A man has been found guilty in the death of a woman whose remains were found inside a duffel bag along a rural northwest Missouri road almost two weeks after she was killed at a Kansas City hotel.
Marcus Brooks was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Ariel Starcher, a mother of two from Independence, The St. Joseph News-Press reports.
A Missouri Transportation Department worker found the bag with Starcher’s body inside it in February 2020 around 45 miles north of Kansas City. She had died of suffocation, and also suffered a broken neck.
Key testimony against him came from Taylor Stoughton, who pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder, as Brooks’ accomplice. She and Brooks were arrested a year after the killing.
At the time, Starcher’s grandfather, Jim Starcher, told WDAF-TV that his granddaughter knew Brooks and sometimes called him for rides. Her friends had made the family nervous, he told The Kansas City Star.
“I always worried about her, the life she was going through,” he told The Kansas City Star. “She was trying to change her life, get her life straightened out. But it’s just one step forward and four steps back.”
The defense argued that Stoughton was the one to suffocate and bind Starcher. Brooks said he was in the shower at the time and only helped dispose of the body. Special Public Defender Steven Willibey also questioned Stoughton’s testimony, noting that a plea agreement shortens her potential sentence.
But Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Davidson said Brooks’ DNA was found underneath Starcher’s fingernails and that one was torn, suggesting she had been killed trying to fight off her attacker.
Stoughton will be sentenced Nov. 20 and Brooks on Dec. 21.