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

Lacrosse team coordinator convicted for offering to be high schooler's "sex coach"

A Lacrosse team board member has been convicted of a sex crime for attempting to solicit sex from 17-year-old female team member.  James L. McEnerney, 61, of Overland Park, Kansas, pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct in Platte County Associate Circuit Court on July 24.

 James L. McEnerney, 61

James L. McEnerney, 61

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant used his position of trust and influence to try to entice a young team member into sex, while also saying he could help her play college lacrosse.  Fortunately, she had the strength to reject his shameful advances.”

McEnerney was an onsite coordinator and board member for a local Lacrosse club team on which the victim played.   He offered to help her get recruited to play in college and then began to send her sexually-suggestive texts.

The victim’s mother found the text messages and confronted McEnerney.  McEnerney apologized and admitted what he did was “disgusting” and that he was “ashamed.”

In text messages to the 17-year-old, McEnerney offered to be the girl’s “sex coach.” 

McEnerney offered to send the girl pictures of his genitals. She refused.  He also attempted to get the victim to engage in sexual conversations with him, which she declined.

The victim also described an incident where McEnerney touched her thigh and kissed her on the cheek.  She said his advances made her feel scared and uncomfortable. 

 Prosecutors charged McEnerney with the class C misdemeanor of sexual misconduct in the second degree, which is punishable by a maximum of 15 days in jail.  Since the age of consent in Missouri is 17, that misdemeanor charge was the most serious crime McEnerney committed by soliciting the girl for sex.

Zahnd expessed frustration with the light punishment available for the crime the defendant committed.  “Today, club sports are vitally important athletic training grounds for many children,” he said.  “If a high school coach has sex with a high school player, it is felony regardless of the victim’s age.  That should also be true for a club sport.” 

Zahnd called on the Missouri legislature to make it a felony for any adult affiliated with club athletics to attempt to have sex with a player.

Missouri State Representative Kevin Corlew, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, agrees and plans to sponsor legislation to close the club sports loophole. 

Corlew said, “From Jerry Sandusky to Larry Nasser, we've seen people misuse sports as a way to facilitate the sexual abuse of young people.  Enough is enough.  Parents should be able to have their kids play sports without fear that they'll be sexually exploited. I'll work with the legislature to change the law to protect young athletes from shameless coaches and trainers who prey on young athletes.”

The case was investigated by the Gladstone and Parkville Police Departments.  It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Seufert.

A photo of McEnerney is above.  If you need addition 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

Man found guilty in dating website rape case

An Independence man has been found guilty of raping a woman he met on a dating website. Bradley D. Everhart, 31, was found guilty by a Platte County jury on August 7 after less than two hours of deliberation following a two-day jury trial.

 Bradley D. Everhart, 31

Bradley D. Everhart, 31

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “The jury in this case sent the message that ‘No’ really does mean ‘No.’ Meeting someone on a dating website, going to their home, and watching a movie clearly does not give anyone the right to force sex upon that person.”

At trial, prosecutors proved that on August 28, 2016, a 31-year-old woman met Everhart at a Platte County home. The woman had earlier met Everhart on the dating website Plenty of Fish, and they had exchanged text messages earlier that day. 

Everhart and the woman went to a bedroom to watch a movie, where the woman sat on the bed.

After a few minutes, Everhart kissed the woman’s shoulder, and she said “No.” Everhart responded, “You didn’t want me to do that? Fine.”

Later, however, he touched her again and got on top of her. The woman repeatedly told Everhart “No,” and tried to push him off of her. 

Everhart told her, “It’s too late; it’s already in there,” and continued to rape her.

The woman immediately fled the house, reported the encounter to her mother and a friend, and went to a hospital, where she also spoke to police. DNA recovered during a sexual assault exam later confirmed the presence of Everhart’s DNA. The sexual assault examination also found evidence of injuries from the rape.

After the woman fled, Everhart sent over sixty text messages to the woman in under an hour. He repeatedly apologized and asked her not to say anything because he would lose his girls, promising it would not happen again.

When interviewed by police, Everhart initially denied knowing the woman or ever meeting anyone in person using the Plenty of Fish website. He later admitted he had had sex with the woman for up to a minute after she told him “No.” He said he did so because it hurts to stop.  

