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)

Victims' rights luncheon spotlights impaired driving

A victim advocate who has spent nearly 20 years with Mothers Against Drunk Driving was honored for her work during Platte County’s annual victims’ rights luncheon. Avis Lowe received the eleventh annual Sara Andrasek Memorial Award on April 21 for her work with victims of impaired driving crashes in the state of Missouri.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, Janet Williams, Avis Lowe, Dianna Cockrill, Pat Cockrill

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, Janet Williams, Avis Lowe, Dianna Cockrill, Pat Cockrill

The luncheon, hosted by the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, was attended by victims of crime and their families, law enforcement officers, county officials, and members of the public.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This year, our victims’ rights week event focused drunk and drugged driving, which kills and injures thousands of people each year. Our award recipient and our keynote speaker both lost children to drunk drivers, but they are sterling examples of how serving others can bring healing in the face of terrible loss.”

Lowe serves as the Senior Victim Advocate Service Specialist with MADD Missouri Victim Services in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Her association with MADD began in 1995 after her son was killed by a repeat drunk driver.

In addition to assisting victims of impaired driving crashes, Lowe is an active member of the Northland Traffic Safety Task Force and other traffic safety task forces, where she participates with check points and coordinates an awards ceremony to recognize officers who are dedicated to DWI enforcement. She also coordinates MADD’s annual Candlelight Vigil for the Kansas City region.

Zahnd called Lowe “a true hero when it comes to combating drunk driving.”

The Sara Andrasek Memorial 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 luncheon also featured a keynote address by Pat Cockrill, whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 2010.

Abby Cockrill died at age 22 when a car driven by John McNamara slammed into the car in which she was a passenger on I-29. McNamara was driving a Chevrolet Camaro SS at 152 miles per hour seconds before the crash, and his blood alcohol content was .171 when tested two hours after the crash. McNamara is currently serving a 17-year prison term after pleading guilty in the case.

Pat Cockrill shared about his daughter’s plans to become a public school teacher. She was attending Northwest Missouri State University and was scheduled to graduate with honors in December 2010 with a degree in Early Childhood Development. She had just begun her student teaching at Siegrist Elementary School in Platte City and had accepted a position as the youth minister at her church.

Pat and his wife Dianna Cockrill have funded scholarships for high school students in their daughter’s memory, and they are in the planning stages of creating a charitable organization to provide teaching supplies for public school teachers.

“Driving impaired is a choice,” Pat Cockrill said. “My daughter died because of someone’s choice.”

A photo, from left, of Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, with Janet Williams, the mother of Sara Andrasek, award recipient Avis Lowe, and Dianna and Pat Cockrill is above. If you need additional information, contact Tanya Faherty, media liaison in the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

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

High-tech investigation results in 135-year prison term for child pornographer

A high-tech investigation by international, national, and local law enforcement agencies has led to a 135-year prison sentence for a prior sex offender who created a series of child pornography images while repeatedly abusing a young girl. Charles R. Burge, 36, of Kansas City, received the prison term on February 18 in Platte County after earlier pleading guilty to three counts of first degree statutory rape, sexual exploitation of a minor, enticement of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Charles R. Burge, 36

Charles R. Burge, 36

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This man was brought to justice following a complex, high-tech investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies. The message from this case to child predators is simple: We are hunting for you, we will use the power of technology to find you, and we will bring you to justice.”

The investigation involving Burge began with a request to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from a foreign law enforcement agency to help identify a series of child pornography images known as the “Lexie” series.

As a result of that request, investigators with the Department of Homeland Security in Boston began attempting to identify the victim depicted in the images in March 2014.

The “Lexie” series consists of about 140 images which chronicle approximately four years of abuse of a girl between the ages of eight and 11. The images had been altered using Photoshop or a similar program to hide things in the images that might reveal the perpetrator’s identity or location.

After an extensive investigation by Homeland Security agents from Boston and Kansas City utilizing cutting-edge computer forensic methods, authorities identified the victim in the photos as a girl living in Platte County.

