Webb City woman receives 20-year federal sentence for kidnapping, murder

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Amy Kay Thomas, 40, from Webb City, Missouri, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without the possibility of parole. The sentencing was handed down by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool for her involvement in a conspiracy to commit kidnapping which led to a victim’s death, and for illegal possession of a firearm.

Thomas entered a guilty plea on April 27, 2023, for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and being a felon in possession of a firearm. She is the fourth defendant sentenced in this case.

Earlier sentences include James B. Gibson, 41, of Neosho, Missouri, who received 30 years on April 15; Russell Eugene Hurtt, 52, of Greenwood, Missouri, who was sentenced to seven years on April 16; and Lawrence William Vaughan, 52, also of Neosho, who received a 25-year sentence on November 7, 2013.

Two other co-defendants, Freddie Lewis Tilton, 51, and Carla Jo Ward, 50, both of Joplin, Missouri, have also pleaded guilty but are yet to be sentenced.

In July 2020, Thomas participated in a plot to kidnap the victim, referred to as “M.H.” Tilton had promised Ward and Vaughan $5,000 each to locate and capture M.H. for him. Ward picked up M.H. and transported him to Vaughan’s residence, where he and Tilton coordinated the abduction via text messages. Throughout the ordeal, M.H. was handcuffed, duct-taped, physically assaulted, burned with a blowtorch, and finally fatally shot in the head by Tilton.

Following the murder, Thomas, along with others, cleaned the crime scene and transported the victim’s body wrapped in plastic to Hurtt’s property. Law enforcement discovered M.H.’s body there on July 28, 2020, and arrested Tilton after he fired at them during their attempt to search the residence.

The search also led to the discovery of multiple firearms, including two unregistered guns—a Rigarmi .25-caliber pistol and a Taurus 9mm handgun.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller and involved multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI and local police departments.

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