The woman testified that Everhart used his body to physically restrain her. As Everhart pinned her to the bed, she continually told him “No” and “Stop” while shoving him with her hands and pushing him with her legs. Everhart admitted that she fought back. He said she hurt him, and he threw up soon after she left.

In his closing argument, the criminal defense lawyer attempted shift blame to the victim. He asked the jury to consider the clothes she was wearing and her intentions for driving to the house. He suggested the woman did not fight back hard enough, because she did not try to “scratch the defendant’s eyes out” and had no apparent signs of bruising. 

 Julie Donelon, the President and CEO of MOCSA, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, said, “It is never appropriate to blame the victim. It silences victims of sexual violence and keeps perpetrators from being held accountable. This verdict sends a clear message to survivors that when they report they will be believed and supported, and perpetrators will be held accountable.”

Zahnd added, “The jury immediately saw this case for what it is: forcible rape. Even if we assume the story the defendant told police is true, he continued to force himself onto a woman for nearly a minute while she was repeatedly saying “No” and trying to push him off. That’s rape, and no prior conduct of either the defendant or the victim can change that fact.”

The jury found Everhart guilty of first degree rape. He faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison. There is no maximum sentence for the crime, and probation is not permitted.

The case was investigated by the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. It was tried by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Blake Sherer and Miranda Loesch.

A photo of Everhart 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

260 year sentence for child rapist

A man who sexually abused a Platte County girl beginning when she was five years old has been sentenced to 260 years in prison.  Robert E. McDonald, 49, of Coushatta, Louisiana, received the sentence on July 26 after being found guilty by a jury of ten felony sex crimes in May.  McDonald’s sentence is longer than disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar’s prison sentence.

 Robert E. McDonald, 49

Robert E. McDonald, 49

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant will die where he should—in prison.  The girl he raped must live with what he did to her for the rest of her life, but at least she can take solace that he will never hurt her or any other child ever again.”

On the day after Christmas 2012, the victim disclosed that, when she was between the ages of five- and seven-years-old, McDonald repeatedly sexually abused and raped her.

A medical examination of the victim revealed physical indications consistent with sexual abuse.  The victim’s sister testified that the defendant had also touched her in a sexual way.

At the prosecution’s urging, the jury found the defendant to be a predatory sexual offender based on both girls’ testimony.

McDonald was convicted of three counts of first degree statutory rape, two counts of first degree statutory sodomy, and five additional sex crimes.  Four of McDonald’s sentences are life sentences with no eligibility for parole until he serves 50 years in prison.  Judge Thomas Fincham ordered McDonald’s sentences to run consecutively, resulting in a total prison sentence of 260 years. 

McDonald’s sentence eclipses the sentence of former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was accused of sexually abusing as many as 265 girls.  If Nassar served his maximum sentence, he would serve 235 years.

Zahnd said, “Many child sex offenses are so abhorrent that they should result in the predator never walking out of prison.  Judge Fincham’s sentence sends the clear message that, in Platte County, we will not tolerate these hideous crimes.”

The case was investigated by the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Children’s Division, and the Kansas City Police Department.  It was tried by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Chris Seufert and Blake Sherer.

A photo of McDonald is above. If you need more information, please contact our office.

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

Man guilty of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault

A Platte County man faces up to life in prison for sexually assaulting an extremely intoxicated man and then committing a domestic assault against another man.  Gregorio Davis, 25, was found guilty in Platte County Circuit Court of first degree sodomy and fourth degree domestic assault on July 3 after a two-day bench trial, presided over by Judge Dennis Eckold.

 Gregorio Davis, 25

Gregorio Davis, 25

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “It is both immoral and illegal to violate a person while they are barely conscious due to alcohol.  Unfortunately, in too many cases like this one, some blame the victim for drinking or wonder why the victim didn’t fight back harder.  Fortunately, Judge Eckold saw this conduct for what it is—a serious sexual assault.”

Platte County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to the scene of the crime in the early morning hours of July 29, 2017.  They heard sounds of a domestic disturbance inside the residence.  While investigating the domestic assault, officers learned that one of the men at scene had been sexually assaulted while he was either unconscious of nearly unconscious.

