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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shootout From 30-Miles

The subject of a police manhunt in 2005 was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday night in the death of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper who crashed his car racing to help in the search.

Jurors deliberated more than three hours before returning the guilty verdict against Massigh J. Stallmann, 28, of High Ridge.

The trooper was Ralph C. Tatoian of north St. Louis County, a trained sniper who was rushing along Interstate 44 to join the manhunt in Franklin County on April 20, 2005. He died when he struck a tractor-trailer that had stopped to help another motorist.

Even though Stallmann was hiding in woods some 30 miles away from Tatoian’s crash site, prosecutors won the murder conviction. Missouri law allows a felony murder charge when an officer is killed while responding to aid in a felony arrest.

"Stallmann was the impetus for all the events," said Gasconade County Prosecutor Ada Brehe-Krueger. "But for his actions, Trooper Tatoian would not have been killed."

Tatoian’s widow and more than a dozen uniformed troopers came to the Franklin County courthouse for the trial. It was moved from Gasconade County on a change of venue.

AdvertisementStallmann’s lawyer, Robert Taaffe Jr., said what happened to Tatoian doesn’t meet the definition of the felony murder law and hopes the appeals court will overturn the conviction.

"The jury wanted to do something for Trooper Tatoian, it’s a gut instinct when you’re looking at this woman who lost her husband," Taaffe said. "Although it’s a tragedy, he was responsible for his own conduct. He was going to work and he died in a car crash. It’s not a criminal case."

Taaffe said Tatoian had a slight blood-alcohol level, was late for his callout to duty and drove fast in a construction zone. A prosecution witness said that the low level of alcohol wouldn’t impair the trooper.

Stallmann was convicted of 10 felonies, including burglary and assaulting a law enforcement officer. The trouble began about 1 a.m. April 20, 2005, in Mount Sterling, Mo., 75 miles southwest of St. Louis, authorities said. He broke into a store and confronted a woman who lived in an apartment above. Armed with a shotgun, he stole car keys and cash.

Gasconade County sheriff’s deputies arrived. Stallmann fired once. Deputies fired 60 shots in return. One reserve deputy was grazed in the cheek by a bullet fired from another deputy. Stallmann fled. About 2 a.m. near Leslie, Mo., he was seen running into woods. Authorities called out the Highway Patrol’s Special Emergency Response Team.

Tatoian was paged at his home near Florissant. About 4:45 a.m., near I-44’s Pacific exit, he crested a hill with his squad car’s lights and siren running. He swerved around the disabled car but struck a truck.

About two hours later, Stallmann was captured.

Posted by Ajay :: 12:09 PM :: 0 comments

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