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Missouri sheriff and three others charged with kidnapping conspiracy

IRON COUNTY, MO (KMOV/Gray News) — The Iron County Sheriff is part of a group that has been indicted on multiple charges.

Sheriff Jeffrey Burkett, Donald Ricky Gaston, Chase R. Bresnahan, and Matthew A. Cozad face charges including intentional involvement in street gang crime, attempted kidnapping, stalking, misuse of 911, and illegally obtaining criminal information.

Washington County Emergency Services has an agreement to handle Iron County Emergency Calls.

The indictment documents say Gaston, 62, tried to take his daughter back in February after an argument with the child’s mother.

The documents claim that on the night of February 8, a skirmish occurred between Gaston and a woman in Iron County. Washington County dispatchers noted in the call log that Gaston behaved physically aggressively and three assistants answered the house.

Iron County, Missouri Sheriff Jeffrey Burkett was arrested Thursday. (Source: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

The footage of a fight between Gaston and a woman shows them fighting over a $50 bottle of liquor. After a quarrel, the woman left the house with the children. Iron County MPs, which included Bresnahan, reported that the parties had dispersed and no casualties were reported.

The next day, the woman asked the Iron County sheriff’s deputies to walk her home so she could retrieve her personal items. Gaston did not let anyone into the house. The woman then went to a relative’s home to “seek a safe haven” from Gaston, court documents say.

The four were accused of trying to track the woman on her mobile phone signal, claiming she was intoxicated and the child was injured. They also tried to get a warrant for her arrest and also tried to “stop and hold” the woman and her car.

The sheriff also sent deputies with a health check to apprehend the woman and return the baby to Gaston, but they did not take her into custody because they found no visible injuries.

Burkett pleaded not guilty. He is on $500,000 bail but cannot be released without GPS monitoring. The judge also said that he should not serve as a sheriff or officer while the case was pending. Bail for the other three was set at $400,000 each.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said all four men were arrested Thursday and turned over to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The case is handled by the Washington District Attorney’s Office.

Iron County is about an hour and 40 minutes south of St. Louis.

Burkett’s attorney said the charges were politically motivated after several attempts to remove the sheriff from office.

Lawyer Gabe Crocker said: “This is small town politics. … My client and I look forward to revealing the dark side of this story – then and only then should one form an opinion. There is more to this story.”

Burkett, a Republican, was elected sheriff in 2020 and previously served as a deputy, according to the Associated Press.

He was hospitalized for nearly four months with COVID-19 last year, including spending time on a ventilator, according to the department’s Facebook page, during which county officials tried to remove him from office but eventually backed down.

On March 10, Burkett was briefly hospitalized due to continued “symptoms and complications,” the Facebook page said. A photograph taken after his arrest shows him wearing an oxygen tube in his nose.

“It’s wild, it doesn’t seem like anything like this is happening here, so it’s crazy,” said local resident Garrett Adams. “Definitely not a good reflection of people from the area. Really good people live here, they care about each other.”

One of the residents’ concerns was how many deputies were left to guard the district. According to the Iron County website, there are 13 deputy positions in the department, but three of them are part-time, and two more are reserve. Burkett’s attorney said there were only six deputies plus the sheriff as of Thursday.

Burkett’s lawyer was asked how much was left and if other agencies were reaching out to police in light of Thursday’s news. Crocker said he didn’t know.

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