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Police officer gets ruling in stealing case

Judge: Not guilty of stealing by deceit
2013-10-31T06:40:00Z 2014-10-17T21:34:11Z Police officer gets ruling in stealing case Daily Journal Online
October 31, 2013 6:40 am

Leadwood Police Officer Eric Smith had his day in court two months ago with a trial by judge. But the judge didn’t give him a verdict until Oct. 24. The verdict: not guilty on both counts of stealing.

Smith was charged in Perry County with stealing and stealing by deceit, both Class C felonies. He was accused of taking money from more than 30 customers for taxidermy work between September of 2011 and December of 2012 and not doing the work or returning the customers’ property. His taxidermy business was located in a garage next door to his home on Route O in Perry County.

His one-day trial was held in Cape Girardeau on a change of venue.

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Perry County Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Hoeh couldn’t be reached for comment on the verdict.

During the trial, a conservation agent and a deputy testified the investigation began after numerous customers complained that they had paid Smith and he hadn’t done the work. Investigators said that while he had not returned the property to the owners, he did have excellent record keeping.

When Conservation Agent Grant Gelly spoke to Smith days before the warrant was served, Smith told him he was getting out of the taxidermy business completely and had sent a certified letter to his customers a week prior about customers retrieving their property and getting refunds.

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When Gelly asked to see his shop, Smith told him that his shop keys were in his personal vehicle in Leadwood. He had driven his Leadwood patrol car home to Perry County that day.

When Perry County Cpl. Jason Kelly interviewed him days later, Smith admitted that there was no certified letter and that he had not refunded any deposits. There were also no finished mounts found in the shop. About five deer capes were missing, which Smith said had rotted and were discarded. He said he bought replacement capes for those.

Smith’s attorney, Jacob Zimmerman, said Hoeh would have presented a wonderful case if it had been a civil trial for a contract breach.

Zimmerman said Hoeh had not proven the element of criminal intent ... that Smith took the money and property with the intent at the time of not returning the customers’ money or property.

He said Smith had tagged and labeled all of the animal parts with who they belonged to. While Smith was on the stand he presented numerous receipts of purchases he had made between the fall of 2011 and the fall of 2012 to continue his taxidermy business, receipts for things like blades and chemicals.

On the stand Smith admitted he had gotten behind with orders. He admitted to lying to customers about how much progress he was making on their animal hides and mounts. He admitted that if a single customer had two mounts, he would tell that customer he was done with the first mount and was getting ready to finish the second mount. He admitted this was a lie to “buy more time.” He also admitted to not answering or returning many of the customers’ phone calls.

Smith explained why he had gotten behind. He said his wife asked him to move out of their house in April of 2012 and they remained separated until some time in July 2012. His part-time job of being a Leadwood police officer turned into a full-time position in August of 2012 so he had less time to devote to the taxidermy business. He said he averages 42 hours a week at Leadwood. He also has three children to raise.

“He failed miserably as an entrepreneur, that happens all the time in America ...” Zimmerman said, adding that’s why they have civil courts.

Smith lost a civil suit with one customer this year. A judgment/order of garnishment was entered against him this spring.

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(12) Comments

  1. blasterrat1
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    blasterrat1 - November 07, 2013 3:21 pm
    Read the article. He is innocent. BTW We get what we pay for.
  2. luckygirl
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    luckygirl - November 07, 2013 12:37 am
    Does not surprise me with Leadwood cops.
  3. blasterrat1
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    blasterrat1 - November 02, 2013 9:19 pm
    The Man s innocent of stealing by deciet. He obviously thru His own admission is a liar. For that I ask who here is not or never Has lied? Im betting none! Time to move on!
  4. itsme
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    itsme - November 02, 2013 6:53 am
    LOL, I was a leadwood police office a long time ago, and they still are fighting within the city and each other, Back then and now, as I suspect you cant live on what they pay. So you have to have a second job to make end's meet, that's why I left.
  5. Missouri_Granny
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    Missouri_Granny - November 01, 2013 8:46 pm
    If he gets tired of being a policeman, he could be a politician.
  6. itiswhatitis
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    itiswhatitis - November 01, 2013 1:59 pm
    While I absolutely disagree with this officers actions, the judge made the right legal decision. This guy will be known as a liar and thief for the rest of his life but in order to find him guilty of theft by deceipt, the prosecution had to prove that he intentionally took the money with no intentions of ever completing the work for which he was paid for and they couldn't do that. If he would've just been honest with his customers he wouldn't have ever been in this position.
  7. hmr1983
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    hmr1983 - October 31, 2013 8:55 pm
    The man admitted to being a liar. Why would the Judge believe a word that he said when he was testifying? He will never be a credible witness as a police officer because he has admitted under oath that he is a liar. He should lose his job.

  8. Observor
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    Observor - October 31, 2013 8:03 pm
    What is needed is a night watchman with a flash light if there is any businesses still open.

    If these small towns would decided to promote a County Police Department and contract with the county for Police Protection, get the County Sheriff's Office to handle the Courts and Correctional facilities the residents would receive Proper Protection. Let the State Highway Patrol take care of the State and Interstate Highway Systems in addition to investigations. A better bang for the resident's buck. Probably alot of Chiefs and ill trained Officers would not like this. An Associate Degree and Academy Trained personnel might be too much to ask. A police precinct could be set up in each town in the County.
  9. semo_gal
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    semo_gal - October 31, 2013 1:40 pm
    Do as I say, and not as I do! If you do what I do, I'll arrest you! No double standard here!
  10. scorpionfence
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    scorpionfence - October 31, 2013 12:05 pm
    Nice. Nothing like having a Police Officer steal from you and it be legal. Nice job JUDGE. We can all feel safer knowing that our Law Enforcement can get away with anything they want. # BadCopNoDoughnut.
  11. John Dohh
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    John Dohh - October 31, 2013 11:59 am
    This is the character Leadwood wants as an officer? Despicable!
  12. albertwho
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    albertwho - October 31, 2013 9:07 am
    Looks like he has a few more days in court (civil court) and some more garnishments forthcoming.
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