Missouri Sheriff in Office While Facing 18 Charges

ST. LOUIS (AP) – A Missouri sheriff was back in office Thursday despite his arrest on 18 counts, including an allegation that he handcuffed an innocent 77-year-old woman with so much force that she suffered a heart attack.

The FBI and Missouri State Highway Patrol arrested Mississippi County Sheriff Cory Hutcheson Wednesday. He was briefly jailed in nearby Cape Girardeau County before being released on $75,000 bond.

Coroner Terry Parker, who was briefly acting sheriff, confirmed that Hutcheson retook control of the department once he got out of jail. A message seeking comment from Hutcheson was not returned and a woman answering phones at the sheriff’s office declined comment.

Parker said Hutcheson will remain in charge unless the Missouri attorney general’s office successfully petitions a court to remove him. It wasn’t clear whether that effort was underway. A message seeking comment from the attorney general’s office was not immediately returned.

Parker said he wasn’t concerned about law enforcement in the rural county of about 14,000 residents that’s about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of St. Louis, despite the troubling accusations against Hutcheson.

“He has a department intact, with wonderful, credible deputies, so I would assume business would run as usual,” Parker said.

Hutcheson, 33, was elected sheriff in November and took office in January. He had worked most of the previous 11 years in the sheriff’s department as a jail administrator and deputy.

The attorney general’s office released to The Associated Press probable cause statements spelling out the accusations. Charges of assault, first-degree robbery and false declaration stem from an incident last month.

On March 24, Hutcheson entered Joyce’s Beauty Shop in East Prairie to pick up a paycheck for his sister-in-law, patrol trooper T.S. Craig wrote in the statement. The sister-in-law had been accused of taking property belonging to the business, and the shop owner was holding the check until the property was returned, Craig wrote.

Hutcheson approached 77-year-old Bonnie Woods, an employee and a sister of the shop owner, and demanded the paycheck, threatening arrest if she refused, Craig wrote.

When Woods refused, the sheriff allegedly grabbed her left wrist and applied the handcuff with enough force that it bled. He grabbed her right arm near the bicep hard enough to cause “significant bruising,” Craig wrote, then grabbed the check, removed the handcuff and left.

Woods felt chest pains and was taken to a hospital where it was determined she had a heart attack, the statement said. She was hospitalized for three days.

Reached Thursday by phone at the shop, Woods declined an interview request.

Later that day, Hutcheson submitted an affidavit to the county prosecutor seeking assault and kidnapping charges against Woods. He alleged that the sister-in-law was held against her will when she tried to pick up her final paycheck. Witnesses said the sister-in-law was neither assaulted nor kidnapped, Craig wrote.

The other 15 counts seven each of forgery and tampering with computer data, and one count of notary misconduct accuse Hutcheson of crimes in 2014 when he was a deputy.

A company called Securus Technologies Inc. provided call management and communication services to the sheriff’s department, including “pings,” which provide the location of cellphones in near real time.

The patrol said Hutcheson used the Securus system to locate cellphones without legal approval. He was also accused of using the Securus computer system to examine information about then-Sheriff Keith Moore, Circuit Judge David Dolan, and five Highway Patrol officials. The probable cause statement did not suggest a motive.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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