Oskaloosa — Despite an elaborate plan by two men to rob Clarence Rinke of drugs and money Oct. 14, 1999, one detail was overlooked.
Rinke didn't cooperate.
Instead, Rinke fought with the masked man armed with a sawed-off shotgun who was waiting for him inside his rural Jefferson County house. The gun went off. Rinke fell, mortally wounded.
"Mr. Rinke saw me and bolted right at me," Collin E. Cady told a jury Wednesday in Jefferson County District Court. "We went through a bit of a tug of war. He jerked on the shotgun, and it discharged."
Cady, 33, McLouth, testified against Noah J. Gleason, 43, rural Lawrence, who is being tried for first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit burglary and intimidation of a witness. Cady said Gleason was the mastermind behind the failed caper.
Cady also is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit burglary in the Rinke case. His trial is scheduled to start Monday, but he is expected to enter a plea agreement at that time.
A third person, Charolette M. Bennett, 29, is charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery in the case. She also testified against Gleason on Tuesday and is expected to enter into a plea agreement.
Recruited to help
Bennett said Gleason had recruited her to assist in the robbery. Her job was to lure Rinke out of his house near 21st and Republic streets in rural Lawrence. She called Rinke over an intercom at the locked electronic gate at the end of a quarter-mile lane that led to his house.
Bennett said Gleason promised to pay her $1,000 for her effort.
Gleason, a construction worker, had worked for Rinke and bought marijuana from him, witnesses have said. Rinke had prior drug records in Florida and had been under investigation in Ohio for his role in a multistate marijuana distribution operation.
Gleason had talked to others about robbing Rinke. One of them was Denny Cooper, a truck driver from Hartford who has known Gleason for more than 10 years.
"He was considering trying to rob the 'old man' for whatever we could get out of him," Cooper said.
Gleason also said Rinke had a safe in his house where he kept large amounts of marijuana and cash, Cooper said.
"You've got to understand, I considered Noah a con man," Cooper said. "Whatever he said would be to his advantage. I just didn't think he'd go through with it."
During a preliminary hearing last spring, a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent said a large vault was found in the basement of Rinke's home. It contained more than $570,000 in cash and 75 pounds of marijuana, he said.
Cooper also knew Cady.
"Noah was a teacher or a mentor to Collin," Cooper said.
Gleason recruited Cady several weeks before the attempted robbery, Cady said. They made practice runs onto Rinke's property.
After the trio met Oct. 14 at Johnny's Tavern in North Lawrence, they drove to a field on Gleason's property about a mile from Rinke's farm. They put on coveralls and tennis shoes and got out their weapons. Gleason carried a pistol, Cady said.
At the electronic gate, Cady and Gleason walked on foot through the woods to Rinke's house. When they were in position, they called Bennett by cell phone and told her to contact Rinke on the intercom, Cady said.
But Rinke returned too soon to his house and encountered the robbers.
'Was really scared'
After Rinke went down from the gunshot, Cady said he ran into the woods. Gleason also ran, but in a different direction, Cady said.
"I was really scared," Cady said.
Cady said he took off the coveralls and buried them and the shotgun in the woods.
After the botched robbery, Cady, Gleason and Bennett met at Gleason's farm and returned to Johnny's Tavern.
According to Jefferson County Sheriff's accounts, about 9:40 p.m. Oct. 14, Rinke called 911 and reported that he had been shot. Officers and medical crews responded to the farm only to find their way blocked by the electronic gate. They had to get to the house on foot. They found Rinke lying dead in the kitchen.
The case remained unsolved until April 2, when sheriff's officers and Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Cady, Gleason and Bennett.
The trial continues today.