Platte County assistant prosecutors receive awards

Two Platte County assistant prosecuting attorneys have been recognized for their excellence.  Amy Ashelford received the MADD Hero Award from the Heartland Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for her efforts to combat impaired driving.  Miranda Loesch was recognized by Ingram’s magazine in their annual list of “20 in Their 20s,” which recognizes people under age 30 who are “setting standards of excellence for their organizations.”

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Platte County is fortunate to have what I believe is the best team of lawyers and support staff of any prosecutor’s office in Missouri.  These awards recognize some of the great work that prosecutors do every single day to keep our community safe, protect victims, and secure justice.”

Ashelford (left) receiving the MADD Hero Award

Ashelford (left) receiving the MADD Hero Award

Ashelford has worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Zahnd’s office since 2004.  For years, she has served as the office’s lead traffic safety prosecutor.  She helped spearhead the creation of Platte County’s DWI Treatment Court.

In 2014, Ashelford received the National Traffic Safety Prosecutor Award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators.  In 2013, she received the DWI Hero of the Year Award from the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Miranda Loesch

Miranda Loesch

Loesch joined Zahnd’s office in 2015.  She has prosecuted domestic violence cases.  Last year, she helped more than 150 victims with information regarding essential resources, such as counseling, shelters, and financial assistance.

In 2016, Loesch also required over 85 percent of all domestic offenders entering probation to successfully complete a batterer’s intervention program provided by Synergy Services.

Zahnd said, “Platte County citizens can be confident that Ms. Ashelford, Ms. Loesch, and the other members of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office are truly outstanding advocates for justice.  We are fortunate to have attorneys of their caliber willing to serve the public instead of pursuing more lucrative endeavors.”

If you have questions, please contact our office’s media liaison, Tanya Faherty.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri 64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Man found guilty of Platte County murder

A Platte County jury has found Zakary F. Mergy, of Kansas City, Kansas, guilty of murder in the first degree and armed criminal action for the November 2014 murder of Francisco Vargas III.  The jury reached its verdict on September 19, following a seven-day jury trial.

Mergy, Zakary.jpg

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “In this case, the State never alleged the defendant fired the shots that killed the victim.  Instead, we presented extensive evidence proving the defendant aided and assisted another person in planning and carrying out the murder.  This was a textbook case of accomplice liability.”

Evidence at trial showed that on November 1, 2014, a family member of Vargas found him lying face down on the floor of his residence in a large pool of blood.  Platte County Sheriff’s Department deputies later determined Vargas had been shot several times, finding eight .40 caliber shell casings near his body. 

A neighbor reported seeing a gray vehicle at Vargas’ residence on the day he was shot.  Investigators later determined that a 2008 gray Dodge Charger reportedly seen at the house was registered to a relative of Mergy.

Forensic analysis of a cell phone belonging to Mergy’s revealed deleted text messages during the time frame of the homicide.  A special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team testified that Mergy’s phone was in the Northland utilizing cell towers in close proximity of Vargas’ residence at the time of murder.  Mergy had earlier told investigators he was in Kansas City, Kansas at that time.

Mergy was interviewed on multiple occasions regarding Vargas’ death.  He eventually admitted he knew Vargas was killed with a Springfield .40 caliber XDM handgun.  He told investigators that he had been given the gun by someone following the murder and that he wrapped the gun in several plastic bags before burying it in his mother’s back yard. 

Investigators recovered a Springfield .40 caliber XDM handgun from Mergy’s mother’s back yard.  Forensic analysts with the Kansas City Police Department Crime Lab determined the cartridge cases and bullets recovered at the crime scene were from that gun.  DNA test results on the gun, trigger and magazine showed Mergy as the major contributor. 

During the execution of a search warrant at Mergy’s residence, investigators found a jar that a witness said he had seen at Vargas’ residence two days before Vargas’ murder. 

Because he was convicted of first degree murder, Mergy must serve a sentence of life in prison without the eligibility of probation or parole.  Jurors also recommended Mergy be sentenced to 30 years in prison for armed criminal action.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 30 at 10:00 a.m.

Zahnd said, “This defendant told lie after lie after lie to investigators.  However, determined work by investigators and state-of-the-art crime fighting techniques allowed us to punch holes through all those lies.  This defendant might not have pulled the trigger, but he aided and encouraged the murder and deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, the Kansas City Metro Squad, the Kansas City Police Department Crime Laboratory and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It was prosecuted by First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Hannah Herring.

A photo of Mergy is above. If you need additional information, please contact our office’s media liaison, Tanya Faherty.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri 64079

(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Man sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting wife

A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting his wife during a domestic dispute in February 2015.  Travis Potter, 42, received the sentence on August 17 after pleading guilty on June 29 in Platte County Circuit Court to first degree assault and armed criminal action.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant shot his wife with an assault rifle, resulting in the loss of her leg.  Thankfully, neighbors called the Kansas City Police Department and officers intervened, likely saving her life by shooting and disarming the defendant.”

