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What do I have this ongoing, fingernails-on-chalkboard sensation that Eric Greitens is going to be governor until the second week of January 2021?

Well, being one who has always wanted to be on both sides of the notebook — asking the questions and providing the answers — let me offer a few possible reasons.

:: Not going to resign

The man has no shame; that is very clear. In addition, the way things are now, politicians at the statewide level and above can greatly limit direct contact with members of the media and the public, enabling them to avoid subjecting themselves to probing questions.

:: The hand-cranking pace of the wheels of justice

Greitens faces two felony charges, invasion of privacy and felony computer tampering, and it will take months or years to resolve either. Even though he’s scheduled to go to trial next month on the invasion of privacy charge — he’s pushing for a quick trial because he thinks he has a good chance to prevail — he would undoubtedly appeal if found guilty. He would appeal as far as he possibly could, and that could easily gobble up a couple of years.

:: Conviction in doubt

Kim Gardner

Although the woman he sexually abused says Greitens took a photo of her partly naked after strapping her to exercise equipment, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner does not have the photo, and Greitens will deny it. With the case turning on the photo, it looks like he said/she said, assuring that “beyond a reasonable doubt” will be a difficult level to reach. Also, I think Gardner made a huge mistake hiring private investigators to conduct the investigation instead of having the St. Louis Police Department investigate. (The alleged crime occurred at Greitens’ Central West End home in St. Louis.) It is much easier for a prosecutor to get private investigators to do his or her bidding (after all, the prosecutor is authorizing payment for services) than it is to hand-direct a standing, professional police department on a high-profile suspect. The judge in the case has already scolded Gardner for allowing the investigators to delay turning over evidence to the defense, thus arming the defense with grounds for an appeal even before testimony has begun…The computer-tampering case, where Greitens allegedly used a nonprofit donor list to solicit campaign contributions, could be more straightforward, but where Greitens wants a quick trial on the privacy case, he will probably seek to delay the tampering case as long as possible. And, again, he would appeal a conviction as far as he could.

:: Impeachment uncertain

Our governor in action

Although there’s a lot of chatter about impeachment among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Jeff City, some sobering poll numbers came out over the weekend. A survey of likely voters taken last Wednesday and Thursday indicated that 57 percent of Republicans approve of the job Greitens is doing…(How in the world 57 percent of likely Republican voters could possibly offer such an assessment shows that 1) either the Missouri Scout news service poll is off base or 2) Missouri has far more ignorant Republicans than I imagined.) Among Democratic respondents, only 12 percent said they approved. (That’s more like it.) Overall, 37 percent of respondents approved of his performance and 51 percent disapproved…Those numbers could significantly slow any movement toward impeachment because, like Republican members of Congress who loathe President Donald Trump but are afraid to take him on because of his popularity with rank-and-file Republicans, Republican state reps and senators might not want to cross Greitens’ still-significant constituency…So, look for the impeachment train to slow down or get derailed. (It’s a screwball system anyway, with the Senate supposedly selecting seven “eminent jurists” to render a final verdict, if the House votes to impeach. Can you imagine how much games playing and back-room politicking would take place in the selection of seven “eminent jurists”?)

**

Let me assure you, though, we won’t have to deal with Greitens beyond his current four-year term. He won’t be dumb enough or hard-headed enough to campaign for re-election. Like the Seal he is, he just wants to avoid drowning in the fecal-filled pond he created for himself.

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The Star’s big story this week about Sheriff Mike Sharp’s demise said intimations of his terrible judgment and obsession with sex cropped up in the 2016 election campaign, before he was elected to his third term as sheriff.

Ah, but The Star didn’t go far enough back in its morgue…There were strong indications of his unprofessionalism as far back as 2008, before he was elected to his first term.

As soon as I saw the Star’s story, I was sure I remembered indications of problems long before 2016. It just took me a while to run it down, and today I found it.

