Cherokee County Attorney's Office

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Galena Man Convicted of Arson

On October 15, 2018, Ronny Ray Piercefield entered guilty pleas to two counts of Arson in Cherokee County District Court. The charges stem from two separate fires set earlier this year.

On March 15, 2018 an officer with the Galena Police Department responded to a grass fire on North Jefferson Street. The fire eventually engulfed a small structure in the area. The officer detained Piercefield, who was running away from the blaze with a cigarette lighter in his hand.

On July 24, 2018 the Baxter Springs Fire Department was dispatched to a rural Cherokee County residence, where 68 bales of hay were engulfed in flames. A subsequent investigation by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office uncovered a turn signal assembly near the blaze. Based on the part number of the turn signal assembly, deputies were able to determine the part was from a 2005-2009 Ford Mustang.

Later the same evening, deputies contacted Piercefield, who was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang near Galena. The vehicle was missing the turn signal assembly. Deputies also located an individual who witnessed Piercefield at the scene a short time before the fire.

“There was a string of these fires earlier this year. Thanks to the thorough investigation by law enforcement, someone will be held responsible for two of those incidents,” said Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard. “Local law enforcement, the State Fire marshal’s Office, and the ATF continue to investigate the other incidents. I anticipate additional charges will be filed in the future.”

Sentencing in both cases is scheduled for December 7, 2018.

Suspect Bites Off More than He Can Chew

Allen Orlando Martin, 61, was sentenced to 15 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections on September 17, 2018 for biting an Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy during an altercation in December 2017

Deputies with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a domestic disturbance at Martin’s residence in rural Baxter Springs. Upon their arrival, deputies witnessed a physical altercation between Martin and a female at the residence. When deputies attempted to detain Martin, he resisted, leading to a physical struggle between Martin and the deputies. During the struggle, Martin bit a deputy’s arm, breaking the skin.

In August 2018, Martin entered a guilty plea to battery of a law enforcement officer in Cherokee County District Court. “Resisting arrest or obstructing a law enforcement officer’s duties is always a crime,” said Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard. “When such obstruction results in bodily harm to the officer, it becomes a felony likely to result in prison time.”

Missouri Man Pleads Guilty to Cherokee County Copper Thefts

On September 17, 2018 Charles Gordon, 32, of Carterville, Missouri was convicted of two separate incidents of theft of commercial air-conditioning units in Cherokee County.

Gordon pleaded guilty to stealing two air-conditioning units from 4-State Liquidation in Galena on March 3, 2018, causing more than $30,000 in damage to the building. Investigators with the Galena Police Department obtained surveillance footage of Gordon loading the units into the back of a silver pickup truck.

Gordon also pleaded guilty to stealing three air-conditioning units from a church near Galena, causing more than $12,000 in damage to the building. Detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office collected tire impressions from the scene, which matched the tires on Gordon’s silver pickup truck. Law enforcement also obtained video evidence of Gordon selling copper and aluminum metal in Joplin, Missouri on the dates of both thefts.

“Copper thieves are a particular nuisance to the community because they cause thousands of dollars in damage for a few hundred dollars worth of metal,” says Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard. “Fortunately, the Kansas legislature has recently passed laws increasing the severity of the punishment for crimes involving the theft of scrap metal,” concluded Conard.

Gordon will be sentenced on November 19, 2018 in Cherokee County District Court.

Baxter Springs Man Pleads Guilty to Breach of Privacy

On August 28, 2018, Troy Eugene Maxton, 44, of Baxter Springs, Kansas entered a guilty plea to one count of breach of privacy. At his formal arraignment, Maxton admitted to “putting a camera in an inappropriate place.” Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard, went on to explain to the court Maxton placed a cell phone camera under a bathroom door to take a picture, knowing there was a female juvenile inside.

Detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office seized Maxton’s cell phone and recovered an image of the bathroom floor and door. According to Conard, the Kansas breach of privacy statute makes it a felony to secretly photograph or record any person who is nude or in a state of undress.

Maxton, who faces up to 23 months imprisonment, will be sentenced in Cherokee County District Court on October 24, 2018. As a condition of Maxton’s guilty plea, he will also be required to register as a sex offender in any county where he lives or works.

Joplin Man Sentenced for Cherokee County Thefts

On July 10, 2018, Christopher Whitney was sentenced to 16 months in prison for his role in two separate thefts in Cherokee County. Whitney previously plead guilty to stealing various items of personal property from a rural residence near Galena, as well as stealing a vehicle from another residence near Riverton. Both incidents were investigated by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

Shortly after the burglary, deputies with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle occupied by Whitney and two other men. Deputies observed paperwork and personal property stolen from the residence. One of the suspects was also wearing a black cowboy hat stolen from the home. A subsequent search of the vehicle also uncovered a quantity of methamphetamine.

At sentencing the Defendant asked the Court to consider probation in lieu of a prison sentence. Deputy County Attorney Nathan Coleman argued for a prison sentence, citing Whitney’s lengthy criminal history, which includes 9 felony and 18 misdemeanor convictions. “Technically theft is considered a property crime, but to the victim the effect is very personal,” said Coleman. “Those who take property someone else has worked hard for need to spend some time in a cell.”

Third and Final Defendant Sentenced in 2015 Stabbing

Alyssa Cheyenne Bird, 18, of West Mineral, Kansas was sentenced to more than 5 years in the Kansas Department of Corrections for her role in the 2015 stabbing death of Robin Fought.