Davis initially denied any sexual contact with the victim, explaining, “He was of no use. He was unconscious.” Davis also said the victim “was too wasted” to engage in sex. 

Later, Davis admitted to having sex with the victim while the victim was “kind of responsive.”  In a call from the Platte County Jail, Davis described the victim as “kind of conscious” during the assault.

Zahnd said, “Make no mistake:  Alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults are crimes.  As the Stanford rape case demonstrates, the days of blaming victims for drinking instead of criminals for assaulting a person who cannot consent must come to an end.”

After the sexual assault, Davis physically assaulted another man by striking him repeatedly and causing him to bleed from the head.  Deputies found the interior of the house in disarray consistent with an altercation.  Davis admitted that he struck the other man first.

Judge Eckold set sentencing for August 24, 2018.

The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.  It was tried by assistant prosecuting attorneys Chris Seufert and Kait Donnelly.

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

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

(816) 858-3476

Predatory sex offender faces multiple life sentences after jury trial

A Coushatta, Louisiana, man faces multiple mandatory life sentences in prison for sexually abusing a young girl.  Robert E. McDonald, 49, was found guilty of ten felonies and also found to be a predatory sex offender on May 17 after a four-day jury trial in Platte County.

 Robert E. McDonald, 49

Robert E. McDonald, 49

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant preyed on a little girl, and she’ll live with what he did to her for the rest of her life.  But he will now be sentenced to life in prison and live with what he did to her for the rest of his life, too.”

On the day after Christmas 2012, the victim disclosed that, when she was between the ages of five and seven years old, McDonald repeatedly sexually abused and raped her.

A medical examination of the victim revealed physical indications consistent with sexual abuse.  The victim’s sister testified that the defendant had also touched her in a sexual way.

During his closing argument, the criminal defense attorney accused the victim, her sister, and their uncle of lying.  The victim was sitting in the front row surrounded by family and supporters.  When the defense attorney called her a liar, she began to sob uncontrollably. 

The jury believed the victim and found McDonald guilty on all counts.

Zahnd said, “The criminal defense attorney called this courageous young woman a liar.  I call her a hero.  She endured horrible abuse, but she was brave enough to confront her abuser in court.”

After the jury returned its verdict, McDonald, who was being held in the Platte County Jail in lieu of bond, refused to return to the courtroom.  In his absence, prosecutors also proved that McDonald was a predatory sexual offender.  That finding means he must be sentenced to life in prison on four of the ten counts.

McDonald will be formally sentenced on July 16, 2018.

Zahnd encouraged people to visit www.startbybelieving.org for more information on supporting victims of sexual abuse.

The case was investigated by the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Children’s Division, and the Kansas City Police Department.  It was tried by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Chris Seufert and Blake Sherer.

A photo of McDonald is above. If you need more information, please contact our office.

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

Repeat sex offender sentenced to 40 years in prison

A Kansas City man who had previously been convicted of rape has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing two young girls.  Richard E. Hughes, 57, received the sentenced on April 5 after pleading guilty that same day in Platte County Circuit Court to two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree.

 Richard E. Hughes, 57

Richard E. Hughes, 57

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant had already been convicted of rape and sentenced to two decades in prison.  Tragically, when he was released from prison, he sexually abused two more victims.  This sentence should ensure he is never released from prison to hurt another person.”

In October 2016, investigators with the Kansas City Police Department began investigating Hughes’ abuse of two girls, who were seven and nine years old at the time.  One of the girls had disclosed the abuse to a relative during a family meal.

According to one of the victims, the abuse began when she was two years old.  Hughes continued to have contact the girls and abused them for years after. 

Hughes admitted to authorities that everything the girls said was true. He told police he had been dealing with this sort of thing since he was “knee high to a grasshopper.”

Hughes was arrested in Buchanan County for rape in 1983.  He was ultimately sentenced to 21 years in prison for that crime.  

Zahnd said, “This defendant was brought to justice because one of these girls was brave enough to disclose to a relative what was happening to her.  That family member, in turn, believed what the girl had to say and reported the abuse to police.  We are better as a society when we start by believing what sexual abuse victims have to say.”

Zahnd encouraged people to visit www.startbybelieving.org for more information on supporting victims of sexual abuse.

