An Adair County jury found Danny Welte guilty of shooting his wife on the evening after the funeral of their son, who committed suicide.

After one day of testimony and about two and a half hours of juror deliberations, Danny Welte was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of his estranged wife.


Welte was also convicted Wednesday of armed criminal action for the shooting death of Echo Welte.


She was shot in the back of the head Nov. 17, 2016, in the parking lot of the Kirksville Days Inn, dying at the scene. Now more than three years later, Adair County Prosecutor Matt Wilson believes the first step of justice has been reached.


"When you’re an active player in the criminal justice system, you have to trust the system," said Wilson after the verdict was announced. "That means you have to trust the jurors, you have to trust your law enforcement, judges, defense attorneys. All of us have to work together and the system does what it does. So that is what the system decided: justice today."


The trial had been delayed several times, most recently in May.


With several witnesses and security cameras at the hotel showing what happened, Wilson believed it was clear that Welte committed the crime. The main issue at trial came down to Welte’s intent, whether it was premeditated or a crime of the moment.


The day’s testimony painted a picture of that night.


In the lead-up to the crime, the Weltes were in the midst of divorcing when their son, Danny Welte Jr., committed suicide. The two parents hadn’t spoken with each other for some time until the funeral on Nov. 17, five days after their son’s death.


Hours after the funeral, Echo Welte and several family members, including daughter Bethany Wellman, returned to the Kirksville Days Inn where they were staying, planning to swim.


While they were swimming, Wellman testified that Danny Welte texted her, asking what they were doing and where Echo Welte was. She said they were swimming and that Echo Welte was upstairs in her room, and later said Echo Welte was outside smoking.


At 8:53 p.m., Danny Welte arrived at Days Inn and pulled alongside Echo Welte. At 9:26, Wellman and her fiancee, Andrew, went outside to their truck to get Andrew’s phone charger. She said they heard her parents arguing, but returned to her hotel room just a few minutes later.


Wellman, who always referred to her father as the defendant during the trial, returned to her room and fell asleep. Her fiance woke her up during the night saying Danny Welte was calling her, and she answered.


Danny Welte apologized to her, she testified, and said he loved her. Wellman asked what he was apologizing for and where he was, but Danny Welte wouldn’t answer and then hung up.


Wellman then ran to Echo Welte’s room. Her younger brother told her she wasn’t inside, which prompted Wellman to run outside to the hotel parking lot. When she made it outside, she saw emergency responders attempting CPR on her mom.


"I was so impressed (with Wellman)," Wilson said, choking up and fighting tears as he spoke. "Being the oldest and having to be there — hearing her testify how she went to her mom’s hotel room to see if her mom was there, having her younger siblings answer the door, and then having to essentially lie to them — knowing that the worst-case scenario is likely.


"I could not imagine being in those shoes. And then having to come and relive it, not only today but through the process. … For a young person her age to have the ability to stand in front of a courtroom and to have cameras on her — and have the man who killed her mom sitting there in front of her — for her to be able to talk about those things she has to have a tremendous amount of strength."


The evidence showed the Weltes argued for several hours inside of her GMC Yukon. At 10:42 p.m., Days Inn security cameras showed the vehicle’s lights flash on and off before a bystander ran to the car.


James Dykes, a native of Tulsa, Okla., was in Kirksville doing mechanical work at Kraft at the time. He was outside smoking and talking to his wife on the phone when he heard cries for help, he said. He ran over and saw Echo Welte sitting in the driver’s side of the car with Danny Welte hunched over her.


Dykes pulled him away as Echo Welte said Danny was trying to kill her.


Dykes tried to hurry Echo Welte back into the hotel when Danny Welte ran past him and shot her in the back of the head. Before that fatal shot and before Dykes arrived, Welte exited the vehicle to get his gun. He fired once and his gun jammed and had to clear the weapon four times.


That was the key point for Wilson in his effort to prove Danny Welte was of sound mind when he committed the crime.


"There was a very conscious decision made by the defendant," Wilson said in his closing arguments. "He acted deliberately. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. How many times did the defendant have an opportunity to walk away? Even after he had the gun. Once when he had approached Echo, pulled the trigger and it jammed. Or the second time when he had to clear it, or the third time when he had to clear it, or the fourth time he had to clear it."


Danny Welte fled the scene, later making a call to former girlfriend, Amy Elschlager. She testified that Danny Welte didn’t seem right and told her goodbye. She pressed him from there, thinking he and Echo Welte had reconciled and gotten back together.


"We’re always honest with one another, and I said, ‘You can tell me if you got back together.’ And he’s like, ‘That’s not what happened.’ And he was like, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ But he was so upset. I just wanted to know what was happening and he just said she was gone," Elschlager said.


Authorities obtained Welte’s phone number through interviews at the crime scene and made contact with him soon after. His surrender was negotiated and he arrived to Kirksville Police Department headquarters around 12:30 a.m.


Welte’s defense team called no witnesses and provided no new evidence on Wednesday.


In his first court appearance in 2017, Welte pleaded not guilty to a class A felony charge of murder in the first degree and felony armed criminal action.


Sentencing is set for May 4. The second-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Wilson said he will seek life in prison for the murder conviction and 20 years for the armed criminal action conviction.