Law enforcement officers served a search warrant at a Kansas City residence in Platte County on October 3, 2014. Burge and the girl depicted in the photos were both present at the residence when the search warrant was served. Investigators also found numerous items that matched backgrounds in the “Lexie” series.

Burge was immediately arrested, charged the next day, and has remained in the Platte County jail since. He had been convicted of a 1996 rape of an eight-year-old child in Arkansas. At the time of his 2014 arrest, he was on probation in Platte County for failing to register as a sex offender.

Circuit Judge Tom Fincham sentenced Burge to 30 years in prison on each of three counts of first degree statutory rape, 25 years for sexual exploitation of a minor, 20 years for enticement of a child, and 10 for endangering the welfare of a child. Fincham ordered the first five sentences to run consecutively, resulting in a 135-year sentence.

Zahnd said, “Some judges in other jurisdictions have suggested that child pornography is ‘just pictures’ and complain that long sentences for possessing child porn are unjustified. But this case proves that the demand for child pornography fuels horrific sexual abuse of actual children. The real victim in this case happened to be an elementary school student from Platte County, but her abuse was promoted by perverts around the globe. Unlike some judges elsewhere, Judge Fincham fully recognized the clear and present danger presented by child pornography.”

The case was investigated by Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Western Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force. It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Chris Seufert and Blake Sherer.

A photo of Burge is above. If you need additional information, please feel free to contact our office.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

128 year sentence for prison escapee who shot at officers

A man who escaped from prison and then shot at multiple law enforcement officers during a high-speed chase has been sentenced to 128 years in prison.  Scott A. Gilbert, 52, received the sentence from Platte County Judge Ann Hansbrough on January 8 after being found guilty of ten felonies in a November 2015 jury trial.

009.jpg

 Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Thank goodness no police officers were injured in apprehending this dangerous escaped inmate. Anyone who would shoot at law enforcement officers and put countless people in harm’s way deserves a long prison sentence, and that’s exactly what this defendant will serve.”

 Evidence at trial showed that Gilbert was traveling in a stolen black 1997 GMC pickup truck that left the McDonald’s in Platte City at about 10:00 am on May 10, 2013.  Earlier that morning, Gilbert had escaped from the Lansing, KS Correctional Facility, allegedly with another inmate who was driving the truck.

 The officer attempted to pull over the vehicle, but it refused to stop.  Instead, the vehicle led several law enforcement officers on a pursuit heading northbound on 1-29 with speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour.

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

 Gilbert and the other inmate 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. 

 At sentencing, dozens of law enforcement agents attended as a show of solidarity and support for their fellow officers.

 Prior to committing his 10 felonies in Platte County, Gilbert had been convicted of 52 felony offenses in Kansas.  Prosecutors argued that Gilbert should be sentenced to 62 years on each of four armed criminal action charges—one year for each of his felony convictions.

 Zahnd said, “This defendant has the longest rap sheet of any person I have prosecuted during by 13 years in office.  Our goal was to make sure the felonies he committed in Platte County were his last—by making sure he spent the rest of his life in prison.” 

 Hansbrough imposed 25 year sentences on each count of assault of a law enforcement officer and 7 years on each armed criminal action count.  The Court ordered all of those sentences to run consecutively, for a total of 128 years.  The Court also sentenced Gilbert to six years in prison for tampering with a motor vehicle and seven years in prison for resisting arrest.  She ordered those sentences to running concurrently with his other sentences.

 The other inmate remains in custody, and his case is scheduled for a jury trial in June 2016.

 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 tried by First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blake Sherer.

 The charges against the other inmate are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

 A photo of Gilbert 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)

Assistant Prosecutor Named Co-Chair of Criminal Law Committee

Platte County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Seufert has been named Co-Chair of the Missouri Bar’s Criminal Practice and Procedure Committee by Bar President Erik Bergmanis.  The committee is responsible for reviewing proposed criminal legislation, providing educational programs for lawyers practicing criminal law, and maintaining relationships with governmental agencies, judges, and court personnel. 
 
