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Arkansas man accused of stalking, killing high school student pleads guilty to murder charge

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published May 17, 2018 at 9:27 a.m. Updated May 17, 2018 at 1:03 p.m.


Rusty Draper, left, is shown in a file photo. At right, part of the plea agreement he signed before being sentenced to life in prison.

A Sheridan man accused of stalking and killing a 17-year-old teenager who had been in a relationship with his son's ex-girlfriend has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Court records show Rusty Draper admitted fatally shooting Sheridan High School student Austin Moody on Jan. 19, 2017 as part of a plea deal that sends him to prison for the rest of his life. He entered the plea on Wednesday in Grant County circuit court.

According to a document signed by Draper, he admitted drinking at a cemetery and then driving to Moody's nearby home.

He also initialed an admission on the plea agreement stipulating that he then "stopped at the residence and, when he saw Austin Moody, he purposefully shot him" with a Smith and Wesson gun before leaving a shotgun at the scene.

Prosecutor Teresa Howell said in a statement that the investigation into the killing showed "overwhelming evidence of Rusty Draper's guilt."

The statement noted that Moody's parents addressed Draper in court, telling him "they prayed Draper would seek forgiveness for the murder of their only child and that their son would someday become an inspiration to Draper rather than an object of hate."

Moody was found dead outside his home on Arkansas 35 north of Sheridan.

An affidavit from Grant County Deputy Sheriff Robert Bird stated the teen reported “being stalked” by Draper in the preceding weeks. The document identified Draper as the father of an ex-boyfriend of Moody's girlfriend.

At times, Draper showed up, seeking Moody’s assistance with a broken-down car and with other vehicle-related issues, authorities wrote..

An autopsy revealed Moody died from a gunshot wound to the head, though the wound was found to be consistent with a revolver and not the shotgun found near the body. The projectile was determined to be a .38-caliber bullet that could have been fired from a Smith and Wesson gun.

The shotgun at the scene was later found to have two DNA profiles on it, including one belonging to Draper.

Authorities at one point questioned Draper, who said he had tried to go to work at Union Pacific in Pulaski County the morning of the killing, but the time clock wouldn't let him punch in because it was already recorded as a vacation day, the affidavit said. And he said he had seen a man he knew at a nearby gas station before honking and waving that morning.

But investigators say the time clock showed no evidence of an attempted punch and that surveillance recovered from the business that day did not show the man looking at or waving at anybody.

Draper told police that he had owned a Smith and Wesson revolver, but it was missing. He said he last saw it under his car seat the morning of Moody's death, Bird wrote.

According to the affidavit, Draper on Jan. 21 inquired about the payout of his life insurance, telling the representative he was being investigated in a homicide and it was "about to get really bad ugly."

Two days later, Draper tried to kill himself in Dallas County, the affidavit said. Authorities recovered a notebook with handwritten messages in it.

"I am back in a corner," the writings, which are attributed to Draper in the affidavit, said. "So much stuff went wrong with plans. Cops search house. They look for my guns. Not find what the look for. I not want to live in pin!! They want me to take lie test. I will not."

Police on that day also recovered a round from Draper's vehicle that "would be consistent with the projectile recovered from the body of the victim."

Reporter Brandon Riddle contributed to this story.


Comments on: Arkansas man accused of stalking, killing high school student pleads guilty to murder charge

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 total comments

GeneralMac says... May 17, 2018 at 1:56 p.m.

Never get that involved with your kids' personal lives.

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TravisBickle says... May 17, 2018 at 4:41 p.m.

Helicopter parent gone horribly wrong!

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