Multiple felony burglary charges filed in extensive investigation

Dave Marner
Managing Editor

A man living with his mother in Owensville has been arrested and charged with a string of burglaries to local businesses, a church, and the city’s street shed — twice — since early July.

John T. Baker was charged Thursday in a Gasconade County warrant alleging 15 felonies, two class A misdemeanors, three class B misdemeanors, and two class D misdemeanors, His bond was set by Associate Circuit Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger at $50,000 cash or surety.

Baker was taken into custody at his mother’s residence in the 600 block of East Jefferson Avenue without incident on Sept. 5 after Owensville police received “community tips” that helped them “narrow the list of possible suspects,” according to City Marshal Robert Rickerd.

He was found “hidden in the residence” when Rickerd and Det. Rob Green went there last Wednesday morning.

Rickerd said Baker confessed to all the burglaries he had taken part in and “a large amount of stolen property was recovered” by police from the residence. Rickerd said  Baker was questioned for more than one hour after being taken into police custody.

He previously worked briefly at one of the businesses which was burglarized, The Republican was told.

Baker is charged with the following:

• Second-degree burglary, class D felony (nine counts for investigations into separate incidents reported July 9, Aug. 7, Aug. 16, Aug. 17, two cases on Aug. 20, Aug. 26,  Aug. 28, and Sept. 3); 

• First-degree property damage, class E felony (two counts for investigations into separate incidents reported July 9 and Aug. 20);

• Stealing $750 or more, class D felony (three counts for investigations into separate incidents reported Aug. 16, Aug. 17, and Aug. 28); 

• Possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), class D felony (seized from his residence during his arrest Sept. 5); 

• Stealing, class A misdemeanor (two counts for investigations into separate incidents reported July 9 and Sept. 20); 

• Stealing-value less than $150 with no prior stealing offenses, class D misdemeanor (two counts for investigations into separate incidents reported Aug. 20 and Sept. 3); and,

• Second-degree property damage, class B misdemeanor (three counts for investigations into separate incidents reported Aug. 20 and Sept. 3).

Two of the burglaries took place just outside the city limits and were initially investigated by the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department.

Baker has a prior criminal history and was on probation at the time of his arrest.

On Aug. 20, authorities in Texas County had filed an amended motion suspending and revoking Baker’s probation on a criminal non-support case dating back to December 2015. A Department of Corrections Board of Probation and Parole warrant issued last Thursday cited alleged violations including “laws” and “drugs” as a reason he should be detained without bond.

Rickerd said he was told the warrant has since been rescinded now that Baker is charged in the new warrant.

He also has a prior class D felony conviction for a guilty plea to a 2009 first-degree property damage charge in Texas County and received a 3-year prison term in the case generated from a police investigation in Houston, Mo.

In 2005, Baker pleaded guilty to a class C felony charge of second-degree burglary and received a suspended imposition of sentence. He was in violation of his probation in 2007 and sentenced that November to five years in prison.

“All of my officers have spent several of their scheduled days off working overtime so we could find the subject responsible for these crimes,” said Rickerd. “The OPD waited until we had all of our ‘pieces to the puzzle’ together before making our final move on the morning of Sept. 5.”

Rickerd told Owensville’s Board of Aldermen in recent meeting that his officers were working extended shifts to help solve the case which involved so many local victims.

“I want to thank them personally for all of their exceptional work and to the community for all of their support,” Rickerd said in a press release issued late last week. “I want to thank the Gasconade County Prosecutor’s Office, Mary Weston herself, which was very helpful and diligent in assisting us with the process of getting everything filed and also the Probation and Parole office.”

At the city’s Tuesday, Sept. 4, rescheduled meeting, aldermen spent 20 minutes discussing what Rickerd terms a “rash of burglaries” and supported a plan to restore funding for a police clerk position to assist in their efforts to combat crime.

Rickerd began telling aldermen he was sending out another round of letters to local businesses warning them about problems like heroin addiction and related crime moving into the area.

“It’s gradually working it this way,” said Rickerd of recent crime and heavy narcotics trends.

He said police are looking at new ways to take repeat offenders off the streets by their attempts to revoke the probation and parole of repeat offenders.

“Sometimes you just have to skin the cat a different way,” he told them.

Ward 2 Alderman Rob Borgmann alluded to a discussion he had with Rickerd recently about the situation the town of Owensville was facing.

“What was to the east of us is coming to town,” Rickerd said. “We have to change to address what has changed.”

Kevin McFadden, who joined the board earlier this summer and represents Ward 1, asked if Rickerd had adequate staffing.

Did they need another patrolman? A clerk?

McFadden, noting his earlier concerns when he inquired about the need for extra police in city parks, asked the board, “Maybe we’re stretched too thin? We’ve got resources.”

Rickerd said his priority would be to add a police clerk to their staffing needs.

“Get on it,” said Mayor John Kamler. “Make it a priority. We’ll adjust the budge to make it happen.”

Rickerd this week said his department was tested. They received a break in the case and seized the opportunity.

“I can honestly say this ‘rash’ of burglaries had put this department to the test — to get it solved, to reassure the community and businesses that we take pride in our job and to keep this town safe,” he said.

Rickerd credited the work of Green and Brenn Finley in the recovery and documentation of items recovered from Baker’s residence.