Back July 31, 2008, the week before the primary election, Kevin Murphy, my former running mate when we both covered City Hall back in the early 2000s, wrote a story about Sharp acknowledging “that he was once part of an email exchange among city and county law officers that included images of nude women.”

Sharp

Before he ran for sheriff, Sharp had been a reserve officer with the Kansas city Police Department. Murphy said that in 2003, Sharp had been part of a group of about 35 KC police officers and Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies who shared sexually explicit emails.

Murphy wrote:

“One email, which had an attached video showing a woman in a sex act, went to Sharp and about 12 Kansas City officers and 25 Jackson County deputies, sergeants and other officers. Although not illegal, the sexually explicit emails are prohibited by city and county personnel rules.”

Murphy, who left the paper several years ago, had obtained several of the emails from someone who had received them. He quoted Sharp as saying he regretted his actions.

“In retrospect, it was probably not the best thing to do,” he said. “It was an email list with some buddies of mine. If I had it to do all over again, I would never have done it.”

…Note his comment “not the best thing to do.” Obviously, he didn’t think it was extremely bad, just something he probably should not have done.

That attitude in itself demonstrates shows his only regret was getting caught and was certainly nothing to disqualify him from becoming sheriff.

Yet, both agencies — the PD and the Sheriff’s Office — had years earlier explicitly and clearly prohibited employees from viewing or transmitting sexually explicit images through email or on the internet.

Perhaps even more amazing than Sharp’s casual downplaying of the law enforcement group’s email follies was the reaction of his top competitor in the 2008 primary.

Murphy paraphrased John Bullard of Buckner as saying that while sex-related emails should not be exchanged among law officers, email exchanges dating back five years should not be an issue in the campaign.

Another Democratic candidate had it right, though. Murphy quoted Mike Mauer, a Blue Springs resident, as saying: “It’s outrageous. I’d think women in the community would be quite upset about this. And if you are talking about the top law enforcement officer in Jackson County, it says something about his integrity.”

Unfortunately, the race was virtually a foregone conclusion even before the filing deadline. Sharp had wrapped up the support of the county’s leading Democratic organizations and donors. The juggernaut behind him included the Committee for County Progress and mega-donor James B. Nutter Sr., who died last year.

None of Sharp’s three challengers for the Democratic nomination stood a chance. When the votes were counted, Sharp took 55 percent of the votes to 25 percent for Bullard, with Mauer and Tom Krahenbuhl of Lee’s Summit trickling it at less than 10 percent each.

With that election, Sharp was on his way to being elected in the general election and then being re-elected twice. He was on the taxpayers’ dime nine years in all, and who knows what kind of antics were going on in the Sheriff’s Office during that time.

**

In retrospect, it’s too bad that in that 2008 campaign none of his opponents questioned his commitment to law enforcement. Although he had extensive experience in law enforcement — having been a full-time officer with KCPD and a reserve officer for many years — most recently he had been owner of Wholesale Carpet Warehouse in Lee’s Summit.

To me, that would have been one indication that his best days in law enforcement were behind him.

Of course, the best indication that he was no longer cut out for law enforcement was his role in the email follies.

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It’s unusual for a non-investigative news story to help solve a murder, but that could well be the case with a story The Star published early in the wake of the Thomas Pickert murder case.

Most of you will remember the front-page story — from Friday, Nov. 10 — which featured a four-column photo of David Jungerman above a big headline that said, “Van owner never suspect in slaying of lawyer, police say.”

Like a lot of people, I was amazed at that headline and story because it flew in the face of logic: Jungerman not only had to be a suspect in Pickert’s murder, he was, in all probability, the only suspect. He was the only person who had motive, opportunity and a known propensity for settling disputes with gunfire.

I thought — and still do — that The Star’s editors were naive in letting the reporters emphasize the police assertion that Jungerman was not a suspect. Moreover, the headline was incorrect. Police had never used the word “never” in relation to Jungerman’s status as a suspect. They were extremely careful in their language…The official position, which The Star quoted, was: “We do not consider him a suspect at this time. Nor did we consider him a suspect at that time.”

