A motorist who previously served time for murder was charged Thursday with fatally stabbing a Missouri Air National Guard member in an apparent road rage incident over the weekend, prosecutors said.
Cody M. Harter, 23, was fatally stabbed on Saturday on an interstate roadside in Lee's Summit, Missouri, a Kansas City suburb. Several witnesses said Harter had his hands in the air, and had backed away during the confrontation.
Nicholas M. Webb, 58, of Pleasant Hill, Missouri, was taken into custody on Wednesday after police identified him as a suspect, authorities said. Webb has been charged with second-degree murder, which is a felony, and armed criminal action.
He was being held on a $250,000 cash bond. It wasn't immediately clear if Webb had an attorney.
"We are here because such an innocent life was taken through such a horrendous way, and none of us have an answer as to why," Jackson County, Missouri Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Thursday in announcing the charges. "We couldn't possibly give that to you, not one that would make any sense because there's no reason that this should've ended this way, with this young man dying, especially when his hands were up in a position of surrender."
Lee's Summit police first responded to Interstate 470 to a report of a man on the ground, authorities said. Harter had suffered a stab wound to the heart, according to a statement of probable cause.
Surveillance video showed Harter's maroon pick-up truck and Webb's gray four-door sedan traveling northbound at various times and locations in Lee's Summit on Saturday, court papers said.
An unidentified witness told police they saw Harter's pick-up truck stopped in a lane of traffic, blocking the roadway, according to a probable cause statement. The suspect's vehicle had also stopped in the same lane and parked next to the victim's vehicle, according to the witness. The suspect got out of his vehicle, approached the victim and "swung" at him with his right fist, but missed, according to the witness.
That witness said Harter put both of his hands up in the air as he was retreating backwards, according to court papers.
Another witness said they saw Webb "shove" Harter, who had his hands up and was backing away from the suspect, according to court papers.
A confidential informant helped police zero in on Webb, who authorities discovered was the registered owner of the same car one witness recalled speeding past them after Webb and Harter crossed paths on the interstate roadside, according to court papers.
Hours after the fatal stabbing, Webb was arrested in Liberty, Missouri, on drug possession charges and driving under the influence, according to court records. A knife was found in Webb's pocket at the time of that arrest.
Police picked up Webb on Wednesday after staking out his Pleasant Hill home, authorities said.
Webb told police he had exchanged words with the driver of the pick-up truck over the merging lane, and acknowledged getting out of his vehicle, authorities said. Webb told police Harter looked familiar but said he did not kill or hurt Harter, "adding that the incident was no big deal to him," according to court papers.
Webb was sentenced to 35 years in prison for a second-degree murder in 1981, according to Baker. He was released after serving 15 years, the prosecutor said.
Harter had served in Iraq and Qatar. As a member of the Missouri Air National Guard, he also helped with hurricane relief in Houston and Puerto Rico.
Harter attended school while running a lawn-care business and had driven down to Kansas City to pick up a new lawnmower.
He was engaged to be married, his mother, Kerrie Harter, said.
"He knew great joy," she said. "He brought us love."