Later that day, Nauser and Donnie Callaway met an accomplice, Jerl Denker, at Lone Jack's sewage-treatment plant. Nauser told the two that he had gotten rid of some of the stolen tools by throwing them in a pond. Then the cop asked for a favor. Denker and Callaway later told investigators that Nauser asked, "Could you keep my name out of this?"
"Most of the conversation was Nauser telling us not to talk," Denker said in a report written by former Lone Jack Detective Tom Goodner.
Two days later, Callaway confessed to several thefts, leaving Officer Nauser out of it. But Denker, the accomplice, told Detective Goodner that Nauser had acquired a variety of stolen power tools and air tools from Callaway and that Nauser had given Callaway the police department's key to the missile base. Goodner's written summary of the interviews indicates that Callaway corroborated Denker's version of events.
Today, Callaway sits in a state penitentiary in Jefferson City, while Nauser remains a Lone Jack city employee. Detective Goodner has retired from the police department, having settled a lawsuit against the city.
In addition to raising questions about the police department's role in the theft ring, Goodner's lawsuit reported sexual misconduct by police officers and complained that police mishandled the investigation of a Lone Jack city councilman's violent death. The detective's allegations stem from an internal investigation he'd initiated while on the police force, as well as from reports by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Taken as a whole, the record reveals a department that fights crime erratically and a city hall that tolerates remarkably bad behavior from its employees.
With five children and a wife to support, Donnie Callaway always needed work. He would take odd jobs when he wasn't running his mother's summer vegetable stand and was so desperate for work that he took a city job that paid only in kindling and sticks.
For a time, Callaway had helped cut down trees for the city. Nauser -- then a police officer, city inspector, and roads and sewer superintendent -- would let him have the wood to heat the small trailer he lived in with his family on his mother's property near Kingsville.
Though Nauser, in his early 40s, was almost twenty years older than Callaway, the two men became friends, finding a common interest in rebuilding pickup trucks. Nauser helped the younger man get a part-time city job that paid money. At city hall, Callaway met Ward Gibson, who had been hired to convert a garage into new council chambers.
When Gibson asked whether Callaway knew anyone who could help with roofing and building projects, Callaway offered his services and brought along Jerl Denker. Callaway got to know his boss better -- well enough to borrow $700 from Gibson to pay off his wife's van. The two men would talk about earning extra money, Callaway says. Gibson told him about construction sites where lumber could be stolen.
"He started talking to me about going and getting wood," Callaway remembers. "He had done it before. He was kind of bragging about it."
Callaway and Jerl Denker drove to the building sites at night and loaded Callaway's pickup and trailer with lumber. They needed storage space for the goods, and the Nike missile base had plenty of room. It was in the middle of nowhere, off Rural Route E in Cass County, and Gibson's father owned it. Nauser had a key because the city stored materials there, according to state and Lone Jack police reports. Callaway alleges Officer Nauser helped conceal stolen goods there in return for free tools.
After Chief Jewell's crackdown, Callaway admitted stealing scores of items with a total value of more than $20,000. Callaway told police he and Denker stole 75 sheets of wafer board from a Rose Hill Road construction site; a microwave, dishwasher and stove from a home under construction in Lee's Summit; nail guns, several types of saws and air hoses from a construction trailer south of Lone Jack; a truckload of lumber from a construction site in Blue Springs; sixty sheets of chip board from a home site in Greenwood, Missouri; and hand tools, power tools, a furnace, a heater, floor tiles, a handgun and miscellaneous items worth more than $8,000 from a home in Kansas City, Missouri.
Callaway and Denker told police they had sold the stolen lumber to Gibson (a convicted felon with a criminal record dating from 1993) for use in a housing development he was building in Lee's Summit, according to Missouri Highway Patrol reports. Callaway says Gibson called the scheme an "insurance job" and that some victims would report to their insurance companies a larger amount stolen than was actually taken. Both Callaway and Denker told police that Gibson would "place orders" for items he wanted them to steal and would hook them up with other buyers. Denker told police Gibson bought both lumber and tools from them on at least seven occasions.