That is a clear hedge in both cases — “at this time” and “at that time.”

It was also outright untrue. As I wrote back in November, two sources — both defense attorneys — told me Jungerman was the one and only suspect. They also speculated that police were putting out the “not a suspect” line to lull Jungerman into a false sense of security while they continued digging up evidence and trying to develop a chargeable case.

In fact, that’s exactly what was going on, and the strategy worked.

The investigators knew — as most of us watching the case and learning about Jungerman suspected — Jungerman is only capable of thinking in short bursts, and not very far ahead. In fact, he usually acts before he thinks, which is why he was charged with a gun-related felony in southwest Missouri long before Pickert was murdered and why he was charged with additional gun-related felonies in Jackson County before police solved the Pickert murder.

The exception to his act-first, think-later approach was the Pickert murder. He did have a plan there, although it was a poor one. After all, he drove his own van to the scene in broad daylight; was seen well enough by one witness that the witness was able to provide a good description of him; and afterward, while he apparently got rid of the gun, he failed to get rid of a live bullet that matched the caliber of the relatively uncommon weapon he had used — a .17-caliber rifle.

Now, back to my premise…The Star’s story, with Jungerman’s picture plastered atop the front page, almost surely eased his apprehensions about being caught. Told by the reporters that police did not consider him a suspect, he replied, “That’s nice, though I think it’s a day late and a dollar short.”

He also regaled the reporters with stories of his gun-related adventures, including two 2012 incidents, about a month apart, in which he shot a total of four people.

After the interview, he went on bragging and running his mouth for another five months, during which time detectives were painstakingly developing evidence and waiting for him to slip up.

That was almost inevitable, and it happened, and now he’s behind bars, with plenty of time to reflect on his greatly shortened horizon and the many occasions he should have thought more and acted less.

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I will be interested to see if Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker brings charges against the man to whom David Jungerman confided in November that he had killed Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert.

The probable cause statement that supports the first-degree murder charge filed this week against Jungerman shows clearly that the man — whom I think I know — was aware of Jungerman’s heinous act less than a month after Jungerman allegedly gunned Pickert down in his front yard.

A recording that police obtained of a conversation between Jungerman and the man includes these exchanges:

Jungerman: Hey, you know, uh, people…people uh know that I murdered that son of a bitch.

Man: Why are you saying it like that?

Jungerman: Because that’s what…because of what the media done, see. And but they…they…they just nobody can figure out what’s going on, you know?

Man: (Laughing) Ehhhhh-huh-huh, I hope they don’t never figure it out.”

I suspect that the same man also may have corroborated Jungerman’s statement to police that the white van he allegedly drove to Pickert’s house was parked next to a lake in Raytown at the time of the crime.

…I believe the man to be Leo Wynne Jr., who is about 60 years old and has worked for Jungerman’s baby high-chair manufacturing business more than 30 years.

Wynne accompanied Jungerman to a court hearing I attended in Nevada, MO, in Vernon County, on Jan. 9. At that time, I met and spoke with both men at length before and after the court hearing.

Wynne is such a trusted employee and associate that several years ago Jungerman gave him 400 acres of farmland. Jungerman, a multi-millionaire farmer and baby-high-chair manufacturer, owns several thousand acres of farm land, much of it in southwest Missouri.

The probable cause statement doesn’t identify the individual Jungerman was talking to when he admitted killing Pickert, but it says the recording was made after a Nov. 16 court hearing in Vernon County.

Wynne and Jungerman live in close proximity in Raytown. Jungerman lives in a ranch house on one side of a small lake near 60th and Elm streets, and Wynne lives in a house across the lake.

When he was interviewed by police the day of Pickert’s murder — Oct. 25 — Jungerman said the white van had been parked outside Wynne’s house all day long. That night, police obtained a search warrant for the van and recovered it at Wynne’s home.

