‘Take a birthday’ – Missouri family’s sinister secret revealed

Missouri

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PROTEM, Mo. – Where is mom? Jessica Bullock was concerned when her mother, Rebecca Porter, would not pick up the phone on April 18, 2011. So, she made the 45-minute trip to the farm to see if she was OK. She could not find Rebecca or her new step-father Rusty.

Jessica called 911 and authorities made their way to the farmhouse. It wasn’t long before officers started detecting signs of a struggle.  The Porter’s front door was wide open and the keys to Rebecca’s car were left dangling in the ignition. However, what was most concerning to investigators was the unmistakable smell of bleach.  

A clue:

A tip on July 21, 2011, from an informant, led a Taney County Deputy to an area on Cedar Creek Road close to Protem, Missouri. He found two bodies.

“There is a lot of forest around here. No residences around here for about two miles. Where the bodies are it’s very difficult to get to,” said former Taney County Sheriff Jimmie Russell.

DNA testing confirmed what family members already feared. The bodies were identified as Rusty and Rebecca Porter.  An autopsy revealed both had been shot in the head, execution-style.  

Investigation

Throughout the investigation, one name seemed to be catching law enforcement’s attention. That name was Robert Campbell. Campbell is Rusty’s uncle and he had a reputation.

According to family members, there was a long-held tension between Rusty and his uncle. That tension only escalated when Rusty and Rebecca moved into the family farmhouse. According to trial testimony, Campbell was also suspicious that Rusty may have been spying on him, trying to show his uncle engaging in something illegal.

According to the probable cause statement, 18 days before the Porters’ disappearance Campbell was granted an order of protection from Rusty. He was also granted an order of protection from Campbell. Rebecca sought an order of protection from Campbell but her application was denied.

Police decided it was time to have a conversation with Campbell. He agreed to talk with the police and openly admitted the feud with Rusty. However, he denied that he would hurt Rusty or Rebecca.

During the interview, an officer asked Campbell if he thought Rusty and Rebecca were dead. According to court documents, Campbell responded they probably were dead and that “Rusty probably mouthed the wrong person.”

Campbell even had an alibi that put him 100 miles away from Willard at the time of the couple’s disappearance. It seemed Campbell was in the clear. The same could not be said for Tony Friend.

Who is Tony Friend?

Authorities received a tip from a jailhouse informant claiming he’d been approached by a man named Tony Friend who revealed that he was going to kill the Porters.

Authorities started looking into the tip and found not only a lengthy record of violent crimes but also evidence Friend had been near the Porters’ home. Friend’s phone records put him near the house on the night they disappeared.

Throughout the investigation, authorities learned that Tony Friend was just one of a few involved in the Porters’ murder.

The co-conspirators:

  1. Windy Friend (Tony’s wife)
  2. Phillip Friend (Tony’s son)
  3. Dusty Hicks (Tony’s cousin)

Take a birthday

Phillip told detectives his dad came to him and said he had a job to “take a birthday.” This is a phrase used when someone wants a person killed. He also told police that his dad was hired to do the job by Rusty’s uncle, Robert.

The night of the abduction

According to police, Tony, Dusty, and Phillip broke into the farmhouse while Windy waited in the car. Court records show the Porters were ambushed and bound with zip ties. Both Rusty and Rebecca were led to the car.

Windy was dropped off at the house and then they drove to Cedar Creek. Phillip told police he and Dusty waited in the car while Tony led the couple to a cabin. The next thing Phillip heard was two gunshots.

Police looked through Robert’s and Tony’s phone records again and realized the two had been in constant contact before and after the murders.

The trial

Robert Campbell’s son, Tim, who was incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corrections for receiving stolen property, testified at the trial.

According to Tim, Rebecca’s family had refurbished the family farmhouse. Campbell, his wife, Carolyn, and their three sons became jealous of the fact the Porter’s moved into the family farmhouse.

Tim also revealed an altercation between Campbell and Rusty that happened just one month before the couple’s disappearance.

Robert Campbell_2849982179847983059
Mugshot of Robert Campbell

According to the court documents, Tim had to separate Robert and Rusty when the two men were in a heated, verbal altercation. As Campbell and Tim were leaving in a truck, Campbell turned to his son and said, “That boy’s days are numbered.”

Phillip, Tony’s son, explained to investigators that he respected his father out of fear and not love. He was not excited to participate in the kidnapping of the Porters and even told his father no at first.

Tony told Phillip that they, “were going to take them and scare them into moving.”

In the end, Phillip says he participated in the kidnapping because “I was given the
ultimatum, it was my family or theirs.”

Tony Friend pled guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Dusty Hicks was given two life sentences. Windy Friend took her case to trial and was sentenced to life in prison. Phillip testified against his co-conspirators and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

In 2016, Robert Campbell received two consecutive life sentences. He denied any involvement in the murders.

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