LACLEDE COUNTY, Mo. – A man from Camdenton has been charged in the death of a Lebanon woman whose body was found on Sept. 26.
The Laclede County Sheriff’s Office said the woman was involved in a deadly crash on the day she was released from a Missouri prison. She was in a car with the stepson of a man she had exchanged letters with while behind bars.
Robert Eugene Nyman is charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, relating to the death of Hope Arnold. Deputies say Arnold was spotted on video in a car with Nyman less than a half hour before the rollover crash that killed her. Investigators also said they believe others helped dump Arnold’s body.
Crash, car fire in Laclede County on Sept. 9
Two calls came into Laclede County dispatch on the afternoon of Sept. 9, and the callers said there was a single-car rollover crash on Route 66 in the area south of Jefferson Avenue and east of Interstate 44.
The callers told dispatchers a man got out of the crashed vehicle and picked up a bleeding woman from the road and placed her in a white truck before driving away. One of the callers took down the license plate number of the truck.
When Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers arrived to investigate, they found the black car that crashed engulfed in flames. That car was registered to a man named Donivan Ruben Knapp, who died in August of 2022. No one was inside or at the scene.
Discovery of Hope Arnold’s body
On the morning of Sept. 26, Laclede County dispatchers received a call that there was a human arm lying in the driveway on Route 66 where the Sept. 9 crash happened.
Deputies searched the area and found a woman’s body in a ditch about 100 feet from where the crash happened. Deputies said the body was decomposed and was partially hidden by trees and plants.
As deputies continued their investigation of the area, they found multiple documents that identified the deceased woman as Hope Arnold.
Putting the pieces together
Arnold had been released from the prison in Chillicothe, Missouri the morning of the Sept. 9 crash. The documents showed Arnold took a Greyhound bus from the Kansas City area to Springfield and arrived in Springfield just before 9 a.m. that day.
Also found at the crash site and near Arnold’s body were handwritten letters indicating a romantic relationship between Arnold and a man named Donivan Ruben Knapp.
It was Knapp’s car that was found burning at the crash site on Sept. 9 when Highway Patrol Troopers responded.
An autopsy conducted on Arnold’s body showed she died from injuries “consistent with a violent motor vehicle crash.”
Arrest of Robert Nyman
Investigators reviewed video from a convenience store on Route 66 from the day of the crash. It showed Arnold in the car driven by Knapp’s stepson Robert Nyman.
Deputies said Nyman bought alcoholic drinks at the store, then returned to the car to drink them, according to the video.
The camera then recorded a different man and woman arriving at the store in a white Chevrolet truck, which matched the license plate the person who called 911 on Sept. 9.
Surveillance video then showed both the car, driven by Nyman with Arnold as the passenger and the white truck, with a man and woman inside, pulling out onto Route 66. This happened 21 minutes before the crash was reported.
Why the Sheriff said more people could be arrested
Laclede County investigators found the white truck and the man and woman who were inside it on Sept. 29. The man and woman told investigators they took Nyman and Arnold, who was injured to an address in Pulaski County.
The Missouri Highway Patrol Fatality Crash Team is assisting Laclede County with the investigation.
“We are still working the case and other charges are possible and we believe others assisted in the dumping of Hope’s body in an effort to conceal Nyman’s involvement in the crash,“ said Sheriff David Millsap in a news release.
According to the Laclede County Sheriff’s Department, Nyman had 11 felony convictions and was on probation at the time of this incident.
Nyman is in the Laclede County Jail. He is being held with no bond on five probation warrants the court issued on Friday and a $25,000 bond on the Leaving the Scene of An Accident charge.