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Osage County sheriff charged in stalking probe

Osage County sheriff charged in stalking probe

Dixon also accused of felony vehicle tampering

September 26th, 2013 in News

The Osage County Sheriff was charged Wednesday with one felony and several misdemeanor crimes, following a Missouri Highway Patrol investigation of a stalking case that began prior to his becoming sheriff last January.

But Sheriff Michael Dixon apparently remained on the job Wednesday night. He did not respond to several News Tribune requests for comments for this story.

As an elected official, no other official has the authority to make a sheriff step aside while criminal charges are pending in a court, and no state law requires the sheriff to leave office unless there has been a felony conviction.

Phelps County Prosecutor John Beger was appointed in July, by courts in both Osage and Maries counties, to be a special prosecutor in the case and investigate complaints against Dixon, who served as Belle's city marshal before winning last November's election and assuming the sheriff's post in January.

Beger filed the charges against Dixon, 27, in Osage County, charging the sheriff with first-degree tampering, a Class C felony, for operating a four-wheeler last June without the owner's permission.

If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison, or up to a year in the county jail, and a fine of up to $5,000. He also would have to give up his sheriff's job, because state law prohibits anyone from being sheriff "who has been convicted of a felony."

The misdemeanor charges were filed in a separate case, and include first-degree sexual misconduct and third-degree assault, following a June 24 incident in Belle, and harassment and stalking for incidents investigators said occurred between Oct. 1, 2012, and June 26.

According to the Patrol's probable cause statements, Dixon was holding a party at his home in Belle on June 24, when he responded shortly before midnight to a dispatcher's call about fight at a tire shop in Belle, which straddles the Osage-Maries county line.

The victim of the misdemeanor charges, identified only as "CM," reported she was at the party and traveled with Dixon to the business, to see if the local police department needed assistance.

When they reached the business, CM said she stopped to talk with Erica Midkiff, who was sitting in the family car while her husband, Belle Police Chief Tyler Midkiff, also investigated the fight.

During that conversation, CM told investigators she "felt something hard being placed between her legs," then being pulled "straight up her buttocks and into her back."

Both CM and Erica Midkiff both told investigators that Dixon was standing behind CM, holding a flashlight.

CM said she asked Dixon what he was doing, and that he replied, "My bad. I'm sorry, I suppose that was inappropriate."

Barely 24 hours later - about 12:30 a.m. on June 26 - the probable cause statement reported that Dixon went to CM's home in Belle, told her fiance he needed to speak with her "and repeatedly asked where she was."

Investigators said Dixon then made repeated calls to CM's cellphone, walked into her home looking for her when she didn't answer, then asked the Osage County Emergency Operations Center to contact her.

Investigators said CM told the on-duty dispatcher to tell Dixon they were unable to reach her.

Dixon "then got on to the fiance's four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle," the probable cause statement reported, and "drove away on the four-wheeler without the fiance's permission."

After Dixon wasn't able to find CM, the investigators reported, he returned to the fiance's residence and "stayed ... for approximately one more hour before returning to his residence."

The patrol investigator noted the events followed months of "unsolicited comments of a suggestive or sexual nature, directed at CM by (Dixon) which were unrelated to their respective job performance or duties."

The stalking charge noted the numerous comments and repeated telephone calls "would have caused a reasonable person under the circumstances to be frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed."

Conviction of the misdemeanor charges is punishable by up to one year in the county jail, and a fine ranging up to $1,000, on each of the four charges.

No court date has been set for the cases, and Beger declined to comment on the charges.

"This is an investigation that I received a complaint on," Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman said. "Due to a conflict I had to turn the investigation over to the Highway Patrol.

"It is very hard to investigate someone you have worked closely with, and it was in the best interest for me to forward this on."


Editor's note: This article expands upon and updates earlier coverage, Osage Co. sheriff charged in stalking case, posted Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.