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

A photo of Hughes is above.  If you need more information, please contact our media 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

Attorney sentenced to prison for attempted sexual exploitation of a minor

An attorney who practiced law in Liberty, Missouri has been sentenced to six years in prison for multiple crimes resulting from a lewd computer chat with an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.  Jerome M. Patience, 40, received the sentence on January 18 immediately after pleading guilty in the Platte County Circuit Court.

 Jerome M. Patience, 40

Jerome M. Patience, 40

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Those who would attempt to use the Internet to exploit children can come from any walk of life.  Sadly, this is not the first lawyer we have prosecuted, and doctors, pastors, and teachers from across America have been convicted of Internet-based child sex crimes.  I urge parents to be continually mindful of their children’s usage of any device capable of reaching the Internet.”

During his guilty plea, Patience admitted to chatting on the Internet with an undercover officer who was posing as a 13-year-old girl in May 2016. The two chatted until June 22, 2016, during which time Patience or the “girl” mentioned her age nine times.

The chats were sexual and Patience showed interest in meeting the “girl.”  He told her he did not know where they could meet “that I can trust that it doesn’t get me arrested.”

Investigators ultimately identified a Liberty law office from which Patience was conducting his chat.  He told the “girl” that he only chatted while at work and not during the evening and weekends.

On August 25, 2016, investigators served a search warrant at the law firm.  Patience’s computer was open to the Yahoo account from which he had conducted the chat with the undercover officer.

Patience pleaded guilty to attempted sexual exploitation of a minor for communicating with a person he believed to be less than 14 years old and urging her to “take pics” while performing a sexual act.  He was also convicted of two counts of sexual misconduct for exposing his genitals to the “girl.”  Finally, Patience was convicted of attempting to furnish pornographic materials to minors by sending pictures of his genitals and written descriptions of sex acts to the “girl.”

Zahnd said, “Of course, the good news in this case is that the defendant never actually spoke to a real 13-year-old girl.  But children are being exploited every day on the Internet.  All of us who are parents owe it to our children to monitor their activity on the Internet to keep them safe from predators.”

The case was investigated by the Western Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security.  It was prosecuted by Joe Vanover, a former assistant prosecuting attorney in Zahnd’s office, and assistant prosecuting attorneys Chris Seufert and Miranda Loesch.

A photo of Patience is attached. If you need more information, please contact our media liaison, Tanya Faherty.

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

Drunk driving fatality results in prison sentence

 Nicholas Sanders, 25

Nicholas Sanders, 25

A drunk driver who rear-ended another car on I-29, killing the driver, has been sentenced to six years in prison.  Nicholas Sanders, 25, of Platte City, received the sentence on January 11 after pleading guilty in November 2017 in Platte County Circuit Court to involuntary manslaughter in the first degree.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “An innocent man is dead because this defendant got behind the wheel after drinking.  In the age of Uber, there is no excuse for drinking and driving.”

Sanders admitted to driving drunk and causing a crash that killed Michael Sear, 58, who was driving another vehicle. 

Troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to northbound I-29, south of Mexico City Avenue, in the early morning hours of May 28, 2016.  They found two vehicles in the median.

Troopers contacted Sanders, who smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and slurred his speech. Sanders admitted to drinking that night. 

The driver of the other vehicle, Sear, was unresponsive.  He was transported to North Kansas Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Sear was driving home from KCI airport with his wife when the crash occurred.  During sentencing, she told the Court that she lost her soul mate, the love of her life, and remains physically and emotionally broken as a result of the crash.

Zahnd said, “This completely avoidable crash brought a tragic end to a loving marriage.  One spouse is dead and the surviving spouse will live with the pain this drunk driver caused for the rest of her life.  Please, if you’re going to drink, just don’t drive.”

The case was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kaitlynn M. Donnelly.

If you need more information, please contact our media liaison, Tanya Faherty.

20 years for pair of Northland gas station robberies

 Marcus L. Johnson

Marcus L. Johnson

A 30-year-old Kansas City man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for robbing two convenience stores at gunpoint in November 2015. Marcus L. Johnson received the sentence on December 1 after pleading guilty in August to two counts of robbery in the first degree.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant’s crime spree came to a quick and final end, thanks to the dedication of officers with the Kansas City Police Department.”