The crimes mentioned in the charges against Callaway all took place in September and October of 1999, but the case primarily alleged a two-year pattern and history of criminal activity. Callaway pleaded guilty to four charges.
Sonja Callaway says she had no idea that her son was involved in a burglary ring. But because Donnie didn't have a phone, his cohorts would leave messages with his mother. While the ring was active, Officer Nauser would call as many as six times a day, leaving cryptic messages, she says. Sonja Callaway remembers passing along many messages about Nauser needing the key to the Nike missile base.
Following interviews with Sonja and Donnie Callaway, Jerl Denker and other Lone Jack residents, Detective Goodner began an internal-affairs investigation of Officer Nauser in November 1999. Contents of that investigative file were obtained by the Pitch before Goodner settled his lawsuit against the city of Lone Jack.
The file includes a transcript of Goodner's interrogation of Nauser, in which Nauser denied involvement in or knowledge of the thefts. He denied knowing that a generator he'd bought for the city from Callaway for $400 was stolen, saying, "I wasn't making no illegal deal."
The night before Officer Nauser was to take a polygraph exam from Detective Goodner, Chief Jewell visited Nauser at home and advised him to avoid the test because his story wasn't credible. Goodner was indignant that the chief had interfered in an internal investigation, a matter he took up with Jewell and later mentioned in a federal lawsuit. According to the detective, Jewell said he had "found so many inconsistencies" in the transcript of Goodner's previous interrogation of Nauser that the chief concluded Nauser had lied to Goodner.
In one discrepancy, Detective Goodner and other officers determined that 75 sheets of lumber found with Callaway's vehicle at the Nike base had in fact been reported stolen from a Rose Hill Road construction site. Officer Nauser had also looked at the haul but reported seeing just 25 sheets of plywood. The officers took Polaroid photos, and Goodner wrote that "it was obvious from the examination of the photographs and from my own examination of the scene at the Nike base that even from his truck, Officer Nauser would have been able to have observed that there were obviously more than 25 sheets of lumber on the Callaway trailer. Further, if Officer Nauser had gotten out of his truck and examined the trailer and lumber, he would have seen [additional] lumber with Rose Hill written on it, which was laying next to Callaway's trailer."
Detective Goodner's internal-investigation report summarized nine discrepancies between Nauser's statements and those of other witnesses and declared that "Officer Nauser's credibility within the police department and city hall staff has been irretrievably damaged and most likely destroyed by his conduct in this case." The report recommended that Nauser be terminated from the police department. Documents show that Nauser was fired from the police department in November 1999. He is still city inspector, public-works supervisor and sewer operations supervisor, however, earning $12 an hour for sewer and inspection duties and $8 an hour for public-works duties.
At Detective Goodner's insistence, Chief Jewell signed a letter asking the Missouri Highway Patrol to undertake a criminal investigation, which resulted in a cooperative effort between the state and the FBI. Documents from the state's investigation suggest Nauser may have bought more than a stolen generator from Donnie Callaway and that the two men's alliance began long before Callaway's arrest. One of Callaway's friends, Matt Edwards, told investigators that in the fall of 1998, he and Callaway sold stolen tools in their original packaging to Officer Nauser and two firemen at the Grain Valley fire station west of Lone Jack. Edwards said there was "no way" the men could not have known the merchandise was stolen because the tools were sold "dirt cheap" out of the back of a pickup truck for cash. No receipts were given.
The highway patrol reports also implicate Chief Jewell. Several witnesses reported that Callaway regularly bragged that the chief knew of Callaway's activities and was willing to protect him from the law. Edwards told investigators that he helped Callaway steal a chain saw from Sears; Jewell turned a $369 chain saw over to state investigators and admitted buying it, still in the box, from Callaway. The chief said he had checked its serial number but found that Sears had not reported it stolen. Jewell also admitted buying a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner from Callaway for $100 cash. Investigators determined it had been stolen from HyVee.
