AWOL Soldier and the Murdered Child Bride


When Justin Cannon of Peculiar bonded out of a rural Missouri jail last year on a murder charge, he didn't report back to the Army on time.

But they have him now. On Friday, the state of Missouri dismissed the charge and the Army filed its own against the 22-year-old soldier.

He is accused of killing a man last summer by smashing a rock against his head during a campout at Truman Lake. According to court documents, Cannon was mad at the victim, Michael Griggs, for having sex with his wife while Cannon was away with the Army.

Cannon's Facebook page made reference to him having served in Afghanistan.

An Army charge sheet filed Friday shows Cannon faces military charges of murder, failing to report for duty, impeding an investigation and lying to authorities.

He is at Fort Leavenworth, officials said.

In July 2011, Cannon had returned to the Kansas City area from his base in Georgia to attend the funeral of his 16-year-old wife, who had been found dead at a Grandview motel. Her mother said she had gone to the motel with friends so they could use the swimming pool.

An autopsy showed Amber Cannon died of acute alprazolam intoxication. A Belton woman is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the teen's death. Authorities say she provided the girl with the drugs that killed her.

Court documents for the state case say Griggs, 24, had gone to Truman Lake with six friends the weekend of Amber Cannon's funeral. It's unclear whether Justin Cannon had gone with the group or showed up later. Griggs could not be found the next morning.

Others in the group told investigators that Griggs and Cannon had a verbal altercation during the night about Griggs' relations with Amber Cannon.

Cannon said he saw Griggs headed to the restroom early that morning, but did not see him return.

Later that day, as Cannon cried at his wife's funeral, authorities searched Truman Lake for Griggs. When they found his body, they summoned Cannon back down to St. Clair County for more questioning. Court documents say he then admitted to sneaking up on Griggs and throwing a rock, which hit Griggs in the back of the head.

Cannon then carried the body into the lake to hide it, the documents say.

County prosecutors charged Cannon with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. His trial was set for Feb. 5 in Clinton, Mo.

Four days before Christmas, Cannon posted bond but did not return to his unit. The charge sheet indicates he didn't report until June 8. Recently, Army officials conferred with St. Clair County Prosecuting Attorney Joleene Simmons about transferring the case.

Because of jury instruction and jury makeup, she said, military prosecutors have an advantage.

Simmons dismissed the state charges without prejudice, meaning she could refile the charges later.

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