David Jungerman, the Jackson County millionaire who was found guilty in the 2017 shooting death of a Brookside attorney, died Monday morning, according to his defense attorney.
Jungerman, 85, was convicted last year of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Oct. 25, 2017, shooting death of Tom Pickert, who had just returned home after walking his sons to school.
Dan Ross, who represented Jungerman in the murder trial in Jackson County Circuit Court, said his client had been hospitalized at University Health for some time after becoming ill.
“David Jungerman always insisted on his innocence,” Ross told The Star. “Unfortunately, the appeal of his guilty verdict will never be heard. The defense was confident of prevailing on his appeal, because of his death by operation of law, we believe the case will be dismissed.”
In March, a Jackson County judge ruled that Jungerman was not competent to be sentenced and ordered that he be committed to the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
Jungerman, a self-made millionaire, was a native of Blackburn, Missouri. He worked his way through college as a psychology major and later became a salesman for a baby crib company. By the time Jungerman was in his mid-30s, he was president of Baby-Tenda Corp., a manufacturer of cribs and toddler tables in Kansas City.
In 2018, Jungerman’s family had assets of about $33 million, with more than 7,000 acres of property.
Over the years, Jungerman has faced a plethora of legal and criminal challenges. In 1990, Raytown police arrested Jungerman after he tried to detain four juveniles for trespassing behind his Raytown house.
Jungerman lost lawsuit over shooting of homeless man
During a murder trial that lasted nearly two weeks, prosecutors said Jungerman shot Pickert because of a $5.75 million judgment Pickert won against Jungerman in a civil lawsuit.
Pickert was representing a homeless man Jungerman shot in 2012 because he thought the man was stealing copper from Jungerman’s baby furniture business in Kansas City.
The victim, Jeffrey Harris, had to have his leg amputated above the knee.
Harris was one of four people Jungerman shot within a month in 2012, all of them men he encountered at night in a building associated with his baby furniture business in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood. Jungerman, who said the men were stealing copper and that he acted in self-defense, was not charged in those shootings.
Moments after the jury’s verdict in the Harris case was announced, Jungerman confronted Pickert in the courtroom and in a threatening manner told him: “None of this matters. I have 186 guns. I did it once before. I will do it again. You can’t touch me,” according to prosecutors.
The day before shooting Pickert, Jackson County authorities served Jungerman with property liens to satisfy the civil judgment Pickert had won against him.
In interviews with The Star, Jungerman denied being at the scene of the Pickert shooting.
Pickert’s wife, Emily Riegel filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018 against Jungerman, his daughter, Angelia Buesing, and several family-owned businesses and trusts. That lawsuit was resolved with a Jackson County judge approved a confidential settlement.
A key element to the prosecutor’s closing argument was an audio recording of Jungerman allegedly admitting that he killed Pickert. Jungerman had joked with Leo Wynne, a man who worked for him about the shooting.
In the recording, Jungerman told Wynne: “When I think about it, I grin. That (expletive) has caused me a lot of problems Leo.”
Prosecutors showed jurors a photo from the crime scene that showed Pickert sprawled on the sidewalk in front of his home, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
Defense accused police of falsifying evidence
During his closing argument, Ross said that prosecutors and police settled on Jungerman as a suspect based on an alleged motive and failed to seriously look at other suspects.
Ross also said Kansas City police detectives falsified evidence, including surveillance video that did not fit the timeline of the theory presented to investigators.
Investigators captured on video a van that belonged to Jungerman traveling from Raytown to Pickert’s neighborhood on the day of the killing.
License plate readers would have shown that Jungerman was elsewhere at the time of the killing, Ross said. It also would have proved that Jungerman’s van was never detected in the victim’s neighborhood prior to the shooting, he said.
Prosecutors said Jungerman shot Pickert with a .17-caliber firearm, a weapon often used by farmers and ranchers to kill pests.
Investigators also found that Jungerman had transferred money and property to his daughter. Jungerman’s assets totaled about $33 million. Jungerman had withdrawn $5 million from his bank account.
Jungerman emerged as a suspect within hours of the shooting because of his connection to Pickert. Yet, the killing went unsolved for months.
Kansas City police said at one point that Jungerman, who was the focus of intense media coverage, was not a suspect.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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