Jewell says he didn't know Callaway was a thief when he bought the saw and the carpet cleaner from him. "When stuff like that happens, you kind of have to grit your teeth and say, 'Oh, man,'" Jewell tells the Pitch. "It's kind of like going out to the swap-and-shop. If it's too good to be true, then you should say, 'Well, maybe it's stolen,' but you never know." He says the saw wasn't worth more than $129, despite what Sears apparently told the state police.
Officer Nauser eventually agreed to take a polygraph test administered by the highway patrol. According to documents obtained from the highway patrol, Nauser failed. Sergeant W.L. Conway asked Nauser whether he knew before Callaway's arrest that the tools stored at the Nike base were stolen, whether Nauser knew at the time of purchase that the generator he bought for the city was stolen and whether Nauser had thrown stolen items in a pond. According to Conway's report, Officer Nauser answered "no" to each question. Conway wrote: "It is my opinion that Nauser lied when he answered the above relevant questions."
Minutes of a February 15, 2000, executive session of the Lone Jack city council report that councilwoman Debbie Jack objected to Nauser's continued employment with the city. "It was noted Ms. Jack stated she did not feel he should be working for the city at all," the minutes read. "It was noted by Ms. Jack that there were other individuals who could do sewers, that this is not the type of person the city should have representing Lone Jack."
Other members disagreed. Then-Mayor John Nipper stated that he had learned the FBI was investigating Lone Jack and its police force and that he felt no decision should be made until the investigation was complete.
Nauser has had a rocky career in law enforcement. After graduating from high school in Independence, taking college classes in St. Joseph and working with his father in beer distribution for a few years in Kansas City, he attended the Kansas City Police Academy. Then, while working as a sheriff's deputy in Jefferson County, Colorado, a suburb west of Denver, he was sued for excessive use of force, accused of throwing a man to the ground while arresting him. After three years, he came back to Jackson County. He joined the Lone Jack police force after stints with the sheriff's department and the Central Jackson County Fire Department. Nauser also has volunteered with the Lone Jack Fire Protection District and now manages roads and sewer lines for the city. His duties include patching holes, plowing streets, repairing roads and installing storm sewers.
Nauser, who hasn't returned phone calls from the Pitch, was never charged in the burglary ring. Ward Gibson denies knowingly participating in burglaries or providing information to Callaway and Denker. He was eventually convicted of a single count of receiving stolen property in connection with the ring.
Hired as the city's youngest-ever police chief when he was in his midtwenties, Jewell has been in charge since 1994. He graduated from high school in Fort Osage and took some college classes before he started on his police academy training. He managed a paint shop for a while, then worked at Yellow Freight, where he met Lone Jack Mayor Howard Hensel, who worked on the loading dock.
Jewell's first job as a cop was at the Greenwood, Missouri, police department. Soon after, he started working part time for Lone Jack. In a deposition, the chief says he left the Greenwood job in 1993 after just three years because of "politics." With four years' police experience, Jewell was chosen by the Lone Jack city council as chief. He now earns $31,858 a year.
"I think I got my experience through learning," Jewell says. "Obviously these last two years have been a stressful learning experience for me."
A baseball-style trading card says Jewell is a member of the Blue Springs, Missouri, police department as well, but no one at that department would confirm his employment to the Pitch.
Officer Tom Goodner considered himself a straight arrow and an excellent, highly trained police officer. His relationship with Jewell was contentious. Goodner, more than a decade older than Jewell, didn't believe his boss had enough experience to be a police chief. The two butted heads occasionally, but Jewell seemed pleased with Goodner's thorough investigations and wrote Goodner several effusive letters of commendation.
In a 1998 letter praising Goodner for solving an unrelated case of stolen construction equipment, Jewell wrote that it was "just another example of [Goodner's] expert criminal investigation talents" and that he had showed "diligence, professionalism and dedication."
In another letter, written after Goodner won a conviction against the son of murder victim Ronald West, Chief Jewell congratulated the detective for solving a case made difficult by the "more than two months between the actual time of the victim's death and the discovery of the body." Jewell wrote that it was "another job expertly done."
