Trial begins for millionaire accused of shooting lawyer in Brookside home

The long-delayed criminal trial of the 84-year-old farmer, baby furniture maker and self-made millionaire accused in the 2017 shooting death of an attorney is set to begin Monday in a Jackson County court.

David G. Jungerman of Raytown faces charges of first degree murder and armed criminal action for allegedly shooting Tom Pickert on the brisk, sunny morning of October 25, 2017.

Pickert was shot on the front porch of his Brookside home in the 200 block of West 66th Terrace, where he had just returned from walking his two sons to school.

Pickert’s wife, Emily Riegel, was inside the home when she heard two gunshots. Riegel rushed outside and found Pickert fatally wounded, with a single gunshot to his right temple, according to prosecutors.

Jungerman is accused of killing Pickert after the lawyer won $5.75 million for a homeless man Jungerman shot in 2012 because he thought he was stealing copper from his baby furniture business.

The victim, Jeffrey Harris, had to have his leg amputated above the knee.

The criminal trial is the culmination of a nearly five-year legal battle between Jungerman’s lawyers, a group of civil lawyers and Jackson County prosecutors.

Pickert’s widow and family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in 2018 against Jungerman, his daughter, Angelia Buesing, and several family businesses and trusts.

The lawsuit was settled in August 2020 when Kevin, Jackson County Circuit Judge Harrell agreed to a confidential settlement, according to KCUR.

David G. Jungerman (left) is charged with first-degree murder in the death of attorney Tom Pickert (right).

Jury selection in the criminal trial is scheduled to begin Monday morning, and opening arguments are expected to be heard Tuesday. The trial is expected to last nearly two weeks. It was not known Friday whether Jungerman, who has pleaded not guilty, will testify in his own defense.

In the months leading up to the criminal trial, Dan Ross, a former Jackson County assistant district attorney and longtime attorney representing Jungerman, sought to discredit investigators’ credibility and handling of critical evidence.

As part of that effort, Ross accused Kansas City detectives — some involved in Pickert’s investigation — of turning up evidence of another homicide. He also said that investigators in the Pickert case either failed to write reports after interviewing potential witnesses or destroyed their notes.

In other court filings, Ross claimed that among the evidence destroyed by Kansas City police were 35 or more license plate readings on Jungerman’s truck from the day of the shooting and from the days and weeks leading up to the murder.

Ross argued that license plate readers would have shown that Jungerman was elsewhere at the time of the murder. It would also have been proven that Jungerman’s van was never spotted in the victim’s neighborhood before the shooting, Ross claims, undermining the prosecutor’s claim of stalking.

But U.S. District Court Judge John M. Torrence, who is presiding over the criminal trial, rejected many of those pleadings or delayed deciding whether to allow them to be introduced during the trial.

Jungerman emerged as a suspect in Pickert’s 2017 murder after police learned he had threatened Pickert.

Riegel told homicide detectives about a chilling encounter between her husband and Jungerman that may have helped them in their investigation.

Moments after the jury’s verdict in the Harris case was announced, Jungerman confronted Pickert in the courtroom and menacingly told him, “None of this matters. I have 186 weapons. I did it once before. I will do it again. You can’t touch me,” according to prosecutors.

In court filings, Ross denied his client made such allegations.

However, Pickert’s murder remained unsolved for months. Kansas City police said at one point that Jungerman, who has been the focus of media scrutiny, was not a suspect in the shooting.

Police eventually seized several key pieces of evidence that helped pave the way for prosecutors to file first-degree murder charges against Jungerman.

Detectives reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance video that showed a van matching Jungerman’s description, but not its license plate.

While executing a search warrant at Jungerman’s business, police found a printout of an online Jackson County property tax file for Pickert that lists his home address, according to prosecutors.

They also later discovered that less than two weeks before Jungerman allegedly shot Pickert, he Googled it apparently to figure out which firearm to use, according to prosecutors.

On his computer, homicide detectives said they found an article titled: “Can a .22LR bullet penetrate a human skull?”

A week before the shooting, Jackson County bailiffs had begun the process of seizing Jungerman’s real estate to pay the $5.75 million judgment. The court filed documents that would prevent Jungerman from selling or transferring the property, according to prosecutors.

Then, in March 2018, Jungerman was involved in a new incident.

This time, he was accused of chasing and shooting at another man at a recycling center on suspicion of stealing iron pipe from his baby furniture business.

That allowed detectives to search his residence, where they found Jungerman’s cell phone containing a recording of Jungerman allegedly recording himself — by mistake — saying he killed Pickert.

“People know that I murdered this son of a …,” prosecutors allege, Jungerman said.

Prosecutors charged Jungerman with fourth-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon for the March 2018 incident.

Six days later, Jean Peters Baker held a press conference and announced that her office had charged Jungerman with Pickert’s murder.

According to court documents, Jungerman shot Pickert with a .17-caliber handgun — a rifle used by farmers and ranchers to kill vermin.

Long after Jungerman’s criminal trial is over, there are still more legal problems for him.

Forty-seven days after Pickert’s murder trial began, Jungerman is scheduled to appear in a separate courtroom to face assault and weapons charges filed in the 2018 shooting.

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