A sheriff in Missouri and two of his deputies face kidnapping, conspiracy and criminal street gang activity charges alleging they tried to help a man kidnap his daughter after an argument with his wife.
Jeff Burkett, 46, the sheriff of Iron County, about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis, was arrested Thursday along with Deputies Matthew Cozad and Chase Bresnahan and the father, Donald Gaston.
According to charging documents cited by NBC St. Louis affiliate KSDK, it all started in February when Burkett, Gaston, Bresnahan and Cozad tried to help Gaston kidnap his daughter after an argument between Gaston and the mother of his daughter.
The suspects called 911 to have the mother arrested and put a “stop and hold” notice on her record so that if police stopped her, she would be detained, the outlet reported. They monitored the mother and daughter’s locations through their cellphones.
The sheriff allegedly told 911 dispatchers that the mother was intoxicated and kidnapped her injured daughter. The dispatcher heard a man’s voice saying the same thing, “as if the unidentified male was telling Burkett what to say,” the outlet reported, citing court documents.
Burkett’s lawyer, Gabe Crocker, told The Associated Press the charges are politically motivated. “This is small-town politics,” Crocker said. “This is the continuation of a long-gestating effort to remove this sheriff from office.”
It’s unclear whether Gaston, Cozad and Bresnahan have attorneys, the AP reported.
According to a news release from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, all four face charges of knowingly participating in gang activities and conspiracy. Burkett and Gason also face charges of attempted kidnapping, stalking and making a false report. Additional charges against Burkett and Bresnahan include obtaining criminal history record information under a false pretense and misusing 911. Cozad faces an additional charge of being an accessory to stalking.
Burkett is in custody on a $500,000 bond. The others were jailed on $400,000 bonds.
Burkett, a Republican elected in 2020, was hospitalized with COVID-19 for nearly four months, including time on a ventilator. He was hospitalized this month for lingering complications, according to a news release from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. His mugshot shows him with an oxygen line.