But Goodner didn't like the way police officers behaved around city hall, where they peppered their conversations with profanity and lurid banter. Goodner says the chief improperly seized a personal photograph from a female motorist during a routine traffic stop. That picture, a Polaroid of a naked person apparently using a dildo, showed up on Goodner's desk scrawled with a mock thank-you note. After the detective complained about the photo's circulation around the station, it appeared on Jewell's office door and remained there for a week, according to Goodner's attorney.
Jewell denies the allegation. "I have five to ten kids come into my office every day, and there was never any photo hanging on my door," the chief tells the Pitch. "I coach baseball and football, and that would never happen. That's ridiculous," Jewell says. "My own kids come in here, plus the kids that live across the street. That just really aggravates me."
Goodner's lawsuit claimed that officers sexually harassed female city employees. In transcripts from the detective's internal-affairs investigation, Officer Nauser says that a close friend had told him she had sex with Jewell in the chief's office. When Goodner questioned Nauser as to whether he ever had sex with any women at the Nike missile base while on duty, Nauser answered, "I got a blow job!" Nauser explained that a local woman felated him and Callaway at the base.
The sexually charged atmosphere around the police station offended Terri Davidson, a former accountant for the city of Lone Jack, who lasted barely a month in her job. "From week one," Davidson says, "it was hateful, rude, vulgar language coming from police officers. I've never seen anything like it." Davidson says some officers regularly gathered to talk about women they'd had sex with, calling them "sluts" and "whores." She says Jewell regularly bragged that his current live-in lover and mother of his most recent child was the sister of his former live-in lover, the mother of his first three children.
"Well, that's just silly," Jewell says. "Why would someone brag about something like that?"
According to highway patrol reports, Chief Jewell's poor behavior extended to illegally sentencing one seventeen-year-old girl to perform degrading chores for him. The girl told a highway patrol investigator that the chief had pressured her to sign a one-year probation agreement requiring her to complete 160 hours of "community service" after she was caught drinking and breaking curfew. As part of her "community service," Jewell made the girl shine his shoes and his nightstick.
"That's ridiculous," Jewell says. "That never happened. They never shined my shoes and my nightstick."
Goodner managed to do his work despite the distracting antics of other officers and the chief. But when city councilman and insurance agent Wallis Canaday turned up dead with a gunshot wound in his chest in December 1999, the relationship between Goodner and Jewell deteriorated further.
Detective Goodner was at home when he got a call from city clerk Kendra Laudenslager that Wallis Canaday was dead. Goodner radioed ahead and ordered the responding officer to rope off the area. But by the time Goodner arrived, the scene was a mess. And one of the men tracking up the scene would be charged in a separate murder a year later.
"Not only was [the scene] not secured," Goodner tells the Pitch, "but there were all kinds of people walking all over it -- the firefighters, the ambulance crew. The body had been moved. And it was an obvious dead body. The man had been dead for some time. I said, 'People, get out of the crime scene!'"
When Officer Derek Ross had received the call that Canaday was missing, he'd headed straight for the Canaday residence on Casey Road. Mrs. Canaday told Ross she had left earlier in the day to go Christmas shopping. Wally had waved to her from the porch as she drove away. When she came home in the afternoon, she looked around the property for him, then called the police, she said.
As the officer took Mrs. Canaday's statement, her son, Stephen Canaday, appeared with a family friend, and the two men joined the officer in a search, which included the house and yard, an acreage and a stand of trees. An ambulance was waiting on Casey Road.
The winter sky began to darken, and the three men carried a flashlight. They searched the garage and barn and walked through slushy, muddy grass to the field, looking for Canaday. Before they reached the cluster of trees, Ross decided he should telephone Chief Jewell, so he started back toward the house. But within moments, Ross heard, "Help me! Help me! Oh, God, help me!" He ran toward the grove.
