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Eric Zahnd

Prosecutor's office administrator receives statewide award

Chris Poepping, the office administrator for the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, has received the 2019 Outstanding Support Staff Award from the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. The award was presented on August 29 at the association's annual awards luncheon.

poepping award.JPG

Poepping has served in the prosecuting attorney's office for more than 23 years, beginning as a legal secretary in March 1996. She has as served office administrator--the leader of the office's support staff and chief resource to assistant prosecuting attorneys--since September 1996.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd nominated Poepping for the award. She has served as his office administrator during his entire 16 years in office.

Zahnd said, "For more than two decades, Chris Poepping has been a consistent leader for her support staff and an exceptional resource for the attorneys of the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Few organizations are privileged to have a long-term leader like Chris, and the people of Platte County are fortunate that she has dedicated her professional life to administering criminal justice and serving crime victims."

Poepping has designed nearly all of the office's processes and procedures, and she shares as the primary liaison between the prosecuting attorney's office and other government offices.

In addition to overseeing all support staff functions in the office, Poepping has coordinated the office's delinquent tax collection efforts, having collected millions of dollars in unpaid state income taxes. For the past 14 years, she has been instrumental in conceiving and carrying out the office's annual victims' rights event.

Poepping said, "I am fortunate to work in Platte County alongside some of the most creative, passionate, and smart prosecutors in the state. And I thank my loyal, dedicated support staff people for always making our office better."

A photo of Poepping with her award 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

Mother whose DWI crash killed daughter sentenced to prison

Samantha Jones, 32

Samantha Jones, 32

A Smithville mother who killed her five-year-old daughter in a DWI crash has been sentenced to nine years in prison. Samantha Jones, 32, received the sentence on July 12 after pleading guilty in May to driving while intoxicated, resulting in the death of Macklyn Lucas.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, "This defendant owed her highest duty of care to her five-year-old daughter. But instead of protecting her, the defendant chose to drive with a blood alcohol content more the twice the legal limit. It's not a mitigating circumstance when a mother kills her own child by driving drunk; it's an aggravating factor when a defendant places her own child in harm's way."

Jones had left a gathering in Camden Point at about 9:00 p.m. on June 18, 2018. Shortly after leaving, she lost control of her car on E Hwy near Skinner Lake Road. The car's rear passenger side door hit a telephone pole, breaking the pole into two pieces.

Jones' daughter, Macklyn Lucas, was belted into a car seat on the rear passenger side. She suffered a traumatic head injury in the crash and died less than three days later at Children's Mercy Hospital.

Samantha-Jones-Instagram-Photo-6-24-18.jpg

Jones admitted to drinking as much as two bottles of wine in about 3 1/2 hours. About 45 minutes before leaving the party, Jones posted photos of full wine glasses and a photo with her daughter on her social media accounts. The photos were posted with the hashtag, #momsneeddrinks.

Jones' blood alcohol level was .186 roughly two hours after the crash, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

During his sentencing argument, Zahnd responded to Jones' social media posts. "The defendant said moms need drinks. I will say this: Moms need to put their kids first. Moms need to protect their children. Moms need to obey the law. Moms must not get behind the wheel of a car after they’ve had drinks."

Dozens of people supporting Jones attended the hearing, and Jones' attorney read portions of letters from several people. The letter writers asserted Jones should not receive a prison sentence because she killed her own daughter and would punish herself more than prison ever could.

Zahnd said he did not doubt that Jones was anguished by the death of her daughter, but he asserted her crime deserved prison time. "If we treat DWI cases—especially those where someone has been killed—with a slap of the wrist, there is little left to deter would-be drunk drivers from taking the risk of driving home when they’ve been drinking."

Zahnd asked the court to impose a 14-year prison sentence. The defendant's attorney sought probation. Circuit Judge Thomas Fincham sentenced Jones to nine years in prison.

The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff's Department. It was personally prosecuted by Zahnd and assistant prosecuting attorneys Amy Ashelford and Max Pepper.

A photo of Jones and her social media post are above. If you need additional information, 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

Internet robber sentenced to 20 years in prison

Jalen Clayton, 19

Jalen Clayton, 19

A Kansas City teenager has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for robbing two people at gunpoint after arranging over the internet to meet them to sell a cell phone.  Jalen Clayton, 19, received the sentence in Platte County on May 30 after pleading guilty in March to two counts of first degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action.  

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This sentence sends a clear message that, in Platte County, violent crimes carry severe penalties. We won't tolerate criminals who prey on the users of online marketplaces."