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Chris Seufert is a recognized leader among prosecutors, particularly in the challenging arena of child sexual abuse.  Platte County is fortunate to have him working every day to keep our citizens safe, and we are also fortunate that he is sharing his expertise to improve the criminal law throughout Missouri.”

011.jpg


Seufert was selected as Co-Chair due, in part, to his work on revising Missouri’s criminal code to make it easier to understand and use.  The decade-long process led to a newly revised criminal code which will go into effect January 1, 2017. 
 
Seufert also conceived of and helped draft a 2014 amendment to the Missouri Constitution to allow juries to know about repeat child predators’ prior criminal acts.  The amendment was widely seen as an important step to prevent child sexual abuse in Missouri.
 
A career prosecutor, Seufert has handled dozens of child sexual abuse cases in Platte County.  Several of the cases resulted effectively in life sentences for the defendants, including the recent prosecution of Darren Paden, a case that received national and international attention.  Seufert and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Myles Perry obtained a 60-year prison sentence against Paden, who is 52, despite the fact that some in Paden’s small town continued to side with him in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt.
 
Seufert has been recognized with the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Executive Director's Award and was named an Up & Coming Attorney in Public Service by Missouri Lawyer's Weekly.  In 2015, he was named the Family and Sexual Violence Hero of the Year by the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.  He has also been named “Citizen of the Week” by a regional radio station.
 
Seufert said, “I am happy to do whatever I can to help ensure Missouri’s criminal laws keep our citizens safe while also protecting the rights of the accused.”
 
Seufert’s first meeting as co-chair was at the fall committee meetings of the Missouri Bar in Jefferson City on November 20.  He gave a presentation to the committee on the new criminal code he helped write.  Seufert co-chairs the committee with Ellen Flottman, a public defender from Columbia.
 
A photo of Seufert 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)

Escaped inmate convicted of shooting at police during high-speed chase

Scott A. Gilbert, 51

Scott A. Gilbert, 51

A man who escaped from prison and then shot at law enforcement officers during a high-speed chase has been convicted following a two-week trial. Scott A. Gilbert, 51, was found guilty of ten felonies by a Platte County jury on November 13, 2015.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant is a dangerous man who put countless people in harm’s way during his brazen attempt to escape from prison. Law enforcement officers from multiple departments demonstrated tremendous courage in apprehending him.“

010.jpg

Evidence at trial showed that Gilbert was traveling in a stolen black 1997 GMC pickup truck that left the McDonald’s in Platte City at about 10:00 am on May 10, 2013. Earlier that morning, Gilbert had escaped from the Lansing, KS Correctional Facility, allegedly with another inmate who was driving the truck.

The officer attempted to pull over the vehicle, but it refused to stop. Instead, the vehicle led several law enforcement officers on a pursuit heading northbound on 1-29 with speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour.

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

Gilbert and the other inmate eventually made it to rural Clinton County, where they entered an unoccupied residence. Officers from multiple departments, including multiple tactical teams, surrounded the house, and the pair eventually surrendered.

Gilbert has more than 50 prior felonies in the state of Kansas.

Gilbert was convicted of four counts of first degree assault of a law enforcement officer, four counts of armed criminal action, resisting arrest, and tampering with a motor vehicle. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm. Zahnd said his office would seek multiple life sentences in the case.

“Our law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to keep the rest of us safe,” Zahnd said. “We owe them a debt of gratitude, and more importantly, we owe them justice when anyone tries to harm them in the line of duty.”

Gilbert remains in the Platte County Jail in lieu of a $5,000,000 cash bond. The other inmate also remains in custody, and his case is scheduled for a jury trial on February 1, 2016.

Gilbert’s apprehension involved officers from the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, the Platte City Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department, the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, the Cameron Police Department, and the Trimble Police Department.

First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blake Sherer tried the case against Gilbert.

The charges against the other inmate are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

A photo of Gilbert with the shotgun captured by in-car video during the chase is above. Gilbert’s mug shot is also 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, Missouri64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Sobriety checkpoint conducted in memory of Ashley Miller

The Northland Traffic Safety Task Force has conducted another sobriety checkpoint in memory of a victim of impaired driving. On September 25, 2015, the task force conducted a checkpoint in memory of Smithville native Ashley Miller.

