Missouri sheriff, 2 deputies charged in child kidnapping plot

Missouri sheriff, 2 deputies charged in child kidnapping plot

A Missouri sheriff and two deputies are accused of parting in a scheme to help a man kidnap his child.

According to court records, Jeff Burkett, Deputies Matthew Cozad and Chase Bresnahan, and the father of the girl, Donald Gaston, were arrested Thursday.

All four have been charged with conspiracy and participation in group criminal activity under a state street gang statute, in addition to other individual charges, according to charging documents.

Burkett's lawyer, Gabe Crocker, told NBC affiliate KSDK of St. Louis that the case was part of a history of politically motivated attempts to remove him from office.

They've been trying to get rid of him since he won the Republican primary for sheriff in Iron County in 2020, Crocker told the station.

The case originated in Washington County, where the sheriff, Zach Jacobsen, said someone called his department to report sheriff's officials in Iron County were allegedly abusing their police powers.

Charging documents show that Burkett, Cozad and Bresnahan were part of a plot to help Gaston kidnap his daughter after he had a dispute with the child's mother.

The documents show that Burkett used 911 to falsely report the mother kidnapped the girl, and also accused the woman of child endangerment without any evidence.

The girl was unharmed, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

According to the documents, Burkett, Cozad and Bresnahan were charged with misusing 911, Gaston was charged with attempted parental kidnapping and stalking, and Bresnahan was charged with obtaining a criminal record under false pretense.

On March 10, the Iron County Sheriff's Office posted a statement on its Facebook page about Burkett's health, saying he's had an ongoing battle with Covid- 19 and had to be hospitalized. He was released that day, according to the statement.

The statement blamed county leaders for budget cuts that resulted in fewer deputies on patrol. It blamed some in the area's political establishment for trying to oust the sheriff while he spent months in a hospital last year battling Covid - 19.

The post said that Sheriff Burkett is an outsider to many of the current elected officials.

Burkett was jailed in lieu of $500,000 bond, while the other suspects were jailed in lieu of $400,000 bond. A hearing will be held on Wednesday to ask a judge to reconsider those amounts, according to court records.

Iron County has a population of approximately 9,400 people and is located about 95 miles southwest of St. Louis.