DUSTIN C. COOK (d/o/b 2-15-1979), of Reeds Spring, Missouri, pleaded guilty on Thursday, July 17, 2014, in the Circuit Court of Taney County, to four felonies: two (2) counts of tampering with a motor vehicle in the first degree, two (2) counts of assault on a law enforcement officer in the second degree, and one (1) count of burglary in the second degree. Senior Judge Carr Woods accepted the plea and scheduled sentencing for September 18, 2014. At sentencing, the defendant will be sent to the Missouri Department of Corrections for ten (10) years on each of the five (5) counts, pursuant to a plea agreement with the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office.

The burglary charge – and one of the tampering charges – arose from an incident in Forsyth, on November 14, 2013. Late that night, the defendant and three other individuals smashed a window at Mobile Express, entered the business, and stole cash along with several vehicles. An investigation by the Forsyth Police Department, with the assistance of Branson police officers, led to the arrest of the defendant the next day. During an interview with detectives, the defendant confessed that he and his accomplices had burglarized the business and stolen the vehicles.

About six weeks later, the defendant stole a pickup truck in Branson. When Branson police officers located and attempted to detain him, the defendant drove the stolen truck at the officers. In the process, he nearly ran over one officer and narrowly avoided a collision with a patrol car occupied by another officer. After a short vehicle pursuit, in which the defendant drove at a high-rate-of-speed through a residential yard, he crashed the truck and attempted to flee from police on foot. Officers discovered the defendant hiding behind a residence. A handgun was found a short distance away, and the defendant later admitted he had been armed during his attempt to elude law enforcement. This incident led to the defendant being charged with tampering in the first degree and two (2) counts of assault on a law enforcement officer in the second degree.

All of the charges from these incidents are class C felonies. Ordinarily, class C felonies carry a maximum prison term of seven (7) years. However, because Cook was charged as a prior and persistent felony offender, the maximum possible prison terms on his charges were enhanced to fifteen (15) years.