Miller was 25 years old on October 15, 2012 when Logan T. Pope attempted to pass a vehicle in front of him and hit Miller head on 92 Highway just west of Smithville. Pope was under the influence of synthetic drugs when the crash occurred. Pope was sentenced to three years in prison pursuant to placement in an Institutional Treatment Center for 120 days.

008.jpg

Miller was a 2005 graduate of Smithville High School and had just begun a job with United Airlines when she was killed.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “It’s fitting that we recognize victims of impaired driving at these checkpoints, and even more appropriate that we shine a spotlight on the dangers of synthetic drugs. Ashley Miller was a wonderful young woman with an exciting new career whose life was cut tragically short. Hopefully, the enforcement and education efforts of this task force will spare other victims from a similar fate.”

The recent checkpoint was conducted in Platte County, just outside Smithville near 92 Highway and North Creek Road. It netted five arrests, two of which were for impaired driving.

The task force has a simple goal: reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries resulting from alcohol, drugs, or distracted driving. Comprised of 14 law enforcement agencies in Kansas City’s Northland together with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the task force has coordinated checkpoints in Clay and Platte Counties.

Many of those checkpoints have featured a poster with the picture a Platte or Clay County resident killed by impaired driving. Zahnd said the posters furthered the task force’s mission to reduce senseless death through education as well as enforcement.

The task force’s most important tool is increasing the number of sobriety checkpoints in the Northland. Funding from the Highway Safety Office of the Missouri Department of Transportation will pay for overtime for law enforcement officers working at checkpoints.

This year, the task force has conducted 17 sobriety checkpoints, yielding 64 DWI arrests.

Law enforcement agencies work together to hold checkpoints in their own communities and also staff checkpoints in other cities or counties.

Sobriety checkpoints typically require at least eight to twenty or more law enforcement officers, which is beyond the capability of many smaller cities in the Northland. The task force pools manpower and resources in an effort to spread checkpoints throughout the entire Northland.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Amy Ashelford, who was named the national Traffic Safety Prosecutor of the Year in 2014, helped organize the task force when it was created in 2013.

The agencies and partners currently participating in the task force include: Clay and Platte County Sheriff’s Departments; Clay and Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Offices; Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, Excelsior Springs Police Department; Gladstone Police Department; Kearney Police Department; Liberty Police Department; North Kansas City Police Department; Platte City Police Department; Platte Woods Police Department; Pleasant Valley Police Department; Riverside Police Department; Smithville Police Department; Missouri Department of Transportation.

The poster used at the checkpoint in Miller’s memory is above. If you need additional information, please contact our office’s media liaison, Jill Baker.

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

Seufert named Family Violence Hero of the Year

Assistant Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Seufert is a hero. Specifically, he is the Family Violence Hero of the Year, having received the award on September 2 at the annual awards dinner of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

The Family Violence Hero of the Year Award recognizes a prosecutor, law enforcement officer, victims services representative, or other allied professional who has displayed extraordinary dedication to victim well-being and safety and perpetrator accountability. It specifically recognizes that child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual violence cases are particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Platte County is truly fortunate to have Chris Seufert working to protect our children. He has an incredibly successful record of prosecuting crimes against children, and his work to pass Constitutional Amendment 2 will help countless children for decades to come.”

Seufert has tried many cases in nearly a decade as a prosecutor, and he now serves as a trial team leader in Zahnd’s office. The award recognized his work against three defendants:

  • Fentress Wilson was charged and convicted by a jury of being a predatory sexual offender based on unadjudicated prior acts of child sexual abuse. Missouri’s predatory sexual offender statute is rarely used, particularly with respect to unadjudicated prior acts. As a result of Seufert’s work in unchartered legal territory, Wilson was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence and will not be eligible for parole until 2052.

  • Jason Wright repeatedly sexually abused a young girl. Because Seufert also charged Wright as a predatory sex offender—this time based on adjudicated prior acts--Wright was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 160 years, or the year 2173.

