Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “The defendant was the driver in this drive-by shooting, but even that description minimizes his role. He was much more than just a passive accomplice. He indispensably aided and strongly encouraged the murder of Spencer Crosthwait.”
According to Zahnd, shortly after 12:30 a.m. on July 29, 2010, Ellis drove to his friend Justin Dougan’s house. Dougan came out of the house with a rifle, got into the back seat of Ellis’s car and said “somebody just robbed me, and we are going to go shoot them.”
At approximately 1:00 a.m., as Crosthwait was waiting on a traffic light at the intersection of 45 Highway and 9 Highway, Ellis drove up to the driver’s side of his car and yelled “shoot” immediately before Dougan fired the deadly shot.
The only passenger in Crosthwait’s vehicle then drove the car to the parking lot of the Price Chopper located at 9107 45 Highway.
A manager of the Price Chopper called 911. Parkville police officers arrived on the scene, where Crosthwait, who was 17 years old, was pronounced dead.
Ellis, Dougan, and third person in the car fled the scene and disposed of the gun in Kansas City, Kansas.
Earlier that evening, Crosthwait and another young man had gone to Dougan’s house where there was a dispute between that young man and Dougan over a girl and some money Dougan claimed the young man owed him. While at Dougan’s home, Dougan fired two shots at that young man from his Mossberg 30-30 caliber rifle.
Zahnd said that the evidence showed that Ellis made a telephone call to someone later in the evening in which he asked where Crosthwait and the other young man were and stated, “if we find them, we are going to kill them.” Less than 30 minutes later, Ellis pulled up to Crosthwait's car and Dougan shot Crosthwait, Zahnd said.
Ellis pleaded guilty to second degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon on October 27, 2011. Dougan earlier pleaded guilty to the same charges and is serving two life sentences.
Judge Abe Shafer sentenced Ellis to two concurrent 25-year sentences after hearing heartfelt statements from family members of Crosthwait and Ellis. Ellis also took the stand and tearfully apologized for his actions.
Zahnd said, “Judge Shafer had the unenviable job of deciding the sentence in a case that had tragic consequences for everyone involved. His sentence was just and will help Spencer’s family as they continue to grieve his loss.”
The case was investigated by the Parkville Police Department, with the assistance of the Riverside Department of Public Safety, Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, and Platte County Sheriff’s Department. It was personally prosecuted by Zahnd and Assistant Prosecutor Myles Perry.