The Ste. Genevieve man who was found guilty of the 2016 assault of a police officer and a subsequent escape attempt from the St. Francois County Jail was sentenced to 112 years behind bars by Judge Wendy Wexler-Horn on Wednesday.
Joseph Schelsky, 50, was found guilty in March of three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer in the first degree, one count of robbery in the first degree, four counts of armed criminal action and one count of attempted escape.
The conviction followed an August 2016 incident involving Schelsky fleeing from a Desloge police officer, drawing a weapon on the officer, taking the officer’s taser, fleeing and again drawing a weapon on officers at the time of his being taken into custody.
On the morning of Aug. 30, 2016, a Desloge officer began following Schelsky after observing that the black Trans Am he was driving had a broken taillight, which was covered in duct tape. Schelsky and his passenger attempted to elude the officer, eventually heading toward Highway 8 on Highway P at speeds in excess of 85 miles per hour.
Failing to stop at the intersection of Highways P and 8, Schelsky continued onto Old Highway 8, lost control of his vehicle once, regained the road and lost control again a second time, crashing into a ditch. The Desloge officer positioned his patrol car behind Schelsky’s to keep him from returning to the road.
Schelsky exited his vehicle and began quickly approaching the officer. Shortly before Schelsky reached the patrol car, the officer noticed that Schelsky had a silver handgun in his hand. Schelsky placed the gun against the officer’s side and ordered him to drop his service weapon, to which the officer complied.
Schelsky then took the officer’s department-issue taser from its holster, told the officer to get into his car and leave and then fled on foot with the passenger in the vehicle.
Hours later Schelsky was taken into custody near Davis Crossing and Mitchell Roads by officers of the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department.
In November 2016, officers at the St. Francois County Jail became suspicious that Schelsky was planning an escape from the jail with the help of this then-girlfriend Michelle Dessieux. Deputies reviewed phone calls placed by Schelsky to Dessieux, in which the inmate seemed to direct her to bring firearms and ammunition to the jail to aid in his escape.
When Dessieux arrived at the jail on Nov. 12, 2016, she was taken into custody by deputies of the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department and her vehicle was searched, producing cellphones, camouflage clothing, air rifles and a wide array of shotgun, rifle and pistol ammunition.
Schelsky’s March 2018 trial included testimony from officers involved in Schelsky’s pursuit and arrest, in addition to deputies with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department who investigated the inmate’s planned escape attempt.
It was the argument of Schelsky and his attorney, Chad Oliver, that the events surrounding both his assault of the Desloge officer, his arrest and subsequent escape attempt took place very differently from what was reported by the Desloge Police Department and St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department.
Taking the stand at the end of the second day of trial, Schelsky testified that he had not been attempting to evade the Desloge officer on the day of his arrest at all, but had been essentially joyriding and not noticed the officer behind him.
Upon losing control of his vehicle for the second time, Schelsky testified that he had exited his vehicle and complied with every command of the officer, beginning with getting on the ground. It was his testimony that the officer had then directed him to stand, at which point the officer supposedly handed Schelsky his taser and ordered him to get away from the scene of the accident.
Schelsky testified that he retrieved his cigarettes, gun and cellphone from his vehicle and left the area on foot, dropping the taser at some point.
When he was taken into custody, Schelsky said he did indeed have a gun in his hand, but he never brandished or pointed it at officers.
As for the planned escape, Schelsky testified that there never had been a plan to escape, but that he would often daydream about escaping from jail and would communicate his daydreams to his girlfriend on the phone.
Unconvinced by his testimony, the jury found Schelsky guilty on all charges stemming from both the assault, arrest and attempted escape.
St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin said Schelsky’s sentencing consisted of nine charges; three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer in the first degree carried sentences of 20 years each; one count of robbery carried a sentence of ten years; four counts of armed criminal action, each associated with the preceding four charges, carried sentences of 10 years each; the count of attempted escape carried a sentence of 2 years.
Wexler-Horn sentenced Schelsky to a total of 112 years on Wednesday for all charges, to be served consecutively.