Cleophus King: Life Sentence For Man Who Killed County Counselor In Violent Plot

Cleophus-King.jpg
Cleophus King.
On March 6, 2008, St. Louis County Counselor Luke Meiners agreed to take Ronald Johnson to the house of Cleophus King -- because Johnson said he needed to do his laundry there. Johnson and King, who were once lovers, had a different plan.

They had plotted to rob Meiners. When they arrived at King's home, a fight broke out and the two men tried to rob Meiners -- who struggled for more than fourteen minutes. He was beaten, stabbed, strangled and cut multiple times before he died.

This is the violent account that the St. Louis circuit attorney's office gives in its announcement that King has officially been sentenced to life in prison without parole -- an end to a very bizarre case in which King's accomplice confessed and testified against his former lover.

As we reported last year, Johnson, 25, confessed to the crime. He and King, he said, had fatally stabbed and strangled Meiners in the Forest Park-DeBaliviere neighborhood in 2008. They dumped his body in the river, stole his car and ran up his credit cards.

Johnson offered this confession as part of a deal with prosecutors. He would avoid the death penalty and spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole, in exchange for offering testimony against King, 46.

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via
Luke Meiners (left) was murdered in 2008. Ronald Johnson (center) and Cleophus King (right) have both been handed life sentences.

This week, it was King's turn for sentencing -- and the decision is not all that surprising. Both men, it seems, will spend their whole lives behind bars.

Here's an excerpt of the circuit attorney's description posted yesterday of the 2008 crime:

King and Johnson wrapped Meiner's body in sheets and duct tape, placed it into Meiner's Jeep and drove the body to Venice, Illinois where they dumped it into a vacant lot near an old train line. After dumping Meiner's body, the two men went back to the victim's apartment. They stole his laptop and other electronics.

Over the next few days, they also used Meiner's credit card at stores located in St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

A neighbor's surveillance system, officials say, had recorded much of the incident. It captured the fight between the men -- and Meiner's cries for help.

cleophus-king-1.jpg
Cleophus King.

An even creepier detail in the case from the circuit attorney: "While awaiting trial, Johnson admitted that King was going to try to intimidate a witness for the prosecution and King was trying to find a way to have Rachel Smith, the assistant circuit attorney handling the case, killed."

On Tuesday, King admitted his guilt and "accepted responsibility for the heinous crime," officials say.

Here's the full announcement from the circuit attorney:

On Tuesday, Cleophus King was sentenced to life in prison without possibility for parole for the murder of St. Louis County Counselor Luke Meiners.

On March 6, 2008, Meiners had agreed to take Ronald Johnson to Cleophus King's house at Johnson's request. Johnson led Meiner to believe that Johnson needed to do his laundry there. In reality, Johnson and King discussed robbing Meiners that night. Shortly after arriving at King's place, a fight ensued after King and Johnson attempted to rob Meiners. Meiners struggled against King and Johnson for over 14 minutes. He was beaten, stabbed, strangled and cut multiple times before he died.

King and Johnson wrapped Meiner's body in sheets and duct tape, placed it into Meiner's Jeep and drove the body to Venice, Illinois where they dumped it into a vacant lot near an old train line.
After dumping Meiner's body, the two men went back to the victim's apartment. They stole his laptop and other electronics.
Over the next few days, they also used Meiner's credit card at stores located in St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

What King and Johnson didn't know was that a neighbor's surveillance system had recorded much of the incident. The video and audio equipment from March 6 and March 7 captured the fight between the men as well as Meiner's screams and cries for help.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office filed charges against King and Johnson. Both men were charged with first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action and first-degree robbery. Prosecutors said that King and Johnson were in a relationship and, prior to the murder, the two men had discussed the fact that Meiners was an attorney and he might have assets worth stealing.

While awaiting trial, Johnson admitted that King was going to try to intimidate a witness for the prosecution and King was trying to find a way to have Rachel Smith, the assistant circuit attorney handling the case, killed.

King's co-defendant, Ronald Johnson, pleaded guilty to all four counts and in December 2012 was sentenced to life without parole.

On May 21, 2013, King admitted his guilt and accepted responsibility for the heinous crime. He agreed to life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole for the first-degree murder as well as 15-year sentences on the remaining counts to run concurrently with life without parole. The majority of the victim's family was aligned with this agreement.

The same day, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Steven Ohmer sentenced King to life in prison without possibility of parole and 15-years on the remaining counts to run concurrently.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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2 comments
Bill Hughes
Bill Hughes

Did you hear Laura's Nashville story at MPC? Oh, you were locked-up at the time. I was on 3E. 5351 Delmar, sir. Working, NOT the patient!!!

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