3 face murder charges in Richmond mom's death


Three Richmond residents were charged with murder Thursday in connection with the death of a mother. The three implicated each other in text messages, according to court records.

Michelle Rheuport, 40, was found dead inside her Richmond home by her teenage son on Tuesday. According to court documents, a plastic trash bag was over her head, and her feet and hands were bound. She was found in her bedroom.

Brandon Scott Simpson, 25, was charged with first-degree murder. He was also charged with stealing, which is a felony, and violated his probation and parole. Simpson won three Missouri wrestling championships and was headed to Northern Iowa on a full scholarship.

Now, he is accused of strangling Rheuport to death after he went to her home to steal marijuana and her electronics, authorities said.

James Gant, 25, and Lauren Gabbard, 23, were both charged with second-degree murder. Both also face stealing charges. Grant was arrested for violating his probation and parole.

All three are being held on a $1 million bond each.

One of the neighbors, who lives up the hill from the victim's house on Farris Avenue, heard the first sounds about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday when the victim's 17-year-old son came home to find her dead.

"I heard a lot of screaming," Jessica Viles told KCTV5 on Wednesday. "It sounded absolutely devastating, and I looked out my window and I could see a young man run from the house there screaming and crying. I was just getting ready to call 911 myself when all the police and ambulances came."

What she saw as the day wore on told the story of a homicide, the first homicide Richmond has seen since 1996.

Rheuport was a single mom with two sons, the 17-year-old and a 13-year-old, as well as a 21-year-old daughter. Officials said none of them were home at the time of the homicide.

That is because Gant and Gabbard conspired to keep the 17-year-old son from going to the home while Simpson was inside, according to court documents. The son was just four blocks away.

According to court documents, a 46-inch flat-screen television, a computer monitor, XBOX 360 consule and games were stolen from the victim's home. They were recovered from a home where Simpson and Gabbard were.

When officers went to interview Simpson, he tried to flee and nearly struck a lieutenant, according to court documents. Officers pulled their weapons and apprehended Simpson.

According to court documents, Simpson denied killing Rheuport and said he didn't know how her property wound up where he was. But Simpson sent text messages to Gant and Gabbard "suggesting their involvement in the crime," according to court documents.

Gant admitted he kept the victim's son from going to his mother's during the crime and indicated he thought Simpson killed the woman, according to court documents.

Gabbard initially denied any involvement. When confronted with her text messages, Gabbard admitted knowing that Simpson went to Rheuport's home in her car to burglarize it and she was to serve as a look out in case the victim's son and his friend headed to the home.

Richmond residents remember when Simpson seemed destined for great things. Even recently, he was coaching kids and wrestling himself.

"He was just incredible on his feet. No one could take him down," Josh Lamar, a former Richmond wrestler, told KCTV5. "He had a defense that was out of this world."

But he began to have legal issues and apparently never graduated college. In 2008, he was charged with distribution marijuana and had faced an assault charge.

In 2010, Simpson pleaded guilty in Clay County to holding a 19-year-old against his will and beating him over $1,000 in drug money. The victim said Simpson threatened "to tie him up, throw him in the closet and cut off his toes," if he did not get the money.

Rheuport's body was reportedly found inside her closet.

To read previous coverage, click here.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.



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