This is a multi-part series of allegations made about the former Iron County Sheriff and three deputies, along with the sheriff’s wife and an Iron County resident, resulting in multiple charges filed in Iron and Washington counties. – Editor
The United States justice system begins with an alleged crime. Sometimes, the “criminal” is arrested immediately by the police, a caught-in-the-act type scenario. Other times, an investigation must be conducted, and warrants must be sought and approved before arrests. Warrant applications are written by law enforcement and sent to a prosecuting attorney for approval or denial. If approved, the warrant application is set before a judge for issuance.
The warrant application process can take only a few hours or many weeks; it all depends on the circumstances of the case. But what happens when the police the public relies on to write warrant applications are the people a warrant application must be written about? This is the circumstance that Iron County is dealing with.
Former Iron County Sheriff Jeffery L. Burkett and three Iron County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Chase R. Bresnahan, Matthew A. Cozad, and Christopher A. Jayne, along with Iron County resident Donald Rickie Gaston, and the former sheriff’s wife, Trudi M. Burkett, are charged with a combined 23 felonies and 34 misdemeanors in the counties of Iron and Washington.
Bresnahan, Jeffery Burkett, and Cozad are each charged in Washington County with one felony count of participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, one felony count of tampering with a victim in a felony prosecution, one felony count of first-degree stalking, one misdemeanor count of third-degree attempted kidnapping, one misdemeanor count of second-degree stalking, one misdemeanor count of obtaining criminal history record information under false pretenses, one misdemeanor count of disclosure of confidential criminal records, one misdemeanor count of misusing “911,” and one misdemeanor count of making a false report.
Gaston is charged in Washington County with one felony count of participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, one felony count of first-degree stalking, one misdemeanor count of third-degree attempted kidnapping, one misdemeanor count of second-degree stalking, one misdemeanor count of obtaining criminal history record information under false pretense, one misdemeanor count of disclosure of confidential criminal records, one misdemeanor count of misusing “911,” and one misdemeanor count of making a false report.
In Iron County, Jeffery Burkett, Bresnahan, and Jayne are charged with three felony counts of tampering with a judicial officer and three misdemeanor counts of second-degree stalking. Gaston is charged with one felony count of second-degree domestic assault, one felony count of third-degree domestic assault, and one misdemeanor count of attempted tampering with physical evidence. Trudi Burkett is charged with one felony count of tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution.
An investigation began on Feb. 21 when the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) was requested to conduct a special investigation regarding allegations of false reporting by the Iron County Sheriff’s Department. The investigation spans four counties and more than a month of alleged incidents. Court proceedings include at least six attorneys, the possibility of more than three judges, three counties, and a theory of retaliation for an investigation into money misspent from the Tom Sauk Fund introduced by defense attorneys.
It’s easier to understand the story if told from a timeline of events provided in MSHP’s probable cause statements and Missouri Case Net. Readers should also be aware of a few things before the story begins. At the time of the reported incidents, Washington County had an operating agreement with Iron County to manage “911” calls, law enforcement dispatching, and Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) inquiries. As defined by the Missouri Revisor of Statutes, MULES is a statewide computerized communications system the MSHP provides that is “designed to provide services, information, and capabilities to the law enforcement and criminal justice community in the state of Missouri.” Now, on to the story.
Day One – Feb. 8
According to MSHP probable cause statements, Washington County dispatchers received a report that Gaston was involved in a disturbance at his home in Iron County on Feb. 8 at around 6:20 p.m. Within twenty minutes, three Iron County Deputies, including Bresnahan and Jayne, responded to the call. The adult woman, named W1 to remain anonymous, who lived in the home and was involved in the disturbance, reported the altercation was due to an argument about alcohol. Two children, called C1 and C2 for anonymity, also lived in the home and were present during the altercation. C1 told police she secretly recorded the altercation on her cell phone. C1 also told investigators Gaston put his hands around W1’s neck and pushed her down. C1 said when Gaston realized he was being recorded, he grabbed C1’s wrist and forearm, then twisted her arm to try to take the phone.
W1 told investigators a similar version of events. In her story, Gaston became physically abusive after she began pouring a bottle of alcohol down the sink. W1 said she “put her fingers on his face to try to disengage him,” and Gaston accused her of hitting him. W1 said Gaston then grabbed her by the throat and slammed her to the ground. She said that at some point during the incident, Gaston put his phone very close to her face, and she “swiped” it out of his hands. The phone struck C2.
W1, C1, and C2 left Gaston’s home after speaking with police. At approximately 7:15 p.m., Iron County deputies told Washington County Dispatch Gaston and W1 had been separated, and all officers were finished with the call. All three officers signed off duty for the evening without reporting any injuries to anyone at the Gaston home resulting from the disturbance.
The third deputy on the scene said no one seemed to be intoxicated, no child was seriously hurt, and Gaston willingly allowed C1 and C2 to leave with W1. The deputy did recall a small red mark on the hand of C2 but said it did not seem serious and did not need medical treatment.
Day Two – Feb. 9
W1 asked Iron County deputies to go with her so she could get personal items from Gaston’s home. Gaston reportedly stood outside the house and would not allow anyone to enter.
For most domestic violence incidents, day two would have been the end of law enforcement involvement and a possible beginning to W1 seeking recourse through civil court for her belongings. Some situations do not adhere to the norm and require further law enforcement involvement. This incident did not end on day two; more was yet to come.
End of Part 1