A rural Missouri sheriff and two deputies face charges of helping a man in a parental kidnapping plot. Missouri State Highway Patrol officers arrested Iron County Sheriff Jeff Burkett, deputies Matthew Cozad and Chase Bresnahan, and the father of the child, Donald Gaston. All four face multiple charges and were jailed Friday in neighboring Washington County, the Associated Press reports. Iron County has about 9,500 residents and sits 100 miles southwest of St. Louis. Burkett’s lawyer, Gabe Crocker, said the charges are politically motivated. “This is small-town politics,” Crocker said. “This is the continuation of a long gestating effort to remove this sheriff from office.”
Charging documents say that in February, Gaston, 62, sought to take his daughter after an argument with the child’s mother. Prosecutors say Burkett lied to a 911 dispatcher to report that the mother had kidnapped the girl, and falsely accused the woman of putting the child in danger. Ultimately, the girl remained with her mother. The sheriff and deputies are accused of tracking the woman’s whereabouts through her cell phone.
All four men were charged with criminal street gang activity because the alleged crime was organized. Burkett, 46, also is charged with attempted kidnapping, being an accessory to stalking, and other crimes.