In a clearing among the trees, Ross found Canaday's son standing over a body and a hunting rifle propped against a nearby tree trunk. Officer Ross attempted CPR on the corpse. Then Ross saw Canaday's son reach for the rifle, so the officer snatched up the gun, took it to the field, unloaded it, brought it back and tried to reposition it the way he thought it had been sitting. "You just don't do that," Goodner tells the Pitch. "Once you've moved something, that's it. You've tainted the scene." Jewell arrived within a few minutes.
Goodner first glimpsed Canaday's body from the ambulance door. He says Canaday's boots were completely clean except for a small bit of mud on the back of the heels. This didn't look like a suicide or a hunting accident to the detective.
"When I looked at the bottom of Wally Canaday's boots, well, you're never going to convince me that he walked to the spot where his body was found," Goodner says. "There was just a tiny bit of mud and grass on the back of his boot heels, consistent with his body having been dragged. At that point, big red flags are going up."
Goodner assumed that because he was the only detective on the Lone Jack police force, Chief Jewell would assign him to investigate the high-profile death. With that thought in mind, Goodner took the rifle as evidence.
Field personnel for the county medical examiner never arrived. Ron Bradsfield, head investigator for the Jackson County Medical Examiner's office, says that the investigator on duty opted not to go to the scene of Canaday's death after the ambulance took the body. "The body is our scene, and once it's been moved, the scene is no longer there for us," Bradsfield says. The medical examiner's office performed an autopsy after Lone Jack police turned over all the pertinent information about the incident, Bradsfield says, and the Missouri Highway Patrol is still investigating the death. A spokesman for the highway patrol says that agency took over the murder investigation from the Lone Jack police at the request of the Jackson County prosecutor's office.
Goodner found no fingerprints on the rifle. He found it odd that other officers were explaining the death away as a hunting accident, saying that Canaday had gone down to shoot some coyotes and that a stick had lodged against the trigger and caused the gun to discharge.
Analyzing the autopsy report and the crime scene, Detective Goodner surmised that the only way an accidental rifle discharge could have produced Canaday's fatal injuries was if the victim had been leaning directly on the muzzle with the weapon pointed at his chest. Goodner's next step would have been to reconstruct the shooting using a mannequin adjusted to Canaday's size and wearing the victim's clothes.
Goodner never had the opportunity to do that. He missed the autopsy because he attended a training class that day, so Chief Jewell attended. Goodner requested that Jewell bring back a full set of autopsy photos and the victim's clothes. Goodner never received the photos or the clothes. Goodner was not assigned to the investigation and was not permitted to interview Canaday's wife. He believes the investigation was botched and that murder or suicide are more likely causes than an accidental shooting.
"Had I been conducting the investigation," Goodner tells the Pitch, "I would have done very in-depth interviews of all the family members, done a more thorough search of the crime scene, eliminated the possibility of a suicide note by searching his home computer. I would have done a psychological profile of Canaday to see whether he was predisposed to commit suicide and ... a financial investigation of his office to look for possible murder motives. To my knowledge, none of that was done."
Goodner also would have asked why Canaday's family called police when he'd been "missing" only a short time and why an ambulance was present during the search. He was also suspicious of the body's discovery by Canaday's son and a family friend while the officer on the scene was distracted.
In December 2000, almost a year to the day after Canaday's death, his son Stephen was taken into custody following the beating and strangling death of Shelley Canaday, Stephen's wife. A newspaper account of the incident says that the Lee's Summit couple had argued loudly at a Christmas party before going home. Hours later, police found Stephen Canaday in his home with bloody hands, near his wife, who was on the brink of death. She died at a hospital. A Jackson County grand jury indicted Stephen Canaday on first-degree murder charges in that death. The case is set for trial in March.
Goodner is also unhappy with the Ronald West murder case -- which Chief Jewell praised him for solving -- because Goodner believes the murderer got a break when the police department lost taped confessions. Ronald West's relatives reported not seeing him for well over a month, so Jewell authorized Goodner to go to West's home to check on his welfare. According to a sworn statement given to lawyers in a federal lawsuit, Goodner said he picked the lock on the front door and entered the residence. In the living room, Goodner saw blood and brain matter all over the wall. But no body.
