Reports detail DUI arrests of two Heartland school superintenden - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Reports detail DUI arrests of two Heartland school superintendents

Mitch Wood Mitch Wood
Sonia Kuessner Sonia Kuessner
Wood and Kuessner Facility Admission Reports, Scott County Sheriff's Office Wood and Kuessner Facility Admission Reports, Scott County Sheriff's Office

Two months ago, two local superintendents found themselves at the Scott County Jail on the same night, being booked and processed for DUI.

Mitch Wood is still on administrative leave from the Dexter School District, and Sonia Kuessner is on leave from Van Buren.

Neither has been formally charged, and there's been no final action in their case.

But on Dec. 22, we received new details in their case from the incident and intake reports filled out the night of their arrests.

What we were originally told

"I want to make sure, before we send anything to the prosecutor, that we have everything that's supposed to be done has been done", Sheriff Rick Walter told me back on November 1, about the arrests of Wood and Kuessner.

But, I did more than interview Sheriff Walter that day.

I brought him some paperwork too.

“A Missouri Sunshine Law request for copies of the reports, mugshots whatever on this particular incident", I told Walter as I handed him our request letter.

It took more than six weeks to receive 11 pages. 

The initial admission and incident reports lay out what happened when Wood and Kuessner came in contact with Scott County deputies on October 23, as well as questions about how exactly that night played out.

First, both admissions reports for Wood and Kuessner list the arresting authority as the Scott County Sheriff's Office. 

"I think the question was, 'was he arrested for DUI?'", Sheriff Walter told me during that interview.

Yes, that's exactly right. I responded.

"He was actually arrested on a warrant, an outstanding warrant."

In the days after the incident, Sheriff Walter told us Wood did not get arrested for DUI. 

He later amended that statement, and said officers gave Wood a field sobriety test once they got him to the jail.

"I can't tell you why it wasn't roadside”, Walter said of the sobriety test.  “Maybe they did not suspect anything at the time. Maybe they did when he got in here and that may be why they [did] it in here."

But the incident summary on Mitch Wood's arrest doesn't match that story. 

In the summary, the deputy lists the warrant, but also writes that Wood "was driving while intoxicated."

The reports also reveal something else about that traffic stop: it describes Wood as driving a 2008 Chevy Tahoe when he got pulled over on Highway 450 at 1:30 a.m.

However, Sonia Kuessner was arrested at 3:52 a.m. at the jail, and according to her incident summary, she got there in that same Chevy Tahoe - the VIN numbers and license plate numbers from both reports match exactly.

Finding answers

Does this mean Kuessner was with Wood when he got arrested? Did deputies allow her to leave the scene in the Tahoe?

We sent these and other questions to Sheriff Walter on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

Here’s the full list, along with his responses.

1. Did you ever receive the two reports you mentioned you were waiting for back on November 1 in regards to the arrests/detention of Mitch Wood and Sonia Kuessner on 10/23/16?

This case is still open.

2. Since our interview, have you called Scott County PA Paul Boyd to update him on the status of the reports (as mentioned in the interview) or to let him know the reports are ready?

I have talked with Paul Boyd since the interview.

3. To your knowledge, are the reports from the Wood/Kuessner arrests completed?

This is still an open case.

4. In our interview and in two previous phone conversations with Heartland News, you told us Mr. Wood was arrested and brought in on the outstanding warrant and deputies did not suspect he was driving impaired until they got him to the Sheriff’s office and gave him a field sobriety test in the jail. 

The Incident Report in regards to Woods’ traffic stop on 10/23/16 reads as follows:  “DWI 1st: Subject: Mitchell Wood, I observed a vehicle driving east on County Highway 450 with a headlight out.  I conducted a traffic stop, it was discovered Wood had a traffic warrant out of Dexter, Missouri and was driving while intoxicated.”  This would indicate that Sgt Wooten and/or Deputy Haynes felt immediately that Mr. Wood was driving under the influence.  Can you explain this discrepancy?

That is true, I said that, It was my understanding from Sgt. Wooten (who was not at the scene) that Mr. Wood was arrested and brought to the jail for the warrant on the traffic violation and that is when the question was raised about drinking.

5. Both Mr. Wood and Ms. Kuessner are listed as driving the same 2008 Chevy Tahoe.  Was Ms. Kuessner in the vehicle with Mr. Wood during the traffic stop on CR 450?  Do you have any concern that your officers may have allowed Ms. Kuessner to drive that Tahoe from the scene—especially since she arrived at your jail in the Tahoe and was arrested in the lobby?

If a person is suspected of being under the influence, they should not be allowed to drive. 

6. Do you anticipate your department’s work on these arrests will be completed before you leave office?

Unfortunately, there are a few cases that are still open.

On November 1, Sheriff Walter told Heartland News the following:"I talked to the Lieutenant today and asked him whenever, as soon as he can I would like to get those reports."

What's next?

Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd says that, to date, his office has not received any official reports on the case, and so he cannot decide if there's probable cause to file criminal charges.

He has fingerprint cards taken from Wood and Kuessner on October 23, along with copies we sent him of the reports we have.

You can read Boyd's full statement to us here:

As for incoming sheriff Wes Drury, he says he will wait to take office in the New Year before commenting on this or any other open cases he will inherit from the outgoing sheriff.

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