Missouri Sheriff Promoted His Lover to Run The County Jail. Now Both Face Criminal Charges.

EUNICE, Mo. • The reaction to Danny Ross’ bout with cancer perhaps speaks to what is best about communities such as this one in rural Texas County. After news spread that he was sick, and he’d need to make the long slog to St. Louis for treatment, friends stepped up to help.

They mowed his grass, checked on his cattle and dropped off enough firewood to get his family through two winters.

“That is just how people are around here,” said Ross, 66, of tiny Eunice.

That sense of trust and belonging is being challenged. Not from a faraway place that many residents come here to avoid, or run away from, but by a neighbor — James Sigman, who was recently ousted from being the sheriff of Texas County.

Elected to office in 2012, Sigman, 48, faces a host of crimes, including robbery, assault, endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful use of a weapon, misuse of official information by a public servant and harassment. He’s essentially accused of not doing anything to stop his girlfriend, Jennifer Tomaszewski, 38, from misrepresenting herself as a peace officer, putting area residents at risk and abusing inmates.

Sigman hired her as a jailer in December 2016, about the time they began a romance together, according to court records. She was promoted to administrator of the 72-bed jail seven months later, which drew scorn from employees and inmates under her care.

Tomaszewski allegedly threatened to shoot an inmate in the head, which led to a grievance report that wasn’t held on file. During an altercation with a mentally disabled inmate, she allegedly struck him in the face with her elbows after he was rendered unconscious and later told a corrections officer that she’d been trying to “bust his eardrum out.”

Outside of the jail, and not yet a licensed police officer, investigators say she wore a uniform, helped detain suspects, was used as “bait” for undercover stings, and pointed guns at multiple people — including at a 1-year-old child — observing a nearby crime scene. Sigman didn’t correct the behavior, officials said.

Sigman’s wife, who did child advocacy work down the hall at the Texas County Justice Center, filed for a divorce. Dozens of sheriff’s department employees quit or were fired.

Complaints of bad police work and favoritism were shared around Houston, the county seat. The County Commission said the sheriff denied rumors, yet launched its own investigation to assess exposure to a civil lawsuit.

Complaints made in open court by jail inmates eventually motivated the county prosecutor to ask the Missouri Highway Patrol to investigate. Its findings were made public July 18, with the arrest of Sigman and Tomaszewski, who’d risen to chief deputy.

Sometime in 2017, Sigman moved in with Tomaszewski in Eunice. As a condition of being released from jail this week, they aren’t supposed to be in contact. Tomaszewski declined to comment through a friend. In a short interview, Sigman said the official story was “bullshit.”

“It’ll all come out in the end, that’s all I can tell you,” he said, as he shut the door.

Wanted a fresh start
Unlike Sigman, who grew up in the area and previously worked as a police officer in nearby Cabool, Tomaszewski turned up out of the blue in 2015, with her daughter and husband. Much of her background is unknown to people in Texas County.

Dianna Bennett, 54, said she became close friends with Tomaszewski when they both worked at the now-defunct Animal Shelter of Texas County. She said Tomaszewski told her that she had run away from home at 13. More recently, she wanted a fresh start away from the northeast and to be around cowboys.

Bennett, describing a list of bad experiences, ended up cutting ties with her. She said Tomaszewski treated her husband “like a rented mule,” was untrustworthy and loved to stupefy men with her “Barbie” beauty.

“She will walk on whoever and whatever to get what she wants,” Bennett said.

Tomaszewski’s husband, who left Missouri, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Tomaszewski stayed behind but was fired from the animal shelter for “an accumulation of problems,” according to a former board member. From there, she was a waitress at Miller’s Grill, a restaurant in Houston, Mo., where current employees said she went by the name “Jersey.”

Mike Wilson, 37, a plumber, said he met her at Miller’s. He said they dated for about 10 months, until the sheriff moved in with her. Wilson said he was now suing Tomaszewski to repay him for cattle, a playhouse, loans to fix her car and repairs to a water well.

“My biggest problem was I got swindled,” Wilson said. “I was fine with not dating the girl anymore, I just wanted my stuff back.”

Working for the sheriff’s department, Tomaszewski quickly shook things up.

Luritta Baker, 57, had been a jailer there six years before she said she was let go for failing to ensure an inmate took medication properly. She suspects her departure had more to do with speaking her mind about Tomaszewski and suggesting to the sheriff that he was being played.

“She didn’t like me because I knew what kind of person she was, and I called her out on it,” Baker said.

But Jay Brown, 64, a former 911 dispatcher who helped arrange for Tomaszewski’s bail this week and worked with her at the animal shelter, said perhaps she was promoted for being the best person for the job. “After they started firing people, the rumors started,” Brown said.

For full story visit: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/missouri-sheriff-promoted-his-lover-to-run-the-county-jail/article_557729c3-bf76-5582-8869-505a529587f6.html?

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5648 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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