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Marcak pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2020 double-homicide case


Joey A. Marcak, 36, West Plains, has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in connection with a May 2020 double homicide in West Plains. He was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of armed criminal action and a count of first-degree attempted robbery.

Prosecutors had stated their intention to seek the death penalty in the case, which was set to go to jury trial for a three-week period beginning June 10, overseen by Presiding 44th Circuit Judge R. Craig Carter in Greene County on a change of judge and change of venue. Instead, a plea hearing was held Friday.

Court records show Marcak entered the guilty plea on the reduced charges, submitted by Howell County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Rizwan Ahad. The plea was followed by a sentencing hearing, according to the records, but the sentence was not yet recorded in public records as of noon Friday.

On May 5, 2020, the bodies of Richard Kuntz, 30, of West Plains, and Frankie Ziegler, 28, Mtn. View, were found in a running vehicle on private property just off of CC Highway by the property owner.

Codefendant Kyla Croney, 39, Viola, Ark., was allegedly present and in the company of Marcak for the incident, and another codefendant Levi D. Gunter, West Plains, now deceased, was said to be there during the incident and immediately after.

It was reportedly Croney who disclosed to an uninvolved party the day after the bodies were found that she had been present during the incident, and Marcak and Gunter were identified as additional suspects based on questioning by West Plains police officers.

She also reportedly told law enforcement she was with Gunter, her cousin, when the two met with a man later identified as Marcak. She stated it was Marcak who had a gun she described as a rifle, adding the victims had been lured to the scene on the premise of participating in a drug transaction.

After Kuntz and Ziegler arrived, she said, Marcak got out of the suspect vehicle and began shooting them while they were still in their car. Afterward the three went to Gunter's home off of AB Highway and destroyed Marcak's clothes by burning them and her cell phone, used to set up the drug deal, was placed in a microwave with water by Marcak, according to Croney.

She was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder, four counts of armed criminal action, and two counts of first-degree attempted robbery. She pleaded guilty in December 2021 to a Class E felony count of attempted possession of a controlled substance, for which she was sentenced to four years in prison by Presiding 37th Circuit Judge Steven Privette.

Gunter, in his interview with investigators, said he told Croney to set up the drug deal and when they arrived at the location, Marcak left their vehicle with a firearm that appeared to be a shotgun and hid in brush to await Kuntz and Ziegler's arrival.

In his police interview, Gunter reportedly said he then drove their vehicle back up the county road and when the victims arrived, led their vehicle to the location where Marcak was hiding. Marcak then came out of the brush and fired "four to five" shots inside the victim's vehicle, striking them, Gunter said.

According to Gunter, the sim card from Croney's phone was destroyed by Marcak as the three traveled to Gunter's home, where Marcak destroyed his clothing and five spent shotgun shells in a furnace.

At Marcak's request, Gunter then got a cutting torch he said Marcak used to melt down the shotgun as Gunter held the flashlight to assist. Marcak then removed the ashes and shotgun brass from the furnace, collected the pieces of the shotgun and buried them in three separate locations near Gunter's home, he said.

Gunter was also charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and one count of attempted possession of a controlled substance, and his trial was set to begin July 29. However, Gunter, out on bail, was reported missing by a family member on Dec. 20, 2023, almost three weeks after he had last been seen. He was found dead on Jan. 29 on Howell County property, at age 41.

Marcak was represented by assistant public defenders Stephen Reynolds of St. Louis and Yashwanth Manjunath of New York City. The case was prosecuted by Ahad and Howell County Prosecutor Mike Hutchings.