Clayton admitted that, on March 18, 2018, he lured two victims to 5615 North Anita Avenue by posting an iPhone 8 for sale on the Offer Up app.  When the victims arrived, Clayton got in the backseat of the victim's car and pulled out a black handgun. Clayton then took the magazine out of the gun, showed the victims the bullets inside, and demanded their possessions. Each of the victims gave Clayton their cell phones, and he ran away from the car.

Judge Thomas Fincham sentenced Clayton to 20 years on each of the robbery charges and 15 years on each of the armed criminal action charges.  The sentences will run concurrently.  Because first degree robbery is classified under Missouri law as a dangerous felony, Clayton must serve 85% of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

Zahnd reminded people to be safe when meeting strangers to complete online transactions.  "The Kansas City Police Department now has online exchange locations in the parking lots of its patrol stations.  We encourage people to use these locations or other safe, populated locations during daylight hours when meeting strangers to complete internet purchases."

The case was investigated by the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.  It was prosecuted by assistant prosecutor Max Pepper.

 A photo of Clayton is above.  If you need additional information, please feel free to 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

Platte County prosecutor to honor therapy dog at victims' right luncheon

On April 8, during a free luncheon open to the public, Platte County will present its 14th annual Sara Andrasek Memorial Award to the first non-human recipient:  Rasta, the therapy dog.

The annual award is part of the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney's Office Victims' Rights Luncheon, hosted annually by the office as part of National Crime Victims' Rights Week.  The public is invited to attend the free luncheon and meet Rasta.  The event will be held at Noon on Monday April 8, at the Platte City United Methodist Church, 14040 State Hwy N Platte City, Missouri 64079.

Rasta is a therapy dog at Synergy Services in Parkville.  He recently completed his first trial as a courtroom therapy dog, accompanying two child victims while they testified to a jury about sexual abuse they suffered.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, "We created this annual award to recognize those who provide comfort, care, and compassion to victims of crime, and Rasta has done exactly that.  He may not be human, but the healing he provides for young victims of crime is truly amazing."

Rasta's handler, Jennifer Vernon, who is the Director of Child, Youth, and Family Clinical Services at Synergy, will speak at the luncheon. 

The Sara Andrasek Memorial Award honors the young Platte County woman who was pregnant with her first child when she was raped and murdered.  Zahnd’s office and the Kansas City Missouri Police Department were in the final stages of preparing a death penalty case against Wayne Dumond for those crimes when Dumond died while in custody.

The free luncheon, which anyone is welcome to attend, is part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which runs from April 7 through April 13.  This year’s theme “Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future.” 

Zahnd’s office has hosted an event as part of the national observance since 2006.  The luncheon aims to support victims of crime and recognize those who dedicate their lives to working on behalf of victims.

If you have any questions about the event, please contact Tanya Faherty at (816) 858-3476.

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

Platte County DWI Treatment Court achieving success

Platte County DWI Treatment Court achieving success:

Only two of 119 graduates has been convicted of another DWI

When Platte County began the first DWI Treatment Court in the Kansas City metro area nearly eight years ago, Judge Dennis Eckold and Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd were cautiously optimistic that it would be a success. But neither one of them would have predicted that only two of the court’s 119 graduates would be convicted of another DWI.

Judge Eckold said, “When we set out to plan a DWI Treatment Court about 8 1⁄2 years ago, we wanted to change behaviors and drastically reduce repeat offenses. We wanted to try to get to the root of the problem. This program is sobriety court. It’s about being accountable and committed. It’s a rigorous program with many requirements. It’s not perfect, but I’m very encouraged by the results so far.”

A recent recidivism study confirms the startling success of the court. With a recidivism rate of less than 2%, the court is achieving a success rate that is nearly unheard of in criminal justice. By comparison, a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed that, in 12 states including Missouri, 37 percent of people sent to prison for any crime were back in prison within three years.

Zahnd said, “Treatment courts are an incredibly effective alternative to prison that often cut short what otherwise would become a life of crime.”

Zahnd recounted meeting two graduates of the Platte County DWI Treatment Court in 2018 during Parkville’s annual Independence Day parade. Both men credited the treatment court for “saving their lives” by helping them escape the bonds of alcoholism.

“Platte County’s DWI Treatment Court changes people’s lives for the better, and that’s good for our entire community,” Zahnd said.

Platte County’s DWI Treatment Court began in 2012, and was the first of its kind in the Kansas City metro. In the years following, Platte County has added mental health and drug treatment courts. The county is now working to establish a veteran’s court.

The DWI Treatment Court is a comprised of a team that includes:

  • The Platte County Circuit Court

  • The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

  • The Missouri Department of Probation and Parole

  • Tri-County Mental Health Services

  • Midwest ADP (which provides probation and counseling services)

  • The Platte County Sheriff’s Department (which provides trackers)

  • Northland Alternative Service Program

  • Electronic Sentencing Alternatives

  • Tomo Drug Testing

  • Professor Greg Plumb of Park University

  • Criminal defense attorney Mark Ferguson

It is funded by the Clay-Platte-Ray mental health levy.

