Missouri Sheriff, 2 deputies charged with conspiring to kidnap a child

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

According to court documents, Iron County Sheriff Jeff Burkett, Deputies Matthew Cozad and Chase Bresnahan, and the girl’s father, Donald Gaston, were arrested Thursday.

All four were charged with conspiracy and participating in criminal group activities under a state “street gang” statute, in addition to other individual charges, according to indictment documents.

Sheriff Jeff Burkett.Iron County Sheriff’s Office via Facebook

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

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

Crocker did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Court records did not list attorneys for Gaston, Cozad and Bresnahan.

The case originated in neighboring Washington County, where Sheriff Zach Jacobsen said someone called his department to report that Iron County sheriff’s officers had allegedly abused their police powers, he told KSDK.

Indictment documents allege that Burkett, Cozad and Bresnahan were part of a conspiracy to help Gaston kidnap his daughter after he had an argument with the child’s mother.

The documents include allegations that Burkett used 911 to falsely report that the mother had kidnapped the girl and allegedly accused the woman of child endangerment without evidence.

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


In addition to the other charges, Burkett, Cozad and Bresnahan were charged with 911 abuse; Gaston was charged with attempted parental kidnapping and stalking; and Bresnahan was accused, according to the documents, of obtaining a criminal record under false pretenses.

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

The statement blamed district leaders for budget cuts that would have resulted in fewer MPs on patrol. It also accused some in the area’s political establishment of trying to oust the sheriff while he spent months in a hospital battling Covid-19 last year.

“It’s no secret that Sheriff Burkett is an outsider to many of the currently elected officers,” the post reads.

Burkett was jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail; The other suspects were jailed in lieu of $400,000 bail. According to court documents, a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday to ask a judge to reconsider those amounts.

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

Jo Kottke

The Associated Press contributed to this.


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