The family of a murder victim said incompetent police botched the investigation, allowing the killer to get off easy.
Travis Graham was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Photo courtesy Lafayette County Sheriff's Office
LEXINGTON, Mo. - The family of an Odessa man who was shot and killed believe justice wasn't served for him due to what they believe was a botched police investigation.
The Odessa Police Department was disbanded in August just over a year after that shooting due to concerns about how it operated.
Travis Graham was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday after emotional testimony from the victim's family members.
"He was such an important part of our family and not just our family, but our extended family," said Larry Dyer, the father of shooting victim Randy Dyer.
In June 2015, court records say Graham was chasing Brandon Dyer and Jonathon Colt Moore with a shotgun over a property dispute.
Those same records show Brandon Dyer had shot a bow and arrow at Graham and missed, and Moore hit Graham in the head with a threaded bolt.
Randy Dyer, in an effort to protect his son Brandon and his friend, hit Graham with his vehicle.
Graham then fatally shot Randy Dyer in the back of the head.
"He should actually be in prison for the rest of his life. There should not have been a plea deal," said Pam Dyer, Randy's widow.
As the 41 Action News Investigators reported last month, a memo shows Lafayette County Prosecutor Kristen Ellis was not satisfied with the Odessa Police Department's investigation of Dyer's homicide.
It states an officer failed to conduct follow up interviews with key witnesses who were ready to help.
Ellis in court before the sentencing called it a confusing case.
Dyer's family believes the Odessa Police Department's poor investigation contributed to that confusion.
"They didn't investigate it, they had no control over the evidence," Larry Dyer said.
"I've seen some of the paper work," Pam Dyer said. "They weren't signed, they weren't dated and there's several different stories from each person."
City leaders voted to disband the Odessa Police Department in August. That move came after a consultant's review found several problems. They include divided loyalties, mistrust, retaliation and poor police work.
The Lafayette County Sheriff's Office is now handling Odessa police duties.
Graham's father Edward testified before sentencing, saying his son was always soft hearted.
He recounted Graham's success as a football player and starting his own business. But he admitted Travis Graham's life took a turn for the worse when he started becoming involved in drugs.
Travis Graham was in tears for most of the sentencing testimony.
Before sentencing, he asked the Dyer family to forgive him.
"Never, that'll never happen," Larry Dyer said. "When you shoot somebody in the back of the head, he can't be a threat to you."
"There's no words he can say that would make anything any better," said Pam Dyer.
Larry Dyer also testified, despite experts being brought in from Kansas City, his son's body couldn't be shown in an open casket as the family wanted due to the severe damage to Randy's head.
Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Rolf said there was a lot of blame to go around.
All four people involved in the events leading up to the shooting were under the influence of methamphetamine, including shooting victim Randy Dyer.
But Judge Rolf said Travis Graham didn't need to "go with a gun and play cowboy" when a simple phone call to police could've taken care of the situation.
As a result, Judge Rolf gave Travis Graham the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.
Travis Graham was originally charged with second-degree murder in the case. A conviction on that charge would've carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"He's still got life ahead of him," said Larry Dyer. "My son doesn't have life ahead of him; his is over."
If Travis Graham completes his entire 15-year prison sentence, he'll be roughly the same age that Randy Dyer was when he was killed.
Andy Alcock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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