Man pleads guilty to 2004 murder where victim’s leg washed up in Missouri River

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri man pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder of a homeless man in 2004, where the victim was dismembered and parts of his body washed up in the Missouri River.

Michael Gullett, 63, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Ryon McDonald.

In May 2004, a human leg washed up in Callaway County from the Missouri River. The next day, a human torso washed ashore in Moniteau County.

A doctor who conducted the autopsy said the DNA on the leg and torso were a match and that the victim had been cut with a heavy instrument, such as an axe or a hatchet.

She estimated the body had been dumped in the river between May 27, 2004 and May 29, 2004.

Michael Gullett mugshot

Michael Gullett

Although he went missing in 2004, McDonald wasn’t identified until years later, when his brother in Arizona contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol after seeing photos of his tattoos on their missing person’s website. In 2016, DNA testing confirmed that there was a high probability that remains belonged to Ryon McDonald.

In a 2016 interview, a witness who was living at a homeless camp in 2004, said he heard Gullett and McDonald arguing at the camp. He said Gullett picked up a piece of wood and hit McDonald in the head, before striking him with a crowbar and knocking him out. When the witness woke up, both the victim and Gullett were gone.

In 2016, another witness came forward, saying that when he brought up the victim, Gullett told him, “He ain’t never coming back. I hit him in the head, cut him up with an axe and threw him in the river.” The witness said the conversation took place in 2004.

When he was interviewed by detectives, Gullet asked where the victim’s body was found and said he had been “sweating it” since 2004 and had expected to be arrested then.

Gullett is already serving a 20 year sentence for another homicide in 2012.  As part of a plea agreement in this case, Gullett will spend 18 years in prison.

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