Goodner eventually found Ronald West in the basement, stuffed headfirst into a Rubbermaid tub with his feet sticking out. Bloody footprints and fingerprints implicated a teen-age son, Danny West. Using a laser sight, Goodner concluded that the fatal shot had come from the direction of Danny's room. The body had been wrapped in a sheet from Danny's bed.
When officers picked up the teen-ager and questioned him, Goodner saw to it that proper procedures were followed. "I wanted to make specifically sure that [Chief Jewell] didn't have the opportunity to screw up a homicide case," Goodner said in a sworn statement taken for the federal lawsuit. Jewell had a reputation for bypassing the county juvenile justice system, a habit that could transform a young murder suspect into a victim of police misconduct in the court's eyes.
To police, Danny West admitted shooting his father after an argument. He had walked out of his bedroom and calmly fired while the older man sat watching TV. Danny then stashed the body in the basement, where it decomposed for two months. The boy was charged as an adult with first-degree murder.
But tapes of West's confession vanished, allowing Danny West to plead to a reduced charge of second-degree murder when prosecutors lost faith in the case. Chief Jewell later claimed that Goodner had stolen the tapes. Goodner denies this. A woman who transcribed West's confession tapes testified she had received the tapes from the chief and returned them to him.
Goodner's lawsuit also faulted police for failing to cooperate in the investigation of a prominent Lone Jack family's role in the fatal 1996 auto accident of sixteen-year-old Michael Standiford ("All Alone in Lone Jack" December 6, 2001). When Goodner suspected that Jewell and other employees tampered with public files in response to an open records request by the dead boy's family, Goodner reported the activity to John Nipper, the Lone Jack mayor at that time.
Goodner was fired. He saw it as retribution for his report to the mayor, but the chief cited an internal-affairs investigation he'd launched into Goodner's evidence-storage practices. Ironically, the detective later said that the chief for a time kept a huge rock of crack cocaine in his office and that Goodner himself had to transport it to the Blue Springs police department so it could be properly stored.
Goodner discovered during his lawsuit that he had not been a state-certified police officer the entire time he'd worked on the Lone Jack force because Chief Jewell had failed to send the necessary documents to the state of Missouri for nearly three years. In a sworn deposition, Jewell flipped the accusation and called Goodner a "civilian detective," asserting that he was unaware that Goodner carried a gun.
In December 2001, Goodner settled his lawsuit. He received an undisclosed sum and was reinstated to the department so he could retire immediately with the rank and pension of detective sergeant.
A federal sexual harassment suit filed by former city clerk Kendra Laudenslager claimed that she took the brunt of punishment in the record-tampering incident, getting fired while male city employees who were involved -- she names Chief Jewell specifically -- kept their jobs.
"I hope the truth will come out about the entire scandal that's supposedly going on," Jewell says. "The way certain people want everyone to believe that the whole town of Lone Jack's supposedly conspiring to cover up the truth. But the truth is, we're not trying to cover up anything. Nothing's going on. This is just small-town politics," the chief says.
The city stuck by Jewell even after he was charged last summer by Jackson County Prosecutor Bob Beaird with impersonating a judge and illegally sentencing juveniles to perform "community service" at Lone Jack's only restaurant rather than allowing the county's juvenile-justice system to deal with them. The prosecutor's office dropped the fifteen misdemeanor charges after the chief promised to reform his procedures.
But in December 2001, Lone Jack City Attorney Mike Gatrost, uneasy about the chief's activities, sent his resignation to the city council. "I suggested that they get a different attorney, and they voted to get a different attorney," Gatrost says. "I felt they needed someone who could give some guidance to their police chief, and that wasn't me."
Donnie Callaway feels he needs guidance too. While others in Lone Jack have escaped legal consequences for their shenanigans, he is serving fourteen years in state prison. Even his associates in the theft ring, Denker and Gibson, got probation. Callaway has challenged his sentence, claiming that he received bad advice when his former attorney suggested that he plead guilty in order to receive a light sentence.