Letter to the Editor

Scott County Sheriff's Office: Report is slanted, false

Friday, June 22, 2018

The recent article in the Southeast Missourian, “Judge denies order of protection for a woman accusing deputy of stalking her,” is a slanted “story” containing numerous errors, assumptions and speculation by the journalist. The Southeast Missourian is responsible for the poor journalism and flagrant disregard of the facts in the case.

The errors and reference to facts not presented at the hearing are as follows:

1. Judge Rob Barker is a Mississippi County judge not a Scott County judge. Judge Barker was merely holding court in Scott County on this case.

2. Mrs. Sarah Marie Valenzuela made her report to Capt. Ron Meredith in April 2018 regarding her encounter with the Deputy Travis Keller in Morley. The journalist errantly reported the April complaint was made to Chief Ryan Dennis.

3. Capt. Ron Meredith investigated her complaint. Mrs. Valenzuela complaint was addressed by Captain Ron Meredith by transferring Deputy Keller to the South zone consisting of the Sikeston area. Mrs. Valenzuela was incorrect when she testified the Sheriff’s office had done nothing (ignored) her complaint.

4. Mrs. Valenzuela reported a vehicle matching the officer’s vehicle traveled by her house over 200 times between December a2017 through June 3. At the hearing, Mrs. Valenzuela admitted that she could not be certain if the vehicle was occupied by Deputy Keller or was driven by another deputy merely patrolling the town.

5. The journalist errantly reported that the judge would not “let” Mrs. Valenzuela submit two letters (Tiffany and Klaffer) that contained hearsay. The judge’s ruling was correct. The journalist apparently does not understand the rules of evidence applicable to any hearing that does not allow hearsay testimony or documents containing hearsay as they are not generally admissible as evidence in any case.

6. The journalist reported “multiple sources” close to the sheriff’s office said that the sheriff’s office no longer conducts drug investigations. These sources are not credible. This statement is inaccurate and I have deputies working investigations. I have two detectives working most of our drug investigations, and we also allow our patrol deputies to work their own drug cases. If the road deputies need help, they contact one of the detectives to assist them. I have a good working relationship with the SEMO Drug Task Force. Unlike the former administration, the Scott County Sheriff’s Department shares information with the Task Force, shares information with other agencies, and assist each other if needed in a team effort. No drug cases have been turned over to the SEMO Drug Task Force.

7. The June 3 incident as related by Mrs. Valenzuela involved Deputy Keller following her for at least 45 minutes as stated in her petition. A review of the GPS history showed that Deputy Keller was only in Morley for 20 minutes.

8. Chief Ryan Dennis’ GPS review, Keller’s testimony about the events on June 3, and Mrs. Valenzuela’s testimony all agree on Deputy Keller patrolling the area in question two to three times.

9. The journalist intentionally left out that Mrs. Valenzuela made an unsupported claim to the sheriff’s office that Deputy Keller was in Morley following her again on June 3 around 10 p.m. Chief Deputy Ryan Dennis testified that this was not possible as the GPS on Deputy Keller’s car placed him at the Scott County Jail during this time period.

10. The hearing contained no evidence supporting any threatening action by Deputy Keller toward Mrs. Valenzuela via phone or in person.

11. The reporter intentionally left the fact out of the article regarding Mrs. Valenzuela’s unsupported claim from the night of June 12 regarding her assertion that Deputy Keller followed her friend around 12 a.m. from Chaffee to Oran. A check of the GPS record by Chief Ryan Dennis showed that Deputy Keller was never in the cities of Oran or Chaffee.

12. The Scott County Sheriff’s Office did conduct a background on Deputy Keller. Scott County Sheriff’s Office employees contacted a sergeant with the Jackson Police Department who gave a positive endorsement. The Sheriff’s Office further investigated Keller’s background by reaching out to an Officer with another agency, along with a retired Federal Agent. Both officer’s spoke highly of Deputy Keller, and advised he was new to law enforcement and needed to be trained, but he was very professional and trustworthy.

In summary, the Judge did find in favor of Deputy Keller for the order of protection based on the credible evidence presented at the hearing.

When journalists write slanted articles based on false, misleading, and errant conclusions, our citizens are not better off. We, as citizens, should be able to trust the press. We used to be able to do so. Now, journalists who breed discontent in their reporting so as to create chaos and to sell ads do not serve the truth but merely are slaves to greed.

Sheriff Wes Drury commented, “My deputies work hard for the citizens of this county. I want to assure the county that we work our cases, we patrol to protect the communities, and we addressed Mrs. Valenzuela’s concerns in a professional and credible manner.”


Scott County Sheriff’s Department

Benton, Mo.