I-Team Special Report: Crime, Without Punishment? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

I-Team Special Report: Crime, Without Punishment?

The Robert Family The Robert Family
Kaden Robert Kaden Robert
Kaden Robert Kaden Robert
The Robert Family The Robert Family

It's no secret we live in a region where gun ownership is common, but we also want to keep our kids safe.

That's why schools are gun-free zones.

It's against the law to bring a weapon, loaded or unloaded, onto the property.

18-year-old Landon Urhahn faces a felony charge after police say he brought a handgun to Kelly High School in his vehicle last November.

So, why wasn’t he held accountable when he did the same thing 16 months earlier?

Juvenile court records show the first time Landon Urhahn brought a gun to school in June 2014, 15-year-old Kaden Robert died.

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter calls Kaden Robert's death a tragedy.

Juvenile Office attorney Dan Norton calls it a tragic accident.

Nobody’s disputing that, but that's not what this story is about.

It's about whether Sheriff Walter and his office investigated the crime committed before the shooting, the felony offense of bringing a loaded handgun onto school property.

Did the Scott County Juvenile Office take steps to hold a 16-year-old accountable for that action?

Did either agency send a message to the community that the decision made that day could have been prevented?

According to the records from both those offices, the answer is no.

"911 what's your emergency?"

"Yeah, I've got a guy shot at Kelly High School, in the parking lot."

You can hear the panic in the voice of the teenager who called 911 moments after a loaded handgun went off in a truck full of teenagers, killing 15-year-old Kaden Robert.

"A tragic accident," Rhonda Robert recalls.

"He had reason to believe that it was just a tragic accident," Aaron Robert echoes.

That's how Aaron and Rhonda Robert recall Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter describing what happened to their son Kaden on June 23, 2014.

But the Robert's call it something else.

"It was a series of mistakes and poor choices that led up to this," Rhonda Robert said. "It wasn't Kaden's choice to die that day."

The biggest mistake in their minds: the decision by a 16-year-old to bring his uncle's loaded semi-automatic handgun with him to open gym night at Kelly School.

"There was a firearm brought onto school property," Rhonda said. "And that was against the law."

The police report describes a total of five teens in the truck. One took the gun from the passenger side door pocket and was reportedly handing it over to Kaden in the back seat when it went off.

"I don't know that anyone ever told us completely ever what happened," Rhonda tells me.

The Robert's wanted to see everything the Scott County Sheriff's Office and the Juvenile Office had regarding their son's death.

But, since the incident involved boys under the age of 17, they would need a court order.

"It's nothing that anybody should have to go through", Aaron tells me, "but they left us no choice."

A judge agreed to turn everything over, and the Roberts poured through it all.

The hardest part was watching the school surveillance video that shows the final moments of Kaden’s life.

"Very hard, to see your son for the last time," Aaron tells me. "You know, walk from......you just want to reach out and grab ahold of him and tell him to stop."

"I think it was clear the investigation was not complete," Robert family attorney Curt Poore said.

Poore points out there are numerous references to that loaded handgun being brought onto school property, but no reference to it being a crime.

The night of the shooting, Landon Urhahn told police he knew the gun was in the truck he drove.

He told them again in a videotaped interview six weeks later.

"And how did the gun get in there?" Captain Jerry Bledsoe asked Urhahn in front of his mother and a juvenile officer.

“I put it in there too, as well," Urhahn answers.

“When?” Bledsoe asks.

“Um, I think Sunday," he responds.

Another teen in the truck even tells police they shot the handgun earlier that day.

"All three of you got out," Bledsoe tells the teen. “And did all three of you shoot the gun?”

“Don’t even remember," the teen answered.

“Ok," Bledsoe responds.

“I remember somebody shooting it before me, though," the teen continued.

"There was a rush of judgment that this was a tragic accident rather than a criminal investigation," Poore said.

When law enforcement investigates an incident and there's evidence a juvenile committed a crime, they must turn over their reports, and a formal referral, to the juvenile office.

"I see nowhere, in any of the paperwork that I received, that a formal referral was made to the juvenile office," Poore said.

And that's a big deal. I checked with other departments and they call that formal referral a requirement.

It has to be done.

In a July 2014 email from then Chief Juvenile Officer Bill Lawson, he forwards the 23 page Robert report to a colleague and writes, “NOT a referral but probably need to keep this for a while.”

And juvenile Office attorney Dan Norton tells me "referrals are required to be submitted in writing and include reports from law enforcement."

But, when I asked about the lack of a referral form in the Robert case, Norton responded by email: "I consider the report to be the referral," not a specific form.

Clearly, his former boss did not agree.

Next, Sheriff Rick Walter agreed to talk to me about how the process works, without violating the privacy of the teens involved. 

But, he changed his mind--and sent me a brief letter instead.

In it, he said they conducted "a detailed and extensive investigation" into Kaden Robert's tragic death, and "juvenile authorities determined that no charges were to be filed."

When I asked Walter about the lack of a referral form, he told me by text the four teens in the truck were always handled as witnesses, so there would be no formal referral anyway.

Back to Bill Lawson, who wrote a letter in July 2014 to Captain Bledsoe.  ".....even though the individuals were questioned as witnesses to the accidental shooting, the focus of the investigation has now shifted."

So, the boys are more than witnesses, but again, no action is taken against Landon Urhahn by the juvenile office holding him accountable for bringing that loaded gun onto school property.

"And then, Landon Urhahn is arrested for exactly the same thing," Curt Poore said.  “I knew exactly what Aaron and Rhonda’s response would be.  And that is, I told you so.  And they were right.”

"I truly believe that the consensus was that the boys had suffered enough," Rhonda Robert said. “And hopefully this will just go away and this will never happen again. But it clearly shows that that wasn't the case. It did happen again."

The Robert's say Scott County Authorities failed to send a message to the parents and grandparents who may have never thought twice about letting their teenager grab the keys to a vehicle with a loaded gun inside. 

"Everyone has something to learn here.  And if not, this was all for nothing.  And our son's life mattered”, she tells me.

The Roberts filed a civil lawsuit against Landon Urhahn and it's already been settled.

Other civil suits could follow, their attorney said.

They also question why the night their son died, members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol offered to assist, but were reportedly turned away.

A juvenile officer called, then showed up to assist, but two of the boys had already been interviewed.

No one wants something like this to ever happen again, but if it does, the Robert's want that family to feel the right actions were taken, the right people held accountable, and the right message sent.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved.


Powered by Frankly