  • Daryl Lemasters was convicted by a jury of multiple counts of Statutory Sodomy in the First Degree, Enticement of a Child, and Sexual Exploitation of a Minor of two girls. In addition to sexually abusing the girls when they were as young as five years old, Lemasters created child pornography of one of the victims. He was sentenced to 180 years in prison.

    Seufert said, “The real heroes are the kids who come forward, face their abusers and tell their stories. I am amazed by their courage every time. It is an honor to seek justice for the victims of these terrible crimes.”

 

Seufert was also recognized for his part in drafting Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2, passed in November 2014. The amendment permits evidence of prior criminal acts in child sex abuse cases.

Zahnd said, “Generations of Missouri children will no longer have to face their abusers alone because Chris Seufert recognized that Missouri law was deficient, and he set out to make sure the law was changed.”

Zahnd said, “Generations of Missouri children will no longer have to face their abusers alone because Chris Seufert recognized that Missouri law was deficient, and he set out to make sure the law was changed.”

But perhaps the best words about Seufert come from the caregiver of a girl abused by her father. She wrote this about Seufert following the trial:

[The girl] had her childhood stolen from her by the man who should have been her hero, her father. Fortunately . . . there was a superhero in her future with angel wings hidden under his cape. Chris Seufert was that hero. . . . Chris’s determination to get her justice and his unwavering confidence in her truth . . . gave back her life.

Above is a photo of Seufert, center, with Catherine Vannier, the family violence resource prosecutor from Jefferson City who presented the award, and Zahnd. If you need additional information, please contact our office’s media liaison, Jill Baker.

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

Dearborn man pleads guilty to child sex abuse spanning years

Two and a half years after charges were brought, a Dearborn man has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a young girl on a regular basis over a period of six to eight years. Darren L. Paden, 52, admitted on August 17 that he sexually abused the girl once or twice a month from the time she was five or six years old until she was 12 or 13.

Darren L. Paden, 52

Darren L. Paden, 52

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “While this defendant admitted to his horrible crimes the day he was arrested, he continually delayed his day of reckoning. Sadly, during that time, many in the community sided with him, compounding the trauma experienced by his victim. Now there can be no doubt: Darren Paden repeatedly committed monstrous acts against a young girl.”

Paden admitted he began watching pornographic movies with the girl in 2001 or 2002. After watching a pornographic movie with her while she was 5 or 6 years old, Paden performed a sex act on the girl and demanded that she perform a sex act upon him.

Paden regularly abused the girl in that manner, generally once or twice a month, over a period of at least six years, according to the girl. Paden told the girl it was “their little secret” and that she should not tell her mother or anyone else.

Paden also utilized sexual devices on the girl. When authorities searched Paden’s house, they found items matching the description given by the girl.

When Paden was interviewed by detectives with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department in December 2012, he admitted he sexually abused the girl once or twice a month from 2001 to 2009. Based on his confession, Paden would have abused the girl somewhere between 70 and 140 times.

When interviewed by detectives, Paden also wrote letters apologizing to the victim and his family for what he had done. Despite the confession and apology letters, Paden refused to plead guilty to his crimes for more than two years.

However, during his guilty plea, upon questioning by his criminal defense attorney, Paden confirmed the girl “was, in fact, truthful.”

Paden pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree statutory sodomy involving a victim under age 12. Zahnd said his office would seek 30-year sentences on each count. By law, those sentences must be run consecutively, which would result in a 60-year prison sentence.

Judge James Van Amburg will sentence Paden on October 2 at 11:00 a.m. Paden was taken into custody following his guilty plea and is being held without a bond.

Zahnd said, “Those who may have believed the whispers of denial now know the truth. Darren Paden preyed on a defenseless girl again and again. He deserves sympathy from no one. He deserves justice, and justice demands that he spend the rest of his life in prison.”

The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Myles Perry and Chris Seufert.

A photo of Paden is above.

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

Prior sex offender gets 36 years in prison

A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 36 years in prison for having deviate sexual intercourse with two girls under the age of twelve. Jerry L. Snodgrass, 58, received the sentence in Platte County Circuit Court on June 19. Snodgrass had previously been convicted of sexual misconduct with a child in Kansas.

