A Missouri sheriff and two of his deputies are facing charges of kidnapping, conspiracy and criminal street gang activity, alleging they tried to help a man kidnap his daughter after an argument with her female.
Jeff Burkett, 46, the sheriff of Iron County, about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis, was arrested Thursday along with deputies Matthew Cozad and Chase Bresnahan and father, Donald Gaston.
According to charging documents cited by NBC St. Louis affiliate KSDK, it all started in February when Burkett, Gaston, Bresnahan and Cozad tried to help Gaston kidnap his daughter after an argument between Gaston and the mother of her daughter.
The suspects called 911 to have the mother arrested and put a “stop and hold” notice on her file so that if the police arrested her, she would be detained, the outlet reported. They monitored the mother and daughter’s locations via their cell phones.
The sheriff reportedly told 911 dispatchers that the mother was intoxicated and had abducted her injured daughter. The dispatcher heard a man’s voice say the same thing, “as if the unidentified man was telling Burkett what to say,” the outlet reported, citing court documents.
Burkett’s attorney, Gabe Crocker, told The Associated Press the charges were politically motivated. “It’s small town politics,” Crocker said. “This is a continuation of a long-running effort to remove this sheriff from office.”
It’s unclear if Gaston, Cozad and Bresnahan have attorneys, the AP reported.
According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol press release, all four face charges of knowingly participating in gang activity and conspiracy. Burkett and Gason are also charged with attempted kidnapping, harassment and false reporting. Additional charges against Burkett and Bresnahan include obtaining criminal background information under a false pretense and misusing 911. Cozad faces an additional charge of aiding and abetting harassment.
Burkett is in custody on $500,000 bond. The others were jailed on $400,000 bonds.
Burkett, a 2020 Republican elected, was hospitalized with COVID-19 for nearly four months, including time on a ventilator. He was hospitalized this month with ongoing complications, according to a news release from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. His mugshot shows him with an oxygen line.
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