TROY — The graphic details of how a man died following multiple physical altercations at a private party last year received their first public hearing on Thursday.
Jason W. Pantle, 42 at the time of his death on Sept. 28, 2019, suffered multiple skull fractures, possibly inflicted by human fists and/or falls to the ground triggered by blunt force trauma, according to testimony by Dr. Altaf Hossain of Frontier Forensics Midwest of Overland Park.
The forensic pathologist told Doniphan County Attorney Charles Baskins, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the state of Kansas, that he can’t conclusively determine what specifically caused Pantle’s injuries, which led to multiple instances of bleeding on the brain. However, he concluded that Pantle’s death constituted a homicide on the basis of his autopsy, thousands of which have previously been performed by Hossain.
Amid the incident, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which led the inquiry into the case, arrested Matthew “Cole” Scherer, Brian A. Spilman Jr. and Scott A. Vandeloo. The three are charged before the Doniphan County District Court based in Troy with second-degree murder in Pantle’s death. Spilman, as of Thursday evening, remains in custody at the Doniphan County Jail in Troy; the other two are free on bond.
According to eyewitness testimony presented Thursday, Pantle arrived in the company of others early in the morning on Sept. 22, 2019, at a private birthday party, which began the previous evening at a complex in the settlement of Doniphan, just north of the Atchison-Doniphan county line via River Road.
Witnesses described the party as a well-attended, joyful event with revelry, dancing and drinking, aided by stocks of Fireball whiskey and beer, enough for the dozens of celebrants present. People parked their vehicles on a grassy area outside a shop structure on the property, where most of the events took place; the shop is accessed via a large overhead door exiting onto a concrete slab and gravel area.
Witnesses consistently testified that Pantle’s group arrived without invitation, which helped inspire a confrontation that soon unraveled into violence. The circumstances of how that happened are a matter of dispute.
Carl E. Cornwell, attorney for defendant Cole Scherer, presented evidence — which Baskins asserted to be hearsay — alleging that Pantle declared upon his arrival that he had been drinking and using drugs, and wanted to fight people at the party. Whether or not Pantle said that, per witness testimony, the party’s hostess became concerned about Pantle’s presence as arguments broke out.
She asked him to leave, and he refused, rejecting her request with provocative language. Testimony indicates that the hostess, her mother — on whose behalf the party had been organized — and others left the property after this confrontation; they therefore didn’t witness most of the subsequent events that happened on Sept. 22.
After Pantle was asked to leave and refused, Vandeloo and Spilman confronted Pantle in an escalating series of incidents that ultimately saw Pantle caught up in struggles with each man. Witness testimony indicates that Spilman, Vandeloo and then Spilman again, in separate incidents, pushed or tackled Pantle to the ground outside the shop building and fought with him there; the degree to which Pantle fought back is a matter of dispute.
Ultimately, Pantle fell to the ground and hit his head on the concrete slab outside the shop; one witness said this happened after he was struck by Cole Scherer, an accusation Scherer's attorney called into question. Pantle lost consciousness at this time, witnesses said.
According to witness testimony, Vandeloo took a photo of Pantle after he had been brought inside the shop and leaned up against a couch, with the photo later being circulated among several people in a conversation group on social media. A group of people then moved Pantle to a resting position on the couch, before ultimately loading him into a private vehicle that some believed would take him to a hospital. No one called 911 for reasons that are a matter of dispute.
Despite this perception, Pantle didn’t receive immediate transport to the hospital for reasons that aren’t clear. According to testimony by the forensic pathologist, Dr. Hossain, the injuries he received on or about Sept. 22 produced circumstances that no one is likely to survive without immediate medical intervention. Attorney John Kurth, representing Vandeloo, presented a witness who reported various disturbances in the area of the place where Pantle was initially conveyed.
Pantle eventually received transport to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Various attempts to save his life were undertaken, including a removal of a piece of his skull to relieve pressure caused by blood on the brain, according to court testimony. However, he had been suffering from serious cranial injury and related trauma for some time, including damage to a hemisphere of his brain, and he died at the hospital.
Spilman and Vandeloo are next set to appear in court at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5. Scherer is scheduled to appear at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, in Troy.