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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Gary Dardenne Jr., 44, of Baxter Springs, Kansas was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for inappropriate sexual contact with a child. Dardenne previously entered a no contest plea to one count of Aggravated Indecent Liberties with a Child and one count of Aggravated Indecent Solicitation of a Child.
Formal charges filed by Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard allege Dardenne engaged in sexual intercourse with a child between 14 and 16 years old. Conard further alleged Dardenne persuaded a second child between 14 and 16 years old to submit to an unlawful sexual act. Charges were based on an investigation conducted by detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition to the lengthy prison sentence, Dardenne will also be required to register as a sex offender for life. The Kansas Offender Registration Act requires sex offenders to provide work and home addresses to their local law enforcement agency. Information on registered offenders is maintained by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and available to the public online. “It’s important for members of the community to check the offender registry from time to time to see if they have an offender near their home or schools,” says Conard.
On December 20, 2017, John Fitzgerald Francis, 46, also known as “Polo”, was sentenced in Cherokee County District Court to 141 months in prison for the shooting death of Kelly Glasgow, 29, in Galena, Kansas.
In a complaint filed in District Court, Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard charged Francis with Second Degree Murder, alleging Francis killed Glasgow “unintentionally, but recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” In November, Francis plead guilty to the charge, as well as a charge for Criminal Possession of a Firearm.
Francis and Glasgow resided together at a residence in Galena, Kansas. Francis shot Glasgow during a domestic dispute at the residence on April 26, 2017. Francis was arrested on May 2, 2017 near Carterville, Missouri on felony warrants and promptly extradited to Kansas. Francis will remain incarcerated in the Cherokee County Jail awaiting transportation to the Kansas Department of Corrections.
The murder investigation was led by the Galena Police Department with the assistance of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
Murder charges have been filed against Harvey Raymond Ortberg, 49, of Baxter Springs, following the September 30th, 2017 incident which resulted in the death of Sharon Horn, 65, and injured three Baxter Springs Police Officers.
In a complaint filed in Cherokee County District Court, County Attorney Jake Conard charged Ortberg with eight felony offenses, including premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of attempted capital murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, and two counts of aggravated child endangerment. If convicted, Ortberg faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for at least 50 years.
Ortberg was taken into custody at a Springfield, Missouri hospital on October 13, 2017. Upon release from the hospital, Ortberg will be held in Greene County, Missouri to await extradition to Kansas. Upon returning to Kansas, Ortberg will be held in the Cherokee County Jail on a $1,000,000 bond.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office continue to investigate the incident. As provided by the laws of the United States and the State of Kansas, Ortberg remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
On August 23, 2017, George Kersey was sentenced to 12 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections for violation of the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA). In January 2017, detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office discovered Kersey had an active Facebook account which he had not registered with law enforcement as required by KORA.
Kersey is a registered sex offender as a result of previous convictions for attempted indecent liberties with a child and child abuse in Cherokee County in 2003. Kersey was also convicted of first degree statutory sodomy in Newton County, Missouri in 2004. KORA requires sex offenders to report to law enforcement any and all email addresses, online identities used by the offender on the internet, information relating to membership in any and all personal web pages or online social networks, and internet screen names. According to Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard, Kersey attempted to conceal his social media presence from authorities by using the name Sherman Kersey.