Police Accused of Helping Man Abduct His Daughter After Argument With His Wife
The sheriff and two deputies of Iron County, Missouri, face multiple felony charges.
A Missouri county sheriff and his deputies were charged with multiple felonies in connection with a February scheme to aid a fourth man track down his wife and abduct his daughter after an argument. The fourth man was also charged. Iron County Sheriff Jeff Burkett; Deputies Chase Bresnahan and Matt Cozad; and Iron County resident Donald "Rick" Gaston were variously charged with street gang activity, misusing 911, stalking, making a false report, looking up criminal records under false pretense and attempted kidnapping, among other charges. The men are all in jail in the next county over, Washington County. Here's what you need to know about this outrageous crime.
Burkett, 46, of Des Arc, Missouri, in Iron County is a Republican and was elected in 2020. He was hospitalized with COVID-19 for almost four months and spent time on a ventilator. He was hospitalized again this month for lingering complications and wears an oxygen line in his mugshot. Cozad, 39, lives in Bixby, Missouri, in Iron County. Bresnahan, 31, lives in Centerville, Missouri, in Reynolds County. Gaston, 62, lives in Caledonia, Missouri, in Washington County. Iron County is 95 miles south of St. Louis and includes parts of the Mark Twain National Forest and Taum Sauk Mountain State Park.
Who Was the Victim?
Gaston's wife is the mother of his daughter; neither were identified. The incident followed a Feb. 8 fight between Gaston and his wife over a $50 bottle of liquor in which he became "physically aggressive" with her, court documents showed, according to news reports. After that fight, the wife and daughter sought refuge in nearby Jefferson County, the documents said.
Burkett, Cozad, Bresnahan and Gaston conspired to find Gaston's wife and take his daughter from her on Feb. 10 and 11, court documents said.
The documents detailed this series of acts by the men.
- They made a fake "stop and hold" request to the Washington County 911 dispatch center for the wife.
- The men fraudulently tracked the wife and daughter's real-time location by pinging their cellphones, and Gaston went to Jefferson County, where the wife and daughter had sought refuge.
- Burkett obtained criminal history information under false pretense by telling Washington County 911 dispatchers that she kidnapped her daughter, was intoxicated and had injured the child.
A dispatcher asked Burkett follow-up questions and could hear another man saying the same thing as Burkett, "as if the unidentified male was telling Burkett what to say," according to court documents.
Burkett is charged with participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, conspiracy to commit Class A/B/C felonies, first-degree attempted kidnapping, second-degree stalking, obtaining criminal history info under false pretenses, misusing 911, and making a false report. Bresnahan is charged with participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, two counts of conspiracy to commit Class A/B/C felonies, first-degree stalking, second-degree stalking, obtaining criminal history information under false pretenses, and misusing 911. Cozad is charged with participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, two counts of conspiracy to commit Class A/B/C felonies, first-degree stalking, second-degree stalking, and misusing 911. Gaston is charged with participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, attempted parental kidnapping, conspiracy to commit Class A/B/C felonies, first-degree stalking, second-degree stalking, and making a false report. Burkett was in custody on $500,000 bail; the three others are held on $400,000 bail. If convicted of the criminal street gang activity charges, the men each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Burkett's lawyer, Gabe Crocker, said the charges "are 100 percent politically motivated." He added, "It's simply another chapter in the long-term effort to remove the outsider sheriff."
Who's Policing Iron County?
The arrests leave the 10,000-person, 550-square-mile Iron County without a functioning sheriff's department. State law puts part-time county Coroner Tim Harbison in charge of the department. He also runs a bank and funeral home. The Missouri Highway Patrol and Washington County sheriff's department will help with policing duties.