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Appeals court holds case at Westminster

Appeals court holds case at Westminster

Cole County Prosecutor files motion to dismiss appeal

November 10th, 2017 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

The Cole County Prosecutor's Office filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss an appeal they made to a three-judge panel in a stolen property case.

The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals met Thursday at Westminster College in Fulton as part of its annual effort to leave the Kansas City-based court to give residents in the district's 45 counties an opportunity to observe a part of the judicial system. Cole, Callaway, Boone, Moniteau, Morgan and Miller counties are in the Western District.

The case involved a Henley man facing multiple charges in connection with thefts from vehicles in 2016. Christopher Edwards, 21, is charged with 10 counts of receiving stolen property and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper stopped a vehicle in Miller County on July 3, 2016, for a speeding violation, according to Jefferson City Police Department records. The person in the vehicle was found in possession of a handgun reported stolen in June in Jefferson City. The man told authorities he purchased two guns from Edwards and believed both were stolen. He was later developed as a suspect who was breaking into a number of vehicles in the Jefferson City area, stealing weapons as well as electronics.

Authorities obtained a search warrant for Edwards' residence, where nine stolen firearms were found — five from Cole County, one from Jefferson City and three from Holts Summit.

Authorities said Edwards stole the guns and sold them to people who could commit crimes with unregistered weapons.

Numerous personal electronic items also were recovered during the search.

Cole County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Stacy filed an appeal to a ruling from Cole County Judge Dan Green granting Edwards' attorney, Dan Hunt, on a motion to suppress evidence. Hunt's motion was because of evidence seized during execution of a search warrant at Edwards' residence on Opel Lane in Henley.

Hunt claims the search and seizure were made without a lawful warrant, without lawful authority and without probable cause.

During the hearing before Green, Jefferson City Police Detective Jason Ambler testified he interviewed Hakeem Vantreece at the Miller County Jail where he was being held for possession of stolen firearm. Ambler reported Vantreece said he purchased a stolen firearm from Edwards at Edwards' Cherry Street residence in Jefferson City.

But, Vantreece advised Ambler, Edwards had been evicted from the Cherry Street residence and no longer lived there.

Ambler testified Vantreece then provided the name of Edwards' girlfriend and, when Ambler put the name into a database, he found her address listed at 5501, 5616 and 5630 Opel Lane in Henley.

After the interview, he said, Vantreece voluntarily contacted Edwards via text message about stolen firearms. Edwards responded, saying he had additional firearms for sale — and sent photos similar to other firearms that had been reported as stolen in Cole County.

Ambler testified Edwards also sent Vantreece photos of a road intersection and street intersection signs — and the addresses for Edwards' girlfriend were in the vicinity of that intersection. Ambler then submitted a search warrant application, which included 5501, 5616 and 5630 Opel Lane.

But his affidavit included with the application for the search warrant never mentioned any properties located at Opel Lane in Henley.

In the affidavit, Ambler believed stolen property was "still recoverable from the address and/or person(s) listed above."

But, Hunt has argued, there was no precise address listed in the affidavit, and Ambler had mentioned Edwards' previous address in the "200 block of Cherry" in Jefferson City.

The application and the affidavit were contained in one continuous document.

The search warrant was executed on July 9, 2016, and officers searched only the residence at 5616 Opel Lane. They found stolen electronics and stolen weapons in Edwards' bedroom there.

After the suppression hearing, Green granted Edwards' motion, finding the application and affidavit did not mention any property on Opel Lane.

Green further stated nothing existed in the affidavit to establish probable cause to believe illegal items were located at the Opel Lane addresses, and the warrant for Opel Lane was issued without probable cause since it mentioned only the Cherry Street address.

The judges, in particular Judge Gary Witt, told Stacey there needed to be more specifics when issuing a search warrant, and Stacey agreed more research should have been done when the warrant was issued.

Chief Judge Mark Pfeiffer said he could not comment on when a formal decision would be made because all three judges would have to weigh in on the final decision to grant the dismissal.