A man who served several years in prison for the murder of a 15-year-old girl has been arrested in the road rage stabbing death of a Missouri Air National Guardsman. Nicholas Webb was taken into custody on May 10, five days after Senior Airman Cody Harter was left for dead on the side of a highway, WDAF-TV reports.
Webb, 58, of Pleasant Hill, was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action by the Lee’s Summit Police Department. He is being held on $500,000 bail. Harter, of St. Joseph, Missouri, was 23.
“It was senseless. He’s been to war and back. And to die because someone was angry,” his mother, Kerrie Harter, said at a press conference Sunday. 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. Is that a reason to take his life? And leave him there?”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said at a press conference, “It’s such a tragic ending to such a minor infraction. There’s no reason this should have ended this way with this young man dying, especially when his hands were up in a position of surrender.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Harter Was Stabbed Once in the Chest & Witnesses Say He Had His Arms in the Air When He Was Attacked
Cody Harter, a senior airman, served tours in Iraq and Qatar and recently helped with hurricane relief in Houston and Puerto Rico as part of his Air National Guard service, his family said. The reservist was stabbed once in the chest during the incident, which occurred about 7:30 p.m. on May 5 in the northbound lanes of Missouri Route 291 at the merger to Interstate 470 just north of Colbern Road, Lee’s Summit Police said.
Witnesses told police he was “possibly involved in a road rage altercation and that just prior to being stabbed they saw the victim’s truck stopped in traffic with another vehicle stopped in front of it.” The witnesses told police they saw two men arguing outside the vehicles, but were only able to give a vague description of the suspect vehicle after it fled following the stabbing, according to the press release. Police said drivers called 911 after seeing Harter stumbling into traffic and collapsing with a stab wound to his chest. Harter was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to KSHB-TV, multiple witnesses told police that Harter had his hands in the air as he was stabbed.
Harter had driven down to Kansas City to pick up a new lawnmower for his landscaping business and was on his way back home when he was killed. “He called his mom on the way home and said, ‘I love you. I’ll be home in just a bit,'” his father, Michael, said at the press conference on Sunday.
“Our initial calls came in as possibly a fatality crash, we thought maybe a pedestrian had been hit by a car. It was later updated to possibly a shooting,” Lee’s Summit Police Sergeant Chris Depue told reporters at the press conference, where he stood behind Harter’s family and girlfriend. “When the officers got there they found it was a stabbing victim.”
2. Webb Was Arrested on the Same Day of the Murder in Another City on DUI & Drug Charges
Nicholas Manford Webb was arrested on the same day of the murder in Liberty, Missouri, on charges of driving under the influence and drug possession, KSHB-TV reports. Liberty is about 25 miles north of Lee’s Summit, where Cody Harter was killed. According to the news station, Lee’s Summit investigators learned that Webb had a knife in his pants pocket during that arrest in Liberty and his vehicle matched the description of one spotted at the scene of Harter’s death.
According to court documents obtained by WDAF-TV, surveillance video from businesses near where the stabbing occurred showed Harter’s truck and Webb’s car on the highway. Police received a tip from a confidential source on Wednesday that the suspect was possibly Webb. According to court documents, investigators surveilled Webb’s home and then saw him arriving there in a car that matched the description given by multiple witnesses. He was then arrested.
Webb told police had “a couple of drinks,” earlier in the day of the stabbing. But he said there was no pushing or fighting during the incident with Harter. Webb told police he was trying to get around Harter’s truck, but it was “no big deal,” and said he did not kill Harter.
According to the Kansas City Star, Webb told police that the incident began over a dispute over a merging lane.
“Webb admitted the other driver yelled at him ‘Hey, this is a merging lane,’ ” according to court documents obtained by the Star. “Webb admitted the other driver’s truck slowed down and then he slowed down. He said the truck then stopped, so he stopped at which time the other driver got out of his truck and stated that it was a merging lane, but the other driver really did not seem all that mad.”
Police were confident they could crack the case.
“Literally 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. 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,” Sergeant Depue told reporters.
Depue said that there is no indication that Harter had a weapon.
“We think it’s truly just one of those stupid incidents of road rage where someone lost their temper and did something really stupid.I think what we are going to see is that all of our witnesses saw one little piece. 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. ”
3. Webb Was Convicted of Second-Degree Murder for Strangling a 15-Year-Old Girl in 1980
Nicholas Webb was convicted in 1981 of second-degree murder for a killing in Belton, Missouri, according to court records. Webb admitted to strangling a 15-year-old girl, WDAF-TV reports. Further details of that case were not immediately available. Online records show that he was sentenced to 37 years in prison. He has been out of prison since July 2017.
Webb had been held at the Tipton Correctional Center in Tipton, Missouri, prior to his release. Records show that he also goes by the names Nick Webb, Nicholas Walsh, Nicky Walsh and Nick Walsh.
According to KMBC-TV, Webb was in prison on the murder conviction from 1981 until 1996. Webb was then in and out of prison up until last year as a result of parole violations. He went back into prison a year later, in 1997, and was released for a second time in December 2003.
Webb was then taken back into custody in 2005 and remained in prison until July 2017.
