Newton County Sheriff's Department searching for suspect in fatal shooting

May 31—NEOSHO, Mo. — The Newton County Sheriff's Department said it's looking for a 42-year-old man wanted in the slaying of Eric Whittington, 50, at 12:03 a.m. Thursday on Freddie Lane south of Joplin.

The sheriff's office said in a written statement that the suspect has been identified as Joshua William Ray Taft, 42, and a no-bond felony warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Charges filed by the Newton County prosecutor's office against Taft include second-degree murder, armed criminal action, unlawful possession of a firearm and first-degree endangerment of the welfare of a child.

The sheriff's office said Taft should be considered armed and dangerous and anyone having information about his location should call 417-451-8300 or 417-451-8333.

A probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges against Taft by Newton County Deputy David Mace in Newton County Circuit Court said a woman called 911 early Thursday to report that her boyfriend had been shot at the home on Freddie Lane.

Deputies arrived and found Whittington dead on the front lawn. The affidavit said officers found "an obvious gunshot wound" on the left side of his chest.

The victim also had a busted lip, a section of his teeth were broken partially from his jaw, and a spot on the top of his head was bloody.

The redacted affidavit said witnesses told officers that Taft lived at the residence on Freddie Lane with an unidentified person and a "verbal argument broke out between the two because Taft had warrants and was trying to lay low."

The affidavit said the argument became physical and that Taft's girlfriend, whose identity was redacted in the document, hit the victim with a cast-iron skillet in the face.

The affidavit said Whittington went to his truck and got a machete before starting back to the house and that Taft's girlfriend gave Taft a pistol.

Taft fired two shots in the direction of the victim. A 7-year-old stepson of one of the participants in the altercation said he heard bullets whiz over his head.

Taft fled the scene before the arrival of law enforcement.

In the affidavit, Mace said taft was a convicted felon and violent offender and a member of the Aryan Brotherhood gang. He also had outstanding warrants from a number of states.