On November 10, 2015, Johnson robbed the Phillips 66 on Barry Road near I-29 with what appeared to be a large black handgun. He approached the cashier and demanded money. The next day, Johnson robbed the nearby Conoco on Barry Road with what again appeared to be a large black handgun, approaching the cashier, and again demanding money. 

Surveillance footage captured Johnson’s image during the robbery. Additional surveillance footage and a witness also placed a silver-colored Ford Crown Victoria with chrome wheels and a large “Ford” decal in the back windshield in the area during the time of the robberies. 

After an image of the robbery was broadcast by local media, a citizen who asked for and received anonymity identified the robber as “Marcus.”

On November 12, 2015, two Kansas City Police officers saw a car matching that description. The officers stopped the car. Johnson was driving and was arrested for the robberies. He was charged the next day and has remained in the Platte County jail since.

Circuit Judge Thomas Fincham heard testimony from one of the victims prior to handing down two 20-year sentences, which were ordered to run concurrently.  The victim said he lives every day with the memory of the terrifying experience that Johnson inflicted upon him, and he asked Fincham to impose a just sentence.

Zahnd’s office asked Fincham to sentence Johnson to 20 years in prison. First degree robbery is classified a dangerous felony under Missouri law, meaning Johnson must serve at least 17 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.    

Zahnd said, “Clerks and customers of Platte County convenience stores deserve to feel safe when they are going about their daily activities. Thanks to the keen observation skills of two Kansas City police officers, this dangerous offender is off the streets.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Miranda Loesch and First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson.

A photo of Johnson robbing the Phillips 66 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)

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)

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.

 Zakary F. Mergy

Zakary F. Mergy

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.

 Travis Potter, 42

Travis Potter, 42

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.

 Dana K. Tutor, 42

Dana K. Tutor, 42

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)

Prison escapee gets 20 years for high-speed chase and shots fired at officers

The prison escapee who led police on a high-speed chase while another escapee fired shots at four law enforcement officers has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Allen Hurst, 34, received the sentence on November 3 following his guilty plea that same day.

 Allen Hurst, 34

Allen Hurst, 34

 Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “The good news is that no police officers were injured in apprehending these two dangerous escaped inmates.  But anyone who breaks out of prison, steals a truck, and then shoots at law enforcement officers deserves to go back to prison for a long time.”

 Hurst admitted that he and a co-defendant, Scott A. Gilbert, 52, escaped from the Lansing, KS Correctional Facility on May 10, 2013.  They stole a black 1997 GMC pickup from a worker in Leavenworth and drove to Platte County.  The truck was located via the victim’s iPhone using GPS technology.

 A Platte City officer attempted to pull over the vehicle after it left a Platte City McDonald’s, but Hurst, who was driving the vehicle, refused to stop.  Instead, Hurst led several law enforcement officers on a pursuit heading northbound on I-29 with speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.

 The chase later traveled through several rural highways in Platte County.  During the pursuit, Gilbert, the passenger, fired a shotgun multiple times and struck the vehicles of four different law enforcement officers. 

 Hurst and Gilbert eventually made it to rural Clinton County, where they entered and barricaded themselves in an unoccupied residence.  Officers from multiple departments, including a tactical team, surrounded the house, and the pair eventually surrendered. 

 Zahnd said, “While this defendant never put his hands on the gun fired at law enforcement officers, he must be held responsible for his role as an accomplice in those assaults.  The sentences handed down today are just, and he will soon be returned to Kansas to face additional charges related to his escape.”

 Platte County Circuit Judge Thomas Fincham imposed 20 year sentences on each of four counts of assault of a law enforcement officer and 20 years on each of four counts of armed criminal action.  Fincham also sentenced Hurst to seven years in prison for tampering with a motor vehicle and four years in prison for resisting arrest.  Fincham ordered all the sentences to run concurrently.

 Scott Gilbert, the shooter during the high-speed chase, was convicted on these counts following a two-week jury trial that occurred in November 2015.  Platte County Judge Ann Hansbrough sentenced Gilbert to 128 years in prison.

 The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, with the assistance of the Platte City Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department, the Cameron Police Department, and the Trimble Police Department. 

