Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Funke Won't Face Death in Girl's Killing Jury's Verdict Is Second-Degree Murder

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Funke Won't Face Death in Girl's Killing Jury's Verdict Is Second-Degree Murder

Article excerpt

Matthew Funke avoided the death penalty for the second time in barely a year when a jury convicted him Thursday of second-degree murder in the death of Che Sims of Breckenridge Hills.

Che, a 12-year-old honor student at Ritenour Middle School, was raped and strangled along a creek bed in Breckenridge Hills on Sept. 17, 1990.

"This was the most tragic incident I have heard in my 12 years on the bench," St. Louis County Circuit Judge Margaret M. Nolan told the jurors, who convicted Funke after 15 hours of deliberations.

"None of us will ever forget it, and we are sure you will be telling your children and your grandchildren about it."

On Jan. 9 of last year, another jury found Funke guilty of first-degree murder for killing George Sammons Jr., 30, of Wellston. Funke beat Sammons to death with a hammer and crowbar in October 1990 in the basement of a house in St. John. He killed Che 16 days earlier.

A jury sentenced Funke, 29 of St. John, to life without parole in Sammons' killing. After his conviction in Che's killing, he faces two additional consecutive life terms when Nolan sentences him Feb. 18.

The jury in Che's trial was unaware of Funke's conviction in Sammons' killing.

Dressed in a gray turtleneck and gray slacks, Funke stared straight ahead and did not look at the judge as she read the verdict.

Funke wore a light brown wig. His attorney, Scott Rosenblum, bought it when Funke arrived from prison last week with a shaved head. Rosenblum also made Funke shave his goatee.

"If the jury had seen him with the bald head and goatee, we would have been in trouble right from the start," Rosenblum said. "He looked kind of scary."

Rosenblum said his goal was to spare Funke's life.

That was enough for Funke's father, Ed; his mother, Betty Dowell; and his two sisters. They shook Rosenblum's hand and thanked him after the verdict.

John Sims, Che's father, had a different reaction. He wept.

"It's not the death sentence, but it was a good verdict," he said later. …

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