In April, Bird entered a guilty plea to Conspiracy to Commit Murder in the First Degree. Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard alleged Bird conspired with her mother, Crystal Galloway, and her mother’s boyfriend, Dakota Cunningham, to lure Fought to a secluded area in rural Cherokee County where Galloway and Cunningham stabbed Fought multiple times and attempted to burn his body and vehicle.

At a preliminary hearing in June 2017, Conard presented evidence recovered from Bird and Galloway’s cell phones. Text messages showed the two discussed the details of how Galloway and Cunningham would kill Fought, as well as digital images of the scene where Fought’s body was later recovered. Bird also sent Galloway a digital image of a handwritten poem including the line “don’t forget to murder Rob.”

Galloway was convicted of murder following a jury trial in September 2016 and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. Cunningham entered a plea to murder in May 2017 and was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison. Birds is the final defendant facing charges.

“It is important for everyone, especially young people, to remember their words and actions have consequences,” says Conard. “What started as an angry rant by this young woman led to the planning of a murder, and ended with an innocent man losing his life.”

Joplin Man Sentenced to 10 years for Galena Robbery

Shawn Michael Orr, 31, of Joplin, Missouri was sentenced to more than 10 years in the Kansas Department of Corrections following entry of a guilty plea to one count of Robbery in Cherokee County District Court.

In May 2016, Orr entered the Pizza Hut restaurant in Galena, Kanas armed with a handgun and wearing a motorcycle helmet to conceal his identity. Surveillance footage from area businesses show Orr fled on a motorcycle to Missouri.

The Galena Police Department, through traditional investigation and utilization of social media, identified Orr as a suspect the same day. The following day, Orr was taken into custody by a Joplin Police Department task force. Orr subsequently confessed to the robbery when interviewed by Galena Police investigators.

“This case is a great example of how social media can be a very effective law enforcement tool, as well as the importance of communication and cooperation between agencies in neighboring states,” says Cherokee County Jake Conard. According to Conard, Orr is currently serving a prison sentence in Missouri and will be transferred to Kansas next month to begin serving his sentence.

Domestic Disturbance Leads to Prison Sentence


On March 28, 2018 Shawn James Tallant, 30, of Baxter Springs was sentenced to 27 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections for Aggravated Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer and Criminal Threat.

On July 12, 2017 law enforcement was dispatched to a domestic disturbance at a residence on Park Avenue in Baxter Springs. When officers with the Baxter Springs Police Department and deputies with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office entered the home, Tallant pointed a shotgun at the officers and made verbal threats.

Officers were able to take cover, deescalate the situation, and convince Tallant to surrender. The weapon was later determined to be an air-powered shotgun. Tallant was also charged with making violent threats to his girlfriend and her infant child.

According to Cherokee County Jake Conard, this is the second time in six months a defendant has been convicted and received a prison sentence for pointing an air gun at a law enforcement officers. In January, Mark Best was sentenced to 43 months for using an air gun in a standoff with Cherokee County Deputies. “The intent of the statute is to punish those who use a weapon to cause fear in another. The person looking down the barrel of that gun isn’t going to take the time to see if it’s a toy,” says Conard.

Columbus Man Sentenced for Multi-County Pursuit

Kevin James Duncan, 39, will serve the next seven years in the Kansas Department of Corrections for his involvement in a high speed chase in May of 2016. Law enforcement was initially advised Duncan was driving erratically near a city park and making threats to children in the area.

Officers with the Columbus Police Department and Deputies with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office initiated a pursuit which continued into Crawford County, reaching speed in excess of 100 miles per hour. During the pursuit, Duncan discharged a firearm through the sunroof of his vehicle and pointed the firearm at a Columbus animal control officer. When Duncan’s vehicle was eventually disabled by deputies, he attempted to flee on foot, and was shot once by Crawford County Deputies and taken into custody.

Duncan was ultimately convicted of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer in each county and was sentenced to a total of 79 months imprisonment. “It’s great to see the cooperation and coordination between law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices in neighboring counties result in a lengthy prison sentence for someone who poses such a threat to the peace and safety of our communities,” says Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard.

Deadly Situation Draws Prison Sentence

A Scammon man has been sentenced to 36 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections for Aggravated Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer.

In August 2017, two deputies with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a residence in Scammon, Kansas for reports of a suspicious subject armed with a handgun. Upon arrival, deputies contacted 52-year-old Michael Eugene Best. As best approached the deputies, he raised a black handgun from behind his back. Deputies were able to take cover, successfully deploy a taser, and disarm Best. The black handgun was determined to be a CO2 air pistol.

Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard charged Best with two counts of Aggravated Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer. Best entered guilty pleas to both counts in October 2017. Under Kansas law, a CO2 air gun is considered a deadly weapon. “At a glance, the CO2 gun Best pointed at the deputies appeared identical to a real firearm,” says Conard.

According to Conard, this is the second case in the last year where a suspect has pointed an air gun at law enforcement officers. “I take these cases very seriously because even a simulated firearm creates a situation where an officer has to make a split-second decision on whether to use deadly force against a suspect,” says Conard. “This situation could have ended much worse for Best and the officers. Best could be dead, and the officers would be living with a decision he forced them to make.”

 

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