 The case was handled by First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blake Sherer.

 A photo of Hurst is above.  If you need more 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)

12 year sentence for child abuse

A Kansas City Man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for after scalding a two-year-old child in hot water, causing burns to 20% of the child’s body.  Daniel Rose, 32, received the sentence in Platte County Circuit Court on August 25 after earlier being found guilty of first degree assault following a plea.

 Daniel Rose, 32

Daniel Rose, 32

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This is a truly heartbreaking case of child abuse.  This young child will carry the physical and emotional scars of this awful crime for the rest of his life.” 

On March 26, 2013, Kansas City Police officers went to the 7600 block of NW Milrey Drive after a report of child abuse.  When they arrived, Rose said he had been watching his girlfriend’s two-year-old child, and had seen a rash on the child. Rose had not called 911 but had instead called the child’s mother at work.

After being texted a photo of her child, the victim’s mother rushed home and took the child to Children’s Mercy Hospital.  Medical staff treated extensive first and second degree burns covering more than 20% of the child’s body, including the child’s genitals and buttocks, which had blistered.  In the emergency room physician’s opinion, the injuries were consistent with the child being dunked in hot water.

Rose then changed his story, claiming the child had soiled a diaper and fell into the tub while he was drawing a bath.  However, the emergency room physician vehemently rejected any suggestion that the injuries could have been accidental.

Judge James Van Amburg sentenced the defendant to 12 years in prison, after Rose’s defense attorney asked that Rose receive probation.  Prosecutors recommended a prison term.  Because Rose was charged with first degree assault, he must serve 85% of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Zahnd said, “More than three years after this terrible assault, this young child is still terrified of taking a bath and must instead be showered.  This child was undoubtedly screaming in pain when dunked in scalding water, but instead of immediately calling for medical attention, this defendant tried to cover his tracks.” 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Blake Sherer and Christopher Seufert.

A photo of Rose 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
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Platte County High School rapist sentenced

A Platte City High School student has been sentenced to eight years in prison for raping an underage girl. Dakota D. Cochran, 17, received the sentence in Platte County Circuit Court on July 7 after pleading guilty to first degree rape and second degree child molestation.

 Dakota D. Cochran, 17

Dakota D. Cochran, 17

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “I cannot say it often enough: Sex without consent is rape. Period. This defendant’s age does not excuse his crime.  He has learned a hard lesson.  He will continue to learn that lesson for the next eight years and then beyond as a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.”

Cochran admitted he took the victim to a deserted gravel parking lot in rural Platte County.  He then forced himself on top of her while she tried to push him off. 

The next thing the victim recalled, she was in the back seat of Cochran’s car, and he was raping her.  She continued to struggle against him and tell him, “no.”  After the rape, Cochran drove the victim to her friend’s house.  Cochran later sent a picture to the victim showing the boxers he was wearing during the assault stained with blood.

The victim immediately told her friend that Cochran had raped her.  A sexual assault examination was conducted at Children’s Mercy Hospital and revealed significant evidence of trauma consistent with sexual assault.

Further investigation by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department uncovered three other high-school aged female victims who said that Cochran committed unwanted sexual acts against them.

While the case was pending, another high school student harassed the victim online and accused her of lying about the rape.  The victim told detectives that it was difficult for her to be at school because some of the male students would harass anyone who supported the victim.  The victim’s mother testified at sentencing that, shortly after the case was filed, school administrators found the victim crying in a closet at school.

Zahnd said, “I am incredibly proud of the victim in this case.  She is a courageous young woman who stood up to her rapist by coming forward.  Her courage will help protect other young women.”

“But to those young men who berated the victim, I say this:  Your actions have caused additional harm to the victim of a despicable crime.” Zahnd continued.  “This is an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement.  We cannot tolerate a culture that blames rape victims.”

If Cochran’s case had gone to trial, the jury likely would have known about his other sexual misconduct, thanks to an amendment to the Missouri Constitution passed in November 2014 allowing juries to know about the prior criminal acts of sex offenders.  Zahnd chaired the effort to pass that amendment.

Judge Van Amburg handed down the sentence during a hearing attended by members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) in support of the victim.

The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.  It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Blake Sherer and Christopher Seufert.
 
A photo of Cochran 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)