Jerry L. Snodgrass, 58

Jerry L. Snodgrass, 58

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “It is heartbreaking that this man had the opportunity to hurt more children after being convicted of a sex crime in Kansas. I hope this sentence will end his abuse of children once and for all.”

In December 2013, the mother of one of the victims reported to Riverside police that Snodgrass had inappropriate sexual contact with her daughter. In January 2014, another mother reported to Riverside authorities that Snodgrass had molested her daughter.

The victims were both interviewed by the Child’s Advocacy Center at Synergy Service, and they disclosed sexual abuse by Snodgrass. One of the victim’s mothers said her daughter told her she didn’t want to go to Snodgrass’ apartment and would sit in the corner and not move. The victim also disclosed that Snodgrass told her not to tell anyone about the abuse.

Snodgrass admitted to having several children at his apartment and some of them stayed the night. Snodgrass stated the victim wanted to come to his residence because she gets attention there.

Snodgrass was sentenced to 18 years on each count of statutory sodomy. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively to one another.

In 1995, Snodgrass was found guilty of indecent liberties with a child in Kansas. The victim in that case testified at sentencing that Snodgrass had sexually abused her from the time she was 4 until she was 14 years old.

If Snodgrass’ current case had gone to trial, the jury would have been allowed to know about his prior sex crime, thanks to an amendment to the Missouri Constitution passed in November 2014. Zahnd was a leading proponent of the amendment.

Zahnd said, “I have no doubt that the recent change to the Missouri Constitution was instrumental in the defendant’s decision to plead guilty and forgo a trial. It spared these children the trauma of a trial and helped secure a sentence that will likely result in the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison, which is where he belongs.”

The case was investigated by the Riverside Police Department. It was prosecuted by Chris Seufert.

If you need additional information, please contact our office’s media liaison, Jill Baker.

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

Man who planned to rape child sentenced

A man who arrived at a Platte County hotel with a plan to rape with a 13-year-old girl to the verge of unconsciousness has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Christopher D. Craig, 36, of Kansas City, received the sentence on May 21 after being found guilty in a December 2014 trial of attempted enticement of a child and attempted statutory rape in the first degree.

Christopher D. Craig, 36

Christopher D. Craig, 36

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “In all my years as a prosecutor, I have seen very few cases where a defendant’s plan to sexually abuse a child was so deliberate, so detailed, and so disgusting. I believe this man is dangerous, and the public should be aware as long as he remains at large.”

In April 2013, a Platte County Sheriff’s deputy conducted an undercover sting operations on a website that pedophiles are known to frequent. The officer posed as the mother of a 13-year-old girl.

Craig contacted the purported mother and, after some discussion, sent a text message offering to give the child “the full lesson on how to please a man properly and would involve all three orifices.” Over the next few months, Craig continued to correspond with the purported mother. After more texts, Craig arranged to meet the child at a hotel in Kansas City.

While planning his liaison with the child, Craig emailed the mother a 15-point plan detailing the ways he would rape, sodomize, and abuse the child. The plan graphically described various sex acts that Craig intended to inflict upon the child, including sadomasochistic abuse. Among other things, the plan stated, “if [the child] has not passed out and she is feeling brave we will move on to [another sexual act].”

On July 22, 2013, Craig traveled to the hotel in Platte County with condoms, personal lubricant, and latex gloves, intending to meet the 13-year-old for sex. Instead of meeting the child, Craig was arrested by Platte County Sheriff’s Deputies.

Craig admitted to investigators that he would have had sex with the child if she would have been willing.

Zahnd said, “Thank goodness this case did not involve an actual child, but the defendant made it very clear he would have completed the acts if given the opportunity. Those who would rape and abuse children deserve long prison sentences, and we did all that we could to send this defendant to prison for as long as possible.”

