gets 12 years for arson that led to death
agreement results in dropping of murder charge
A former Platte County firefighter was given a 12 year
sentence for arson and property damage after reaching
a plea agreement with the special prosecutor in a high-profile
The agreement means Jason Hendrix, 28, won't stand trial
for murder. He was originally charged with second degree
murder under the state's felony murder statute, which
says that a person who commits a felony can be charged
with murder if someone dies as a result of the crime.
Hendrix was sentenced to seven years for arson and five
years for property damage. The sentences will run consecutively
for a total of 12 years.
On June 2, 2001, Hendrix, at the time a member of the
Edgerton-Trimble Fire Department, set a barn on fire near
Edgerton. A fire truck responding to the call from the
Dearborn Area Fire Protection District overturned on its
way to the blaze, killing 30-year-old Travis Brown. Driver
of the truck was firefighter Perry McAuley.
Patrick Peters, who was appointed special prosecutor
in the case last year after interim Platte County Prosecutor
Tammy Glick stepped aside, said he was confident he could
have won a conviction on the murder charge at jury trial.
"But there may have been a problem at the court
of appeals level," Peters said in a telephone conversation
"After talking with the victim's family, I just
thought it wasn't something that warranted going forward
on a felony murder charge," he added.
Peters said it would have been the "farthest stretch
so far" on the state's felony murder statute.
Peters commented that "it was an accident that was
not reasonably foreseeable is what factored in my mind"
in dropping the murder charge.
Peters then added if the only way for him to get prison
time for Hendrix would have been the felony murder trial,
he would have chosen that route.
Peters, who was Jackson County Prosecutor from 1985-93,
said the Brown family was happy with the agreement that
Possible defense tactics in a trial could have been to
attack the competency of the fire department and to question
the actions of the driver.
Brown and McAuley were on their way to a barn fire when
the pumper truck overturned at Route B and Malcolm Lake
Road near Edgerton, killing Brown and injuring McAuley.
Hendrix also pleaded guilty to five counts of negligently
setting fire to a woodland. He had been charged with setting
five grass fires between May 15 and May 23, 2001.
Hendrix was represented by Bert Godding, public defender.
Godding had asked the court for probation, or barring
that, a three-year total sentence.
But Judge Rex Gabbert, a Clay County judge who had traveled
to Platte County to handle the case, said the maximum
sentence was appropriate because as a firefighter, Hendrix
occupied a special position of trust in the community.
The original charges against Hendrix were filed by Todd
Graves, now United States Attorney for the Western District
of Missouri who was Platte County Prosecutor at the time
of the incident.
Current Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who defeated
interim prosecutor Tammy Glick in November, declined to
specifically comment on Monday's developments.
"My predecessor, Tammy Glick, asked for and obtained
a special prosecutor in this case. As a result, the Platte
County Prosecutor's Office was removed from this case
before I assumed office and did not have any role in the
decisions," Zahnd said.