October 28th, 2009
03:43 PM ET

Man killed, wife missing: Was it robbery?


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/26/art.crime.sc.staton.jpg caption="Homer and Jo Ann Staton were reported missing last week."]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

The South Carolina man who was found beaten to death days after he and his wife disappeared may have been the victim of a robbery, his friend told CNN.

“I think that more than likely that was the case,” said Phil Gillespie, who knew Homer L. Staton for 30 years. “He would carry a good bit of money on him at times.” Gillespie said Staton, whose bludgeoned body was found near a rural road on Sunday, bought and sold gold and jewelry.

Authorities confirmed Staton’s occupation. “He sold jewelry and gold and silver,” said Lt. Garland Major of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. “That was his job. He dealt in cash. We are looking at robbery as a possible motive, but there are other motives out there.”

Mr. Staton, 72, and his wife, Jo Ann, 69, were last seen Friday afternoon. In a media release, investigators said the couple, who resided in Taylors, vanished after leaving a local restaurant. Their black 2007 Toyota Corolla was found a day later in Belton. Police said there were blood stains on the interior of the car. They also said Mrs. Staton’s purse was inside the vehicle.

Mr. Staton’s body was located a few miles away in a wooded area. The medical examiner said he suffered blunt force trauma to the head. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Several searches for Mrs. Staton were conducted in the surrounding area, but police have no new information on her whereabouts. In the media release, they said they are following up on leads given to them from friends and family.

Gillespie, who has known the Mr. and Mrs. Staton for 30 years, is sharing his thoughts on the couple. “We went to church with them, that’s when we first met,” he said. “He was a great guy, always a smile on his face, super friendly, would do anything for you.”

He also believes Mrs. Staton can be saved.

“We can’t lose hope that Jo Ann could be found alive,” he said. “Homer is gone, it’s such a loss, but we don’t want to lose focus on Jo Ann.”

Anyone with information is being urged to contact the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office at 864-260-4440.

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
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