At sentencing, Craig’s friends and family, including his wife Audrey Craig, and father, Charles R. Craig, Jr., filed letters on his behalf pleading for leniency. Prosecutors argued for consecutive 12-year sentences, for a total of 24 years. The Court imposed concurrent sentences of 10 years on each count.

Craig remains free on a $100,000 cash bond pending appeal. Zahnd’s office requested the bond be increased after Craig was convicted, but the court denied that request.

This case was investigated by Platte County Sheriff’s Department detectives assigned to the Western Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force. It was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Myles Perry and Chris Seufert.

A photo of Craig is above. If you need additional information, please feel free to contact our office.

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

Victims' rights breakfast celebrates child protection amendment

The successful passage of a Missouri constitutional amendment regarding child sex crimes was the focus of the annual victims’ rights breakfast hosted by the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Members of the community joined crime victims, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and others on April 24 as part of national crime victims’ rights week.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “In many ways, this year’s breakfast was a celebration. The voters’ enactment of Constitutional Amendment 2 was a significant step forward in victims’ rights and will help generations of children.”

Constitutional Amendment 2, which passed with 80% of the vote in November 2014, allows juries to know about a criminal defendant’s prior sex crimes in child sex abuse trials. Prior to its passage, Missouri law was more restrictive than any other state and the federal government in preventing jurors from knowing the criminal past of a repeat sex offender.

Zahnd co-chaired the campaign that led to the passage of the amendment. The idea to change the law originated with Chris Seufert, an assistant prosecutor in Zahnd’s office.

The breakfast featured a keynote address by NaToyia Wilson. Wilson, who advocated for the passage Constitutional Amendment 2, shared her own powerful story as the victim of sexual abuse by a family member. That man was finally convicted decades later of abusing another family member.

Wilson currently works for the civil rights division of the Kansas City Human Relations Department. She previously served as a victim advocate in the Johnson County, Kansas District Attorney’s Office.

Jennifer Atterbury received the Tenth Annual Sara Andrasek Memorial award for her work in raising funds to secure the passage of Amendment 2. Atterbury is currently a prosecutor in Lee’s Summit and previously served as a prosecutor for Jackson County. She has also served as board president of Child Protection Center and as board member for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.

Zahnd said, “NaToyia Wilson and Jennifer Atterbury spent many hours supporting Amendment 2, and they have spent countless other hours helping abused children. They are inspiring examples of what can happen when people choose to give back to their community.”

The Sara Andrasek Memorial 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 event was coordinated by Tanya Faherty, who is the victim advocate in Zahnd’s office. It began ten years ago at the urging of Jill Baker, who is a legal assistant in Zahnd’s office.

If you need more information, please contact our office’s media liaison, Jill Baker.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Public invited to victims' rights breakfast

The public is invited to attend the tenth annual Victims’ Rights Breakfast hosted by the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The free breakfast will be held at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 24, 2015 at the Platte City United Methodist Church.

The breakfast is part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is April 19th-25th. This year’s theme is “Engaging Communities: Empowering Victims.”

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “People who have survived being victimized by crime deserve our support. This breakfast is simple way to empower victims and thank those who work to hold offenders responsible for their crimes.”

The speaker for the breakfast this year will be NaToyia Wilson. Wilson is a crime victim who was a vocal proponent of Constitutional Amendment 2, which allows evidence prior sex crimes to be admitted in child sex abuse trials. Amendment 2 was enacted after garnering support from about 80% of Missouri voters in November 2014.

The breakfast will also feature the presentation of the Tenth Annual Sara Andrasek Memorial Award, which recognizes an individual or entity that has provided 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 that when Dumond died while in custody.

The breakfast will once again be held at the Platte City United Methodist Church located at 14040 Highway N, Platte City, Missouri.

If you have any questions about the event, please feel free to contact the victim advocate in the prosecuting attorney’s office, Tanya Faherty, at (816) 858-3476.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Drunk man with assault rifle pleads guilty

A Kansas City man who threatened to “kill everyone” in his neighborhood has admitted possessing an AR-15 while intoxicated. Zachary S. Caples, 23, pleaded guilty in Platte County Circuit Court on April 16 to unlawful use of a loaded weapon.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, “This case once again demonstrates that weapons and alcohol do not mix. It is fortunate the defendant did not hurt someone and that he was not shot by police despite his dangerous acts.”

