Missouri Sheriff and Two Cops Charged With Helping a Father Kidnap His Child

Documents show that on Thursday, a Missouri sheriff and two of his deputies were arrested and charged with being part of a plan to help a father take his daughter from her mother after they had a fight last month.

A criminal complaint says that Rick Gaston, the father, was also arrested. He faces six charges, four of which are felonies: attempted parental kidnapping, conspiracy, stalking, and two misdemeanors.

According to the charging documents obtained by CNN affiliate KSDK, 46-year-old Iron County Sheriff Jeffery Burkett is accused of working with the two deputies to find the mother, who was running away from Gaston, by using her phone records, so that Gaston could take their daughter from her. The mother was trying to hide from Gaston.

7 Virginia deputies have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Black man who was “smothered” while in custody, a prosecutor says. Burkett and the deputies, Matthew Cozad, 39, and Chase R. Bresnahan, 31, each face four felony charges, including conspiracy and taking part in criminal street gang activities, as well as other misdemeanor charges, according to the charging documents. Burkett is also charged with trying to take someone hostage.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol looked into the case, the agency said in a press release.

Gabe Crocker, Burkett’s lawyer, said that the charges were “politically motivated.”

Crocker told CNN that there had been efforts to get rid of Sheriff Burkett even before he took office.

About 90 miles south of St. Louis in Iron County.

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How the Supposed Plan Went Down

The charging documents say that on February 8, Burkett and the deputies went to a call about a fight between Gaston and the mother.

After the deputies “split up” Gaston and his mother, the mother took her 5 and 16-year-old children out of the house and found “safe refuge” with a relative, according to the documents, which say that one of the children is Gaston’s daughter.

The documents say that Bresnahan asked the Iron County Prosecuting Attorney for a warrant to arrest the mother two days later, but the prosecuting attorney did not file any charges.

Documents show that on the same day, Sheriff Burkett called dispatchers and said that the mother might have been drunk and that her child might have been hurt. He then asked for the mother’s phone’s location pings, which require authorities to certify to the cell provider that there is a “immediate danger of death or injury to a person,” according to the documents.

According to the documents, Cozad asked for an investigation into the mother’s vehicles and asked officers who saw her to “stop and hold” her.

The documents say that when Sheriff Burkett thought the mother was going to a relative’s house in neighboring Washington County, he told a 911 dispatcher to send sheriff’s deputies to “just park at the residence” but not go inside.

The complaint says that Burkett told the dispatcher, “Mr. Gaston is going to go up there and try to get his daughter.”

At one point, the complaint says, the 911 dispatcher told Burkett that the mother’s ping locations showed she was probably going home. Burkett allegedly said, “I hope like hell she is because when I catch her, she’s going to sit in my jail.”

The complaint says that when the dispatcher asked if the mother should be detained, Burkett allegedly said, “Yeah, once Mr. Gaston has his little girl, we’ll detain her.”

The complaint says that an unidentified man could be heard talking to Sheriff Burkett on the phone call, and prosecutors say it sounded like that person was telling Burkett what to say.

The mother was later found at an address in a different county. A sheriff’s deputy sergeant did a welfare check and “found no visible injuries and said the children were fine,” the complaint says. It says that the sergeant said he did not hold the mother.

All four suspects were being held in the Washington County Jail, with Burkett’s bond set at $500,000 and the bonds for the other three at $400,000. Under the terms of their bonds, the sheriff and deputies can’t do their jobs as police officers while the case is going on.

A post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page last Friday said that Burkett had just been released from the hospital because of complications from “lingering Covid-19 symptoms.” Burkett was wearing an oxygen cannula in his booking photo, which was made public on Thursday.

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