4. Harter’s Family & Girlfriend Thanked Bystanders Who Stayed With Him as He Died, While Calling the Suspect a ‘Monster’ for Fleeing
Cody Harter’s girlfriend, Shelby Berkemeier, told reporters that she talked to him just before he was stabbed to death. “He called me at 7:18 and we had a six-minute conversation. Shortly thereafter is when they reported him stabbed,” she said. Berkemeier and Harter’s family are grateful that Harter did not die alone. Witnesses rushed to his aid and stayed with him until authorities arrived, Harter’s girlfriend said in a Facebook post.
“This wonderful person reached out to me to let us know Cody wasn’t alone in his final moments. He was surrounded by people praying for him, and I can’t tell you how warm this made me feel in this terrible time. Bless everyone who was there,” Berkemeier wrote. She also shared the message that one of the women who stayed with him, Keri, wrote to her, which said, “I’m so sorry for your loss and such a senseless act. I want you and his parents to know that he was surrounded by people praying for him and talking to him when he passed. He wasn’t alone. I am so so sorry. It was important for my husband and I to find someone connected to him and let them know. I’m so sorry.”
His mother, Kerrie Harter, told reporters, “I want to thank all the people that stopped and held his hand and prayed with him. My son did not die alone, even though whoever did this you left him out there to die alone. He did not, he was with people. Please if you know, just don’t let him be a number. Please come forward and say something. Anything.”
Berkemeier added, “That means the world to me. Thank you for reaching out. It just makes my heart warm in a dark place right now.”
She told reporters, “He was the love of my life.”
On Facebook, she wrote, “I don’t really have any words left. I’m so mad someone took you from us. My heart aches at the thought of every plan we had for out future that is now just gone. You were my ride or die, you were the love of my life. We were supposed to make it.”
Harter’s family pleaded for anyone with information to come forward.
“If you saw anything, even if you think it was nothing, please call,” Kerri Harter said at the press conference. “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.”
She encouraged people to go to her Facebook page, which you can go to here, and to see “the photos of my son and the videos of my son and let him make you smile and laugh. Please help us find who did this. I don’t want another mother to sit here.”
Michael Harter, Cody’s father, said at the press conference, “Any little detail would help the police in this investigation. Anything that you might think is not important or just trivial, anything you can add could help be a piece of this puzzle.”
Harter’s sister, Kylee Harter, urged his killer to turn himself in, telling reporters, “I think you’re a monster. Not only did you take my brother’s life, but you took everything from us. He brought so much joy to everyone he met. He was so funny, he was just the best person anyone could have ever met. I can’t even think of anything negative about him. … He did not deserve this. And we don’t deserve the pain that came with it.”
Berkemeier’s friends started a GoFundMe campaign to help his family. You can make a donation here.
5. Harter Was Remembered for Having ‘the Biggest Heart’ & as Proud to Have Served in the Military
Harter’s mother said that her son was a loadmaster with the Missouri Air National Guard and was one semester away from completing his degree in technical engineering from Missouri Western State University. He also ran his own lawn care business and raced dirt bikes, his mother said. “He loved everyone. He would help anybody,” she told the newspaper. “He’d spend his weekends at the track, and he’d have so much fun. He even broke his finger in half one time, but he still got back on his bike.”
Harter posted on Facebook just hours before his death about his plans to find a place to ride his dirt bike. “Trying to get some laps in somewhere before the weekend? Any place open?” he wrote.
“He brought us great joy. He knew great joy. He knew love. Shelby on the left, that was his girlfriend, they were going to be married,” Kerrie Harter told reporters as her son’s girlfriend broke down crying. “He has a sister here that was his best friend. His first best friend. He was not just a number. He was a person. He is my love. He knew love from all of us. He knew adventure. He knew kindness. But now we know love and loss.”
Harter, who enlisted in 2012, was assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard’s 180th Airlift Squadron. Kerrie Harter said her son came from a military family. Both her and her husband served in the Air National Guard. He joined along with his friend, Armando, who was with the family at Sunday’s press conference. “We are a military family and we served proudly. And he wanted to do that as well,” Kerrie Harter said.
On Facebook, the Missouri National Guard wrote, “The Missouri National Guard is sad to learn of the death of Senior Airman Cody Michael Harter, who served as a loadmaster with the 180th Airlift Squadron, 139th Airlift Wing, at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, in St. Joseph. Our thoughts and prayers are with SrA Harter’s family and loved ones, as well as his fellow Guardsmen who served alongside him.”
Harter’s mother said her son would have turned 24 this year, in September. “He wouldn’t hurt a flea.” His father, Michael, said, “if there was a spider in the house, he would get a playing card and a cup and catch the spider and take it out and release it, because he didn’t want to kill it.”
His mother told reporters, “He brought Shelby home ducks for Easter and then raised them for awhile before they went to a farm. I have photos of him with the little ducks sitting on his shoulder. He loved tattoos, even though he knew his mother didn’t want him to get tattoos. So the first one he got was a heart that said ‘mom,’ because he figured ‘if I bought that one first, she wouldn’t mind the rest of them.’ I keep waiting for someone to tell me it’s not true. And I’m going to wake up from this, but I’m not.”
His family and girlfriend shared several stories about the kindness and love Cody showed people everyday, including strangers. His sister said one time he was driving with his girlfriend and saw an older woman outside in the snow. He stopped and shoveled her driveway. Another time he was at the dirt bike track and a little boy’s bicycle chain broke. He took the time away from riding his dirt bike to help fix it for him.
“He had the biggest heart,” his sister, Kylee, said.