see scrapes where the vehicle had scraped the rocks when it had gone over," Wrinkle said on Saturday.
Investigators believe someone lowered all the wires of a barbed wire fence in order to get Dustin Skaggs' 1996 Dodge Intrepid through the fence and into the deep waters of the Phillipsburg Quarry. The Missouri State Water Patrol recovered Dustin's body and car just before 11:30 Saturday.
"The identity of the body was pretty well preserved, I assume because of the cold weather," Wrinkle said.
But Dustin's parents just can't believe how someone could take their son's life, and his own chance to become a father.
"He was going Tuesday to see what the baby was," said Dustin's stepfather, Dennis Skaggs.
"He just bought a brand new baby bed the day before he come up missing," said Debbie Skaggs.
"He was a family person. He loved his family dearly, and he'd do anything for them," said Dennis Skaggs.
And that makes Dustin's death even more tragic.
"Every one of them people that did this was related to us. That's what makes it that much harder: they was all relation," said Dustin's mother.
The Laclede County sheriff said an autopsy will determine Dustin's exact cause of death, but it appeared he had suffered from blunt force trauma.
Dustin's family also says he was receiving threatening text messages prior to his disappearance, but they're unable to say more because of the ongoing investigation.