During his guilty plea, Potter admitting to shooting his wife in the early morning hours of February 4, 2015. 

Officers responded that morning to a residential cul-de-sac between North Congress Avenue and NW Prairie View Road, just south of Barry Road off Interstate 29.  Upon arrival, they saw a woman with an apparent gunshot wound to her leg. Potter was standing beside her, armed with a rifle.

The officers ordered Potter to drop his weapon.  When he refused to comply, officers fired at him, striking him in the right arm and causing him to drop his weapon. He was taken into custody and has remained in the Platte County Jail since his arrest.

Potter had left the home earlier that night while intoxicated.  He returned in the early morning, kicked in the door of the home, and told his wife he was going to kill her.

She ran from the home, and Potter shot her.  A neighbor intervened, and Potter engaged in a verbal altercation with the neighbor.  Police arrived shortly thereafter, eventually shooting Potter after he refused to drop his weapon.

Zahnd said, “The actions of these two Kansas City Police Officers represent the heroic nature of so many law enforcement officers.  They charged into danger, risked their own lives, and saved a defenseless woman from a gunman.  The victim thanked them in her statement prior to sentencing, and I speak for our entire community in echoing our deep gratitude for their selfless service.”

The case was investigated by the Kansas City Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blake Sherer.

A photo of Potter is above. If you need more info, please contact our media liaison, Tanya Faherty.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri 64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Modern day “Bonnie and Clyde” defendant pleads guilty

A Pontotoc, Mississippi, woman who aspired to be like Bonnie Parker of “Bonnie and Clyde” fame has pleaded guilty to participating in a 2008 robbery that resulted in the murder of a truck driver at a rest stop north of Camden Point.  Dana K. Tutor, 42, was found guilty in Platte County Circuit Court on May 30 of first degree robbery and second degree murder.

The robbery and murder were the culmination of a cross-country crime spree by Tutor and her boyfriend, John Hughes.  During the spree, the two talked about getting “Bonnie and Clyde” tattoos as a tribute to the notorious outlaws.

Hughes, a gang member and the man who pulled the trigger, was previously convicted of first degree murder.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “We are pleased to finally deliver justice for the family of Valentin Kirilchuk.  There is no doubt he would be alive today if the defendant had not lured him to his death.”

Prosecutors showed Tutor approached multiple truck drivers at the rest area on I-29 north at mile marker 27 near Dearborn on September 8, 2008.  She tried to convince them to come with her into the rest stop building, where Hughes laid in wait.  She pretended that she needed money for diapers and food for a baby.

Valentin Kirilchuk, an immigrant from Ukraine, followed the defendant into the building, possibly with the intention of helping the baby who Tutor said “needed food.”  Once Kirilchuk was inside the building, Hughes robbed him, and shot him through the head. 

After the robbery and murder, Tutor, who by her own admission was highly intoxicated, drove the getaway car away from the murder scene.  A witness in the car described Tutor laughing about the fact that Hughes had killed a man.

Hours later, Hughes was arrested in York, Nebraska, by a Nebraska State Trooper for a traffic violation and driving under the influence.  Inside the vehicle, troopers found the murder weapon, ammunition, and property belonging to another murder victim from Ohio.

Tutor’s fingerprints were found on the window of Kirilchuk’s truck.  She was also a potential contributor to DNA that was recovered from the passenger side mirror of Kirilchuk’s truck and the murder weapon. 

Zahnd said, “This defendant wanted to be like Bonnie and Clyde, and she was.  Just like Bonnie and Clyde, she and her boyfriend John Hughes are robbers and murderers.”

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant faces up to 20 years in prison for her crimes.  She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 27 at 10:00 a.m.

The case was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  It was personally prosecuted by Zahnd and assistant prosecuting attorneys Mark Gibson, Myles Perry, Chris Seufert.

A photo of Tutor is above.  If you need additional information, please contact Tanya Faherty, our office’s media liaison.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri 64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Free Fishing Day - June 10

Learn to fish at a free fishing clinic in partnership with conservation officials at Platte Ridge Park. No fishing license required; all equipment and bait provided.

http://www.platteparks.com/news/2017/1/25/get-moving-with-platte-county-parks-rec-2017-programs

Tour De Platte - May 20

Tour De Platte - May 20

registration for the 2017 Tour de Platte is now open.  The Tour de Platte is a free bicycle ride designed for bikers of all levels to cycle through the trails, parks, and back roads of Platte County.  The Tour will begin at 8:00 am at E.H. Young Park in Riverside, MO.  (1001 Argosy Pkwy, Riverside, MO 64150). 

http://www.platteparks.com/news/2016/2/26/tour-de-platte