TEXAS COUNTY, Mo. – In what can be described as an arresting affair, a southern Missouri sheriff and a deputy, known to be his lover, were both indicted last week on felonies.
The array of crimes include first degree felony assault, first degree robbery, first degree and second degree endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful use of a weapon, harassment, misdemeanor misuse of official information by a public servant, and misdemeanor false impersonation.
The interim sheriff described the scenario as “wheels (falling) off.”
The now former Texas County Sheriff James Sigman, 48, and his chief deputy and lover, Jennifer Tomaszewski, 38, have a legal battle on their hands with the indictment.
Sigman hired Tomaszewski as a jailer in December 2016, which was around the time they began a romance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, citing court records. She was then promoted to administrator of the 72-bed jail seven months later, the report said.
The probable cause statement said she did not have “prior experience” when she was promoted.
— Roland Klose (@rwklose) July 28, 2018
Under Sigman and Tomaszewski’s leadership, 40 sheriff’s office employees were fired or quit.
“Our reaction is not necessarily shock, but disappointment — extreme disappointment because the first term that Sheriff Sigman had served, I’ve said this over and over, it was textbook,” Presiding County Commissioner Fred Stenger said. “It was one that everyone could be very proud of.”
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 quickly been promoted to chief deputy.
Sometime in 2017, Sigman moved in with Tomaszewski in Eunice. They were both released on bond. As a condition of being released from jail this week, they aren’t supposed to be in contact, reported Fox5.
Tomaszewski declined to comment through a friend, but Sigman spoke with the newspaper and said the official story was “bullshit.”
“It’ll all come out in the end, that’s all I can tell you,” Sigman said as he shut the door.
Tomaszewski hit an inmate with the mental capacity of a 9-year-old in the face with her elbows after he was rendered unconscious, possibly by a “choke hold,” a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper wrote in a report.
A corrections officer told investigators that Tomaszewski said she was “trying to bust his (the inmate’s) eardrum out.”
“If we hadn’t been there, they would have killed that boy. He was completely unconscious and his lips were turning blue,” a deputy told investigators, according to the probable cause statement.
The statement said Sigman was present during the incident and that reports about what happened were removed from the mentally disabled inmate’s file.
Furthermore, the trooper wrote that Tomaszewski also threatened to put a bullet in the head of another inmate but that the grievance the inmate filed was missing when a search warrant was served this spring at the sheriff’s office.
The statement said she went on ride-alongs, acted as an undercover officer during stings and served search warrants during which she would detain suspects, search residences and perform other duties reserved for commissioned officers.
Sometimes she was armed with an AR-15 rifle normally used by Sigman and wore a uniform that was indistinguishable from what deputies wore, the trooper wrote.
Update: Texas County Sheriff James Sigman has been arrested on multiple felony chargeshttps://t.co/vKoVkelQfe
— Ozarks FOX AM (@OzarksFOXAM) July 19, 2018
The documentation of reckless behavior was further articulated. While serving one search warrant, she pointed a firearm at several people, including a 1-year-old, who lived across the street from the home being searched, placing all of them in “immediate danger,” the trooper wrote.
Tomaszewski confronted them because she thought they were video recording the officers and taking photos, something she mistakenly believed wasn’t allowed.
The statement also said that a child was brought into the jail multiple times, helped serve meals to inmates and ate with two of the inmates, including a sexually violent offender.
Sigman is “essentially accused of not doing anything to stop his girlfriend (Tomaszweski)” from misrepresenting herself as a peace officer, abusing inmates and putting residents at risk, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The nepotism led to an untenable environment, according to some employees.
Rowdy Douglas, 33, told the newspaper that he resigned from the sheriff’s department in early 2018 because of the atmosphere.
“Everything seemed like it was running smooth,” said Douglas, who was sworn in as interim sheriff. “Then it was like the wheels fell off.”
Consequently, Douglas said he is trying to rebuild the department.
“We’ve lost some trust with the community, I mean that’s a given,” Douglas said. “We’ll get it back. We just gotta get our stuff squared away and get back out there and put people in jail again.”
Sigman’s wife, who worked in child advocacy down the hall at the Texas County Justice Center, filed for divorce, according to the report.
Texas County is about a 3-hour drive southwest of St. Louis.