According to charging documents, a Missouri sheriff and two of his deputies were detained on Thursday and accused in relation to an alleged scheme to assist a father abduct his daughter from her mother following an incident last month.
According to a criminal complaint, the father, Rick Gaston, 62, was also detained and is now being held on four felony charges, including attempted parental kidnapping, conspiracy, and stalking, as well as two other misdemeanor crimes.
According to the charge paperwork acquired by CNN affiliate KSDK, Iron County Sheriff Jeffrey Burkett, 46, is accused of conspiring with the two deputies to locate the mother who was seeking protection from Gaston using her phone records so that Gaston could remove their daughter from her.
According to the court documents, Burkett and the deputies, Matthew Cozad, 39, and Chase R. Bresnahan, 31, each face four felony charges, including conspiracy and taking part in illegal street gang activity, in addition to various misdemeanor allegations. Burkett is also accused of attempting to kidnap someone.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol announced in a release that it had looked into the case.
CNN was unable to ascertain whether Bresnahan, Cozad, and Gaston had legal representation.
Gabe Crocker, Burkett’s attorney, referred to the accusations as “politically motivated.”
Before Sheriff Burkett even assumed his position, there was a persistent effort to have him removed, Crocker said CNN.
About 90 miles separate Iron County from St. Louis.
How the alleged plot unfolded
According to the criminal documents, on February 8 a domestic dispute between Gaston and the mother was reported, and Burkett and the deputies responded.
Documents show that after the deputies “separated” Gaston and the mother, the mother removed her kids, aged 5 and 16, and subsequently sought “safe sanctuary” in a relative’s house. One of the kids is reportedly Gaston’s daughter.
According to the documents, Bresnahan requested an arrest warrant for the mother from the Iron County Prosecuting Attorney two days later, but no charges were brought against her.
According to the records, the mother may have been intoxicated when she called dispatchers that day, alleging that her child might have been hurt. He next asked for the mother’s phone location pings, which, according to the records, call for the government to certify to the cell provider that there is a “urgent danger of death or injury to a person”.
According to the records, Cozad allegedly directed officers to “stop and hold” the mother and to inquire about any vehicles that were registered to the mother.
Sheriff Burkett allegedly instructed a 911 dispatcher to send sheriff’s deputies to “simply park at the household” but not approach the property when he thought the mother was heading to a relative’s home in adjacent Washington County, according to the documents.
According to the lawsuit, Burkett allegedly told the operator that Mr. Gaston would go there and try to get his daughter.
The complaint claims that at one point the 911 dispatcher informed Burkett that the mother’s ping locations suggested she was probably moving toward her home. I hope to hell she is, because when I get her, she’s going to sit in my jail, Burkett allegedly retorted.
According to the lawsuit, Burkett allegedly responded, “Yes, after Mr. Gaston has his little girl, then we’ll detain her,” in response to the dispatcher’s inquiry about whether the mother should be kept.
The complaint claims that Sheriff Burkett’s phone conversation with an unidentified male could be overheard, and the prosecution claims that it appeared as though the male was directing Burkett’s comments.
A sheriff’s deputy sergeant later tracked down the mother at a residence in another county, where he performed a welfare check and “discovered no obvious injuries and reported the children were well,” according to the complaint. It states that the sergeant claimed not to have detained the mother.
The bail for each of the four suspects was set at $400,000 for the other three and $500,000 for Burkett. They were all being held in the Washington County Prison. The sheriff and deputies are prohibited from performing their duties as law enforcement officials while the case is pending by the terms of their bonds.
According to a statement last Friday that was published on the sheriff’s office Facebook page, Burkett had just been discharged from the hospital owing to problems from “lingering Covid-19 symptoms.” On Thursday, a photograph from Burkett’s booking was made public.