I do not know if police interviewed Wynne, but surely they did. Taking it a step further, my guess is that Wynne vouched for Jungerman’s story that the van was parked outside his house at the time Pickert was killed.

Two witnesses described seeing a white van, similar to Jungerman’s, near the scene of the killing. In addition, in the course of their six-month investigation, detectives obtained video from “traffic cameras, businesses, residences and two ATA buses” indicating Jungerman’s van was driven from Raytown to the Brookside area an hour before the shooting and driven back to Raytown after the shooting.

(That is sensational detective work, by the way, and shows again how the proliferation of video cameras has made getting away with a crime a lot harder these days.)

**

So, what could Wynne be charged with, if, indeed, I’m correct on my supposition it was he to whom Jungerman admitted the crime?

From what we know and from my reading of Missouri statutes, he conceivably could be charged with  a Class E felony of concealing an offense.

The pertinent statute says a person commits the offense of concealing an offense if he or she “accepts or agrees to accept any pecuniary benefit or other consideration in consideration of his or her concealing any offense, refraining from initiating or aiding in the prosecution of an offense, or withholding any evidence thereof.”

It might be difficult for police to establish that Wynne accepted any monetary benefit “or other consideration” for keeping his mouth shut, but if I were Leo Wynne Jr., I’d be worried.

Conviction of a Class E felony is punishable, upon conviction, by up to four years in prison.

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You know how much I love the Oldies. Well, I think it’s only fitting today that I dedicate a few songs to the man who has taken up many hours of my life in recent months — David Jungerman.

Here are the titles, links and sample lyrics.

:: Western Movies, The Olympics, 1958.

To save my soul I can’t get a date,
Baby’s got it tuned on channel eight.
Now Wyatt Earp and the Big Cheyenne
They’re comin’ thru the TV shootin’ up the land.
Ah um my baby loves the Western movies.
My baby loves the Western movies,
Bam, bam, shoot ’em up Pow.
Ah um my babe loves the Western Movies.”

:: Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf, 1968

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

:: Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Bob Seger, 1969

But I got to ramble (ramblin’ man)
Oh I got to gamble (gamblin’ man)
Got to got to ramble (ramblin’ man)
I was born a ramblin’ gamblin’ man

:: Desert Skies, Marshall Tucker Band, 1977

Won’t you bury me with my chaps on
And my six-gun strapped to my side
So I can watch the moon a-hidin’
In the desert sky
Hidin’ in the desert sky

:: You Talk Too Much, Joe Jones, 1960

You talk too much
You worry me to death
You talk too much
You even worry my pet
You just talk
Talk too much

**

And he’s still talking, undoubtedly, even as he sits in the Jackson County Detention Center, puzzled at how he could possibly have outsmarted himself.

Thankfully, though, his “shoot ’em up Pow” days are over.

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The morning of Jan, 9, just outside the only courtroom in the Vernon County Courthouse in Nevada, MO, I looked David Jungerman in the eye and said:

“Did you kill him?”

I was speaking, of course, about Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert, who was gunned down in his front yard the morning of Oct. 25, 2017, after having walked his two young sons to school.

Jungerman hesitated just a second and, with a slight smile, replied:

“My attorney has told me not to answer any questions, so I’m not going to say I did, and I’m not going to say I didn’t.”

If I’d had any doubts about his guilt before then — I did not — that answer would have settled it. A man who is alleged to have killed someone when he didn’t would never say something like that.

It turns out, of course, that Jungerman did, indeed, kill Thomas Pickert the morning of Oct. 25. He had said so himself even before I interviewed him. The admission, made to an employee of his, came after another southwest Missouri  court hearing on Nov. 16. It just took a while for the confession to surface.

…Today, in a development that many area residents have waited for a long time, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged the 80-year-old Jungerman with first-degree murder in Pickert’s slaying.

