WAYNESVILLE, Mo. — Testimony resumed Tuesday afternoon in the bench trial of former Texas County Sheriff James Sigman and his former jail administrator, Jennifer Tomaszewski, with Circuit Judge John Beger hearing from a group of Houston residents who say Tomaszewski pointed a gun at a woman and her infant child, took and damaged her cell phone, and despite not yet being a commissioned deputy, went to a drug raid wearing a uniform indistinguishable from the deputies and gave orders to people on the scene in ways that caused them to believe she was a law enforcement officer.
Tomaszewski and Sigman each face eight felony charges and two misdemeanors accusing them of various crimes during their time in the Texas County Sheriff Department. The case has been moved from Texas County to the Pulaski County Courthouse on a change-of-venue, and Tuesday afternoon’s testimony largely focused on the Class A felony charge of first-degree robbery alleging that on June 30, 2017, Tomaszewski “forcibly stole a cell phone owned by (a Houston woman) and in the course thereof the defendant was armed with a deadly weapon.” The weapon was a Glock which Tomaszewski carried in a holster while wearing a uniform despite at that time being a jailer rather than a commissioned deputy. The former sheriff faces the same Class A felony charge which accused him of having aided and encouraged his former jail administrator in her actions.
INCIDENT IN HOUSTON
The 2017 incident happened on a street in Houston where, at the time, a group of family members and relatives lived in homes in close proximity to each other. Among them was a mother of young children and her mother-in-law; the young mother went to a movie with her husband and while gone, he received a phone call that there was an incident at their home, drove back, and was arrested on drug charges during a South Central Drug Task Force raid.
“I’m scared because there are cops coming out from everywhere and I didn’t know what was going on,” she told the judge, and said she saw Tomaszewski “waving a gun around and yelling to get down.”
“I was stunned,” the woman said. “She wanted my phone… I don’t remember exactly what she said… she kind of snatched it… I was scared and didn’t understand why a gun was pointed at me.”
The woman said she was about 10 feet away from Tomaszewski and was able to see not only that Tomaszewski had a gun but that her finger was on the gun trigger and that Tomaszewski “seemed really nervous.”
Special Prosecutor Don Trotter confirmed that the woman was carrying her infant son and asked details about where Tomaszewski was pointing the gun.
“So she was pointing the gun at your son?” Trotter asked. “And your son was one year old? … So you were moving your son around from arm to arm and the gun was following the baby?”
The woman said that was correct.
“I was looking at Jennifer and my son, and at that point nothing else mattered,” she said. Defense attorney Jason Coatney asked the woman if she knew her husband, from whom she has since separated but is not divorced, was a drug dealer.
“No, I did not,” she said. “I knew he had a disability check. According to Social Security, he was mentally unstable.”
The young woman’s mother-in-law confirmed many of the same details.
“She (Tomaszewski) had a gun drawn,” according to the mother-in-law. “She came down walking toward us with the gun. She started yelling, ‘Everybody down behind the truck.’ … I was just watching that gun and kept saying, ‘Is this necessary?’ … She kept using a lot of profanity… I cuss a lot too, but it was out of context.”
Trotter asked where Tomaszewski pointed the gun.
“Did she point the gun at the child?” Trotter asked.
“Yes, and that is why I kept saying, ‘Is this necessary?’” the mother-in-law answered.
Another relative at the scene, a niece of the person whose home was raided, confirmed the young mother’s report of what happened to her phone.
“She (Tomaszewski) was really screaming, pulling the gun on us,” the niece said. “Every time we tried to move, she was trying to cuss us out…. When the (young mother) came down, she (Tomaszewski) said, ‘Give us the F-ing phone.’ She (the phone owner) was bawling … (Tomaszewski) ripped it out of her hand.”
The niece agreed that Tomaszewski’s behavior caused her to be concerned.
“That woman kept pointing the gun at us anytime someone moved,” she said. “That woman was jumping up and down with the gun… all of us were scared. We didn’t know if she was going to shoot us or not.”
Testimony is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in the Pulaski County Courthouse. The special prosecutors told Beger they hope to present about a half-dozen more witnesses during the remainder of their testimony before resting and turning matters over to the defense attorney to call his witnesses.
previous testimony this week
A former jailer testified about an incident involving an inmate in February 2018.
Witnesses called on first day of testimony in Waynesville.