Family Pleads for Tips in Road Rage Stabbing of National Guard Member

Crime scene boundary tape. Getty Images
Crime scene boundary tape. Getty Images

Holding hands and breaking down in tears, a grieving family pleaded for help Sunday in finding the man who stabbed and killed Cody M. Harter, a Missouri Air National Guard member, during an act of road rage this past weekend in Lee's Summit.

"It was senseless," said Harter's mother, Kerrie Harter. "He's been to war and back. And to die because someone was angry."

Cody Harter, 23, of St. Joseph was fatally stabbed about 7:30 p.m. Saturday along northbound Missouri 291 at the merger of Interstate 470 in Lee's Summit.

His family, along with his girlfriend and a friend, gathered at the Lee's Summit police headquarters Sunday afternoon to ask for help finding his killer. Police are investigating his death as a homicide but had no description of a suspect on Sunday.

Kerrie Harter said her son always drove 65 mph because he was frugal with his gas money.

"I can only imagine that someone was upset because he wasn't going fast enough," she said. "Is that a reason to take his life?"

Harter was a loadmaster with the Missouri Air National Guard. He did a tour in Iraq and was in Qatar, his mother said. He also helped with the hurricane relief in Houston and Puerto Rico.

"He loved everyone," she said. "He would help anybody."

He was one semester away from receiving a degree in technical engineering from Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

He ran his own lawn care business and was a novice dirt bike racer.

"He'd spend his weekends at the track, and he'd have so much fun," his mother said. "He even broke his finger in half one time, but he still got back on his bike."

Harter liked mowing because he could do it when he wanted and keep his weekends free for the track. Harter was in the Lee's Summit area replacing a mower that had blown up on Friday.

"He called me at 7:18 and we had a six-minute conversation," said his girlfriend, Shelby Berkemeier. "Shortly thereafter is when they reported him stabbed."

The family was grateful for the motorists who stopped and tried to help him and made sure he was not alone.

"My son did not die alone, even though whoever did this you left him out there to die alone," said Kerri Harter.

Berkemeier also thanked those who were around him praying for him.

"That means the world to me," she said. "Thank you for reaching out. It just makes my heart warm in a dark place right now."

Police are still trying to piece together what happened on Saturday evening.

Drivers alerted police to the area after seeing Harter stumbling into traffic. When officers arrived, they found Harter collapsed on the road with a stab wound to the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A preliminary investigation indicates that Harter had gotten into some type of confrontation with another man while in traffic on northbound Missouri 291 south of the merger with I-470, according to Sgt. Chris Depue, a spokesman for the Lee's Summit Police Department.

Witnesses told police they saw two vehicles on the shoulder and two men arguing, Depue said.

At one point, the men went onto the shoulder behind the vehicles, and that's when police believe Harter was stabbed. Harter then stumbled to the front of the vehicle and collapsed into traffic, Depue said.

The man Harter argued with fled north on I-470.

Police released a photo of Harter's truck, a maroon 2003 Chevrolet Z71 Silverado extended-cab pickup, in the hope that people would recognize it and call with information, having remembered what they saw. Harter was hauling a large commercial mower in the bed of his truck, which was found on the shoulder of the highway.

"Hundreds of cars would have passed by and saw this or maybe this disturbance take place on 291 Highway or possibly saw the actual incident along 470," Depue said. "What we're asking people to do is come forward and help this wonderful family get closure and help us bring them justice in this case."

There was no indication of any damage to Harter's truck nor that Harter had a weapon. Police think it was a fistfight that turned deadly.

"We think it's truly just one of those stupid incidents of road rage where someone lost their temper and did something really stupid," Depue said.

Police are trying to put together a description of the man's vehicle, but they need more witnesses to come forward.

"I think what we are going to see is that all of our witnesses saw one little piece," Depue said. "When we can assemble those 100 pieces to this puzzle, it's going to become very clear. There's so many good cameras along that highway, there's so many people who would have been driving by, there's no reason we couldn't solve this case quickly. "

Anyone who might have seen the incident, or saw Harter or his assailant traveling in the area, is asked to call Lee's Summit police at the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.

Harter's family also urged people to call in with information.

"If you saw anything, even if you think it was nothing, please call," she pleaded. "Please call. They'll put the pieces together. Let's find who did this senseless act so that you're not sitting here when it's your child. Please call. Please."

Harter's sister, Kylee Harter, urged her brother's killer to turn himself in.

"He did not deserve this," she said. "And we don't deserve the pain that came with it."

This article is written by Robert A. Cronkleton from The Kansas City Star and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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