On January 5, 2014, at approximately 4:15 a.m., Caples’ girlfriend called 911 and requested the assistance of law enforcement. She told dispatchers Caples had been drinking and had physically abused her. She also said Caples had threatened to kill anyone who came to the home.

Caples took the phone from his girlfriend and told the operator that his girlfriend was the problem, and they didn’t need law enforcement to respond. Caples’ speech was slow, slurred, and confused.

003.jpg

When Platte County deputies arrived, they entered the home and heard what sounded like a rifle and magazine being loaded. The deputies exited the residence and additional law enforcement arrived on the scene. Caples eventually came out of the house and surrendered himself. He was arrested and deputies noted he smelled strongly of alcohol.

Deputies searched the house and found a loaded AR-15 rifle and a pistol protruding from under a mattress in a bedroom. They also found a “flak jacket” with five fully loaded 30 round AR-15 magazines.

Caples told investigators that if things “hit the fan, I’ll kill everyone in the whole [expletive] neighborhood, and I have all the [expletive] food and ammo to do it.” Caples then repeatedly stated that doing so “would be fun.”

Zahnd said, “I support the right to own a gun, and I own guns myself. But that right comes with the responsibility to handle a deadly weapon with care—which means not possessing a firearm while drunk.”

Caples faces a maximum of four years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9.

The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. It was prosecuted by Executive Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joe Vanover.

A photo of the weapons found by deputies is above. If you need additional information, please feel free to contact our media liaison, Jill Baker.

Eric G. Zahnd
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney
415 Third Street, Suite 60
Platte City, Missouri64079
(816) 858-3476
(816) 858-3472 (fax)

Man guilty of vehicular manslaughter involving prescription drugs

A Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to killing another man while speeding and under the influence of drugs. Anthony J. Battaglia, 30, pleaded guilty on April 9 in Platte County Circuit Court to involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance after allegedly driving at more than 80 miles per hour while on several different prescription drugs.

Anthony J. Battaglia, 30

Anthony J. Battaglia, 30

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Even though the drugs in this defendant’s system are legal when prescribed, it’s still illegal to drive when impaired by them. Sadly, a beloved husband, father, and grandfather is dead because of the defendant’s irresponsible actions.”

On February 10, 2014, Battaglia’s GMC Yukon left the road and rear-ended a Chevrolet Malibu parked on the shoulder near I-435 and Missouri 152.

The driver of the Malibu, Donald G. Rippy, was transported to North Kansas City Hospital and pronounced dead. The passenger of the Malibu was also transported to North Kansas City Hospital for treatment.

Highway patrol officers noted that Battaglia appeared disoriented and confused at the scene. Battaglia was arrested and investigators obtained a search warrant for his blood.

An investigation by the Highway Patrol’s Major Crash Investigation Unit showed that, according to the vehicle’s “black box,” Battaglia’s vehicle was travelling at 82 miles per hour just before the impact, and at 78 miles per hour at impact. An analysis of Battaglia’s blood showed it contained amphetamine, alprazolam, carisoprodol, hydroxybuproprion, and meprobamate. All of those substances are contained in legal prescription medications, but Battaglia did not have a prescription for alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax.

Zahnd said his office would recommend Battaglia serve 10 years in prison for his crimes. Battaglia’s defense attorneys could ask the court to impose any lesser sentence, including probation. Battaglia remains in custody with bond set at $50,000 and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 11.

“It’s appropriate that this man serve time in prison for his crimes,” Zahnd said. “Even though the defendant did not intend on killing anyone, the fact remains that Mr. Rippy was tragically taken from his family because the defendant chose to drive well over the speed limit while under the influence of a cocktail of prescription drugs.”

The case was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. It is being prosecuted by First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark L. Gibson and Assistant Prosecutor Amy Ashelford.

A photo of Battagila is above. If you need additional information, please contact Jill Brockman, our office’s media liaison, or me.

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