Neosho man sentenced to 25 years in prison for kidnapping conspiracy, illegal firearms

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A Neosho, Mo., man has been sentenced in federal court for his role in a kidnapping conspiracy that resulted in the torture and death of the victim, and in a separate and unrelated case for illegally possessing stolen firearms.

Lawrence William Vaughan, also known as “Scary Larry,” 52, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to 25 years in federal prison without parole.

Kidnapping, Torture, and Murder

On April 27, 2023, Vaughan pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to commit kidnapping in July 2020.

Five co-defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in this case. Freddie Lewis Tilton, also known as “Ol’ Boy,” 50, and Carla Jo Ward, 49, both of Joplin; James B. Gibson, 41, of Neosho; Amy Kay Thomas, 40, of Webb City, Mo.; and Russell Eugene Hurtt, also known as “Uncle,” 51, of Greenwood, Mo., have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

Vaughan admitted that he participated in a conspiracy to kidnap the victim, identified as “M.H.,” in July 2020. Tilton offered Ward and Vaughan $5,000 each to locate and secure M.H. for him. Ward picked up M.H., whom she knew was being sought by Tilton, and took him to Vaughan’s residence. Vaughan texted Tilton, stating “Call me quickly handing (M.H.) to you.” Vaughan and Tilton continued communicating throughout the early morning hours of July 15, 2020. Vaughan sent a text message to Tilton that read, “He’s got 2 guns.” A few hours later, Vaughan sent a text message to Tilton that read, “OK we’ve got both his guns put up,” and “Guns are secure I’m waiting for you.”

Tilton, Thomas, and Gibson arrived at Vaughan’s residence in the early morning hours of July 15, 2020. They bound M.H.’s hands with handcuffs, and duct tape was placed around his mouth and other parts of his body. Gibson, Thomas, and others assaulted M.H. for a period of time. M.H. was cut, beaten, shot at, and burned with a blowtorch. Tilton fatally shot M.H. in the head. Vaughan and others cleaned up the blood and damage created during the assault and shooting of M.H. They wrapped M.H.’s body in plastic wrap and transported it to Hurtt’s property.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hurtt’s property on July 28, 2020, based on information that a deceased body was located on the acreage. When officers attempted to contact the occupants of the residence, Tilton fired multiple shots from inside the residence at the officers. Tilton was apprehended.

Officers found M.H.’s body on the property. Officers searched the residence and found a Rigarmi .25-caliber pistol, an Ithaca .22-caliber rifle, a Remington .22-caliber rifle without a serial number, a Harrington and Richardson 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger 9mm handgun, and a Taurus 9mm handgun without a serial number.

Illegally Possessing Firearms

On Feb. 24, 2021, Vaughan pleaded guilty to one count of being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm and two counts of possessing a stolen firearm.

Vaughan admitted that he was in possession of a DB9 9mm handgun, which was found in the glove box of his truck and had been reported stolen, on Jan. 4, 2019.

Vaughan also admitted that he was in possession of a Glock 9mm handgun, which had been reported stolen, on March 12, 2019. The handgun was lying on the couch inside a travel trailer, which had been stolen two days earlier and was found on Vaughan’s property. Vaughan was inside the trailer, where officers also found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

These cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. They were investigated by the FBI, the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Neosho, Mo., Police Department, the Joplin, Mo., Police Department, the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team, and the Cherokee County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department.

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