James Henneha is found guilty of first degree murder in Joplin, Mo. (Nov 15, 2018)
A judge gives James Henneha life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On November 15th, 2018, a jury found James Henneha guilty of first degree murder in the death of 38-year-old Tonya Crawford.
Tonya Crawford was reported missing on January 22nd, 2016. A day later, a landlord and family friend found her body in her Joplin apartment on west 14th Street. Authorities initially suspected no foul play, until they say a credible witness came forward.
Investigators believe James Henneha he went to her apartment and strangled her. Court documents show that he had a Joplin address at the time. Henneha was arrested in February of 2016 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury recorded statements Henneha allegedly made to the witness. The defense argued that there is no evidence suggesting Crawford was killed in a malicious way.
"The body that was found later, sadly, was taken for an autopsy that revealed no anatomical or medical evidence, that she had been choked or strangled," said public defender Darren Wallace.
The prosecution called a number of friends, family, and investigators to the witness stand, and one of the most compelling was a DNA expert working for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. She confirmed Henneha's DNA was found on a vaginal swab taken from the victim.
"The sperm fraction. I developed a profile from that fraction which was consistent with Jame Henneha," said medical examiner Marcie Abbey.
But the defense doesn't deny that Henneha and Crawford had sex before Crawford's body was found, and says the two had a complicated and sometimes unhealthy relationship.