Lincoln County sheriff and prosecutor battle over high-profile arrest

FOX Files
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LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. – It’s the sheriff versus the prosecutor in Lincoln County and the fight is over a murder case first reported in the Fox Files.

Law enforcement is at odds over the arrest of Russell Woods, who appeared in at the Lincoln County Courthouse on January 22 on a second-degree murder charge.

The prosecutor's interview that day has brought backlash by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO).

The sheriff’s office posted on Facebook that it’s asking for an investigation by the Missouri Attorney General, the circuit judge, and the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates bar complaints.

The sheriff won’t talk on camera but said through a spokesman the complaints are over Wood's interview with Fox 2.

On January 22, Wood told Fox 2, “Information regarding (suspect Woods’) arrest had been leaked to him by Lincoln County Detectives. (Woods’) attorneys had contacted me and then prosecutors had negotiated his surrender obviously. We were hoping to take him by surprise so that there wouldn’t be any incidents of armed standoff or suicide or any type of flight.”

Suspect Woods is accused of shooting Brian Fredde to death on July 4, 2019. Fredde’s mother, Cheryl Bertels, also told