He already was being held without bond in connection with two other cases, including the one in southwest Missouri, and it now appears almost certain that Jungerman will never again see the light of day, except out the window of a jail or prison cell.

**

I have contended all along that Oct. 25, 2017, was the luckiest day of Jungerman’s life. He drove his own van to the scene of the murder in Brookside and shot Pickert in broad daylight, as Pickert stood in his front yard talking on his cellphone. My theory is — and has been — Jungerman shot Pickert with a rifle, probably while sitting in the driver’s seat of the van, parked across the street from Picker’s home.

Although two people, including Pickert’s wife, Dr. Emily Riegel, got at least a limited look at him, neither she nor a man who saw him while walking his dog could positively identify him. And no one got the van’s license plate number.

But it turns out, Jungerman was sufficiently dumb and reckless — the latter being his calling card the last 20 years or so of his life — that he incriminated himself.

The charging document says that when police recently executed search warrants at his home and business, one of the items they found was “an Olympus audio recorder with a recording.”

He had recorded himself at the Nov. 16 court hearing but had failed to turn it off afterward.

“Later,” the prosecutor’s office said in a news release said, “the defendant talked to his employee about a .17-caliber rifle and about killing the victim.”

**

Have you heard the term “hoist with his own petard”?

It means blowing yourself up with your own bomb.

That’s what David Jungerman did. Thank God.

**

Here’s what a .17-caliber rifle looks like…

A website called RifleShooter says this about the weapon…

“Seventeen-caliber rifles are just a little bit magic. They shoot whisper-tiny projectiles the same diameter as the BBs we all loved to pop away with as kids. They produce almost no discernable recoil. Even the report of most .17-caliber guns is mild, particularly that of rimfire versions.

“Yet the little pills zipped downrange from .17-caliber rifles shoot with lazer-like flatness and produce surprisingly impressive results on small game and predators. Depending on the size of the cartridge case housing the tiny bullets, performance ranges from mostly suitable for rodents inside 200 yards to deadly on bigger predators out to 400 yards.”

…Just the kind of weapon Jungerman needed for his mission in Brookside on Oct. 25.

 

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Cruising into Greece

Our Adriatic and Aegean cruise has been over more than a week now, and the jet lag and euphoric hangover are gone.

About all that’s left is the head cold Patty caught on the way home and then passed on to me.

Oh, and with your kind indulgence, a few more photos…

This wasn’t taken in Greece — Montenegro, I believe — but I had to run it. Julia (left) was the shore excursion manager on our Viking cruise, and Jenna was our indefatigable cruise director. (They bleed Viking red!) This was a rare occasion when they got a few free hours and did some touring of their own.

The island of Santorini, off the southern coast of Greece, offers some iconic Grecian scenes. The island has three towns, all perched atop high cliffs.

The domes of many Greek Orthodox churches are painted sky blue, symbolizing their reach to the heavens.

A closer view of one of the three towns on Santorini

One of our best discoveries was the Santo Winery on Santorini. This is the winery’s patio (not a giant Bingo board), in a state of preparedness for high tourist season, which begins later this month. (Patty handed her phone to a Californian who offered to shoot the picture, and, voila, he produced a winner.)

Finally, it was on to Athens, one of the world’s oldest and most intriguing cities.

The Parthenon is the centerpiece of the Acropolis, considered the foundation of modern Western culture and the cradle of Western civilization. The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 BC during the Age of Pericles, when culture, democracy, art and education blossomed in Athens.

This is another famous Acropolis building, the Erectheion, highlighted by statues of the Caryatids, six women who “hold up” the marble roof of the building’s northern porch.

A view of Athens from the Acropolis, which is high above the city.

The Parthenon at night, as seen from the window of our hotel in the Plaka tourist district. I took a final, long look at it early the morning of Friday, March 30, the day we departed Athens for the long flight back to KC.

For this tourist, it’s a wrap.

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