Tri-County Mental Health Services CEO Tom Petrizzo said, “The Platte County DWI Court is a great example of a highly successful community partnership. It brings together court personnel, prosecutor, defense bar, probation and treatment specialists who, in unison, create a positive lasting impact on individuals and families who may be struggling with the adverse effects of addiction.”

The DWI Treatment Court holds periodic graduation ceremonies, which are open to the public. The next graduation ceremony is scheduled for February 28 at 3:00 p.m. in the Platte County Commission Meeting Room.

For more information, please contact Tanya Faherty, media liaison for the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, at (816) 858-3476 or via email at tfaherty@co.platte.mo.us.

Platte County welcomes experienced prosecutor back

Justin Kalwei.jpg

The Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has welcomed back an experienced prosecutor.  Justin Kalwei, who left the office in 2015 for private practice, returned to the office as a trial team leader on September 11.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Platte County is very fortunate to regain the high-caliber services of Justin Kalwei.  He is an outstanding advocate for the State of Missouri who has an unwavering commitment to justice and victim rights.”

Kalwei served in the office from 2007 to 2015.  A husband and father of three, Kalwei said his decision to leave the office in 2015 was difficult, but he did so in order to earn more money for his family.

However, when the chance arose to recommit his career to public service, Kalwei seized the opportunity.  Chris Seufert, a longtime assistant prosecutor and trial team leader, recently relocated with his family to Houston, opening a leadership position in the office.

“I am grateful and honored to be able to return to the prosecutor’s office to serve the citizens of Platte County and the State of Missouri,” Kalwei said.  “I was eager to return to an office that consistently pursues justice with the highest standards of professionalism, and I look forward to practicing again in front of Platte County’s judges.”

Kalwei graduated from William Jewell College in 2002 and UMKC Law School in 2006.  He practiced briefly with a law firm before joining Zahnd’s office.

A photo of Kalwei 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 St., Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri 64079

(816) 858-3476

Platte County crime victims honored at annual luncheon

The murder of a Platte County woman that was solved when another woman survived a vicious attack by the same man was featured during Platte County’s 13th annual victims’ rights event on April 12.  Alyssa Shippert was killed in a brutal attack on the banks of the Platte River in May 2011, but her killer, Quintin O’Dell, was brought to justice largely because the woman attacked on Christmas in 2011 was able to identify him.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, Janet Williams, Pam Clark, Jill Casey

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, Janet Williams, Pam Clark, Jill Casey

The luncheon, hosted by the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, was attended by more than 100 people, including victims, law enforcement officers, county officials, and members of the public.  The luncheon took place at the Platte County Resource Center, and was free to the public.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “It’s been said that we should bear one another’s burdens, and that’s exactly what this event is all about.  We want crime victims to know that the entire community will help bear the burden that crime has forced upon victims, and we will do everything in our power to achieve justice and help victims heal.”

Platte County’s luncheon is part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which runs from April 8-14 in 2018.

The luncheon included excerpts from a recent episode of On the Case with Paula Zahn, a television series that airs on the Investigation Discovery network.  The episode featured Alyssa’s Shippert’s murder and how O’Dell’s subsequent victim helped bring him to justice.

Alyssa Shippert’s sister, Pam Clark, spoke at the luncheon.  She recounted how Alyssa’s death deeply impacted her family. 

Clark spoke poignantly about her sister and told the audience that, for many months, there was not a day after Alyssa’s murder that she did not think of Alyssa and cry.  But she also spoke of hope, saying that, while her grief will never disappear, time has helped heal her loss.

The luncheon also featured the presentation of the Sara Andrasek Memorial Award.  That award is given each year in the memory of the Platte County woman who was raped and murdered in 2001 while pregnant with her first child. Zahnd’s office and the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department were in the final stages of preparing a death penalty case against Wayne Dumond when Dumond died while in custody.

The 13th Annual Sara Andrasek Award was given to the woman who survived Quintin O’Dell’s second attack.  Out of respect for her privacy, Zahnd’s office is not naming the woman publicly.

After sustaining horrendous injuries on Christmas 2011 and being unconscious in the hospital for four days, the woman awoke and was able to identify Quintin O’Dell as the last person she had seen.  Because she was able to identify O’Dell, detectives with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department and prosecutors were ultimately able to prove O’Dell had not only attacked that woman, but he had also killed Alyssa Shippert.

O’Dell was convicted of murdering Shippert and assaulting the other woman.  He is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Zahnd said, “This year’s Sara Andrasek Award honors a survivor of crime whose strength, courage, and overarching will to live led to the apprehension of a vicious murderer. I believe that murderer would have killed other young women had he not been stopped.  Fortunately, he was stopped because this crime victim survived and identified her attacker.”

Zahnd presented the award to the woman with Janet Williams, who is Sara Andrasek’s mother.

A photo, from left, of Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd with, Janet Williams, mother of Sara Andrasek, Pam Clark and Jill Casey, who are Alyssa Shippert’s sisters, is above.  If you need additional information, please contact our office’s medial liaison, Tanya Faherty.

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

Public invited to free luncheon honoring crime victims

The public is invited to attend the thirteenth annual Victims’ Rights Luncheon hosted by the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.  The free luncheon will be held at Noon on Thursday, April 12, at the Platte County Resource Center, 11724 NW Plaza Circle, Kansas City, Missouri 64153

The luncheon is part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which runs from April 8 through April 14.  Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd’s office has hosted an event as part of the national observance since 2006.

Zahnd said,  “I hope we can fill the room with people willing to support people who have suffered as a result of crime.  We will enjoy lunch together and hear important stories about how senseless criminal acts can affect each one of us.”

Landis Shippert will speak at the luncheon.  He is the father of Alissa Shippert, who was murdered in 2011 in Platte County by Quintin O’Dell.  O’Dell is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for that murder and the assault of another woman on Christmas in 2011.  The case against O’Dell was recently featured on an episode of “On the Case with Paula Zahn” on the Investigation Discovery network 

The luncheon will also feature the presentation of the thirteenth Annual Sara Andrasek Memorial Award, which recognizes particularly outstanding service to crime victims.

Andrasek was pregnant with her first child when she was raped and murdered.  Zahnd’s office and the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department were in the final stages of preparing a death penalty case against Wayne Dumond for his crimes when Dumond died while in custody.

If you have any questions about the event, please feel free to contact Tanya Faherty at (816) 858-3476.

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

Prosecutor’s Supreme Court victory stops potential “chaos”

The Missouri Supreme Court has sided with Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd in a dispute with the circuit court in Platte County. Zahnd filed legal actions earlier this year asking the Supreme Court to stop two Platte County judges from reducing felony-stealing cases to misdemeanors. 

“Prosecutors have an obligation to uphold the rule of law,” Zahnd said. “In these cases, the Supreme Court essentially said there is no get out of jail free card, and everyone still has to play by the rules if defendants want to have sentences reduced.” 

The dispute arose out of State v. Bazell, which threw thousands of felony-stealing cases into doubt in 2016. Zahnd’s office played a central role in the statewide effort to limit the ability of convicted felons to have their charges reduced on a legal technicality. 

Joe Vanover outside the Missouri Supreme Court

Joe Vanover outside the Missouri Supreme Court

Executive Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joe Vanover began the effort shortly after the Bazell decision. Vanover is now an appellate lawyer in Kansas City. He argued the two most recent cases for Zahnd in September after he returned to private practice. 

The Missouri State Public Defender’s Office argued that a line of cases dating back more than thirty years allowed two Platte County judges to change sentences that were contrary to law. At Zahnd’s insistence, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned those cases. 

In an opinion released on November 21, the Supreme Court acknowledged that prosecutors can only ask to halt local judges’ decisions “in cases of extreme necessity.” However, the Supreme Court agreed with Zahnd that allowing the Platte Count judges’ rulings to stand could lead to “a chaos of review unlimited in time, scope, and expense,” according to the opinion.

The impact of Zahnd’s victories will potentially reach hundreds of other cases throughout Missouri where courts and local prosecutors are grappling with the aftermath of Bazell.

Zahnd’s wins in the Supreme Court come on the heels of losses in the Missouri Court of Appeals, which declined to hear the same cases in April. 

Zahnd said, “A prosecutor’s duty is to do what is right. In these cases, we were told we were wrong by the local judges and then by the judges on the Court of Appeals. But now the Supreme Court has unanimously said we were right from the start.” 

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office usually handles appellate cases for Missouri prosecutors. However, Zahnd has directed his office to handle some important appellate cases. These cases are the sixth and seventh wins in the appellate courts for Zahnd’s office. 

The cases are State ex rel Zahnd v. Van Amburg, SC96378, and State ex rel Zahnd v. Fincham, and SC96382.

If you need additional information, please contact our office’s media liaison, Tanya Faherty.

Former Executive Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joe Vanover argued the two cases in the Missouri Supreme Court in September.  Vanover is now an appellate attorney in private practice in Kansas City.

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

(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

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)