Steak 'n Shake Murder Trial Heads into Second Day; Prosecutors Face Setback
The accused man's brother reneged on a plea deal in which he would have testified against Oundre Akins in return for avoiding the possibility of the death penalty.
After shooting Mark Gerstner’s coworker at Steak ‘n Shake, Tammy Cantrell, six times, Oundre Akins asked Gerstner one question, said Dean Waldemar, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Office’s lead trial attorney.
Waldemar said an opening statement Monday's murder trial that Akins asked Gerstner at gunpoint, “Did she tell you our names?” Gerstner replied, "Yes."
Akins then shot Gerstner once in the back of the head, Waldemar said.
Waldemar laid out the case against Oundre Akins in his opening remarks Monday.
Akins is accused of robbing the South County Steak ‘n Shake at 5828 South Lindbergh Blvd at about 3:30 a.m. Nov. 10, 2008, and shooting the two employees to death. He is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action.
Prosecutors said his brother, Anthony Akins, was to have testified against Oundre, but decided against it just before the trial.
Anthony had accepted a plea deal in which he would testify that his brother shot the two employees. In return, he would have been able to plea guilty to two counts each of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. He also would have avoided the possibility of the death penalty.
With Anthony's refusal to testify at Oundre's trial, that deal is off the table.
During his opening statement, Waldemar said when Akins and his brother pulled into the lot, Cantrell looked out a window and saw them. Cantrell knew the two men because they both worked at the restaurant before being fired. As a result, the brothers decided to forgo covering their faces and went inside, the prosecutor said.
According to Waldemar, Cantrell said, “What are you doing here,” or “You’re not supposed to be here,” and Oundre Akins shot her.
During the Monday morning trial, defense attorney Donald Lee Catlett focused on the position of the bodies and items around them during cross examination.
He questioned Mehlville-Oakville Fire Protection District Capt. Roland Therina, then a lead paramedic, on whether paramedics turned Gerstner’s body in a small walk-in freezer.
A Hostess delivery driver had found Cantrell's body, and reported it as an accidental injury, thinking she had fallen and hit her head.
Therina explained the paramedics responding to the South County Steak ‘n Shake did not initially know they were responding to crime scene and were not concerned about preserving evidence.
“At that time my first concern was assessing the patient, and it always will be,” Therina said.
Catlett also questioned assessments that Gerstner’s body was found in the freezer with his feet pointing toward the door. He also questioned the position of an overturned cart and items on it. The cart was shown upright in police photos.
Therina said paramedics may have moved items to clear a path, stabilize and move bodies to give them room to work.
Catlett declined an opening argument, but Waldemar laid out the state’s case against Akins.
He said a receipt was found that pinpoints the robbery time. When the cash register is opened using Gerstner's swipe card, it printed out a receipt with the time and date, Waldemar said. The register’s receipt read 3:38 a.m. Nov. 10.
Two minutes later, a camera at a nearby Honda dealer showed a white 1988 Oldsmobile registered to Anthony Akins leave the lot at Steak ‘n Shake.
A St. Louis County Police Officer, unaware of the crime, saw the car and happened to run the car’s license plate number. The car was registered and not reported stolen and there were no warrants on the owner, so the officer simply followed it to Interstate 55 and let them go.
Waldemar also said Oundre Akins brought two handguns and a plastic bag of spent shell casings to an ex-girlfriend and asked her to keep them. The prosecutor said a St. Louis County Police ballistics expert will testify the two handguns and shell casings match each other and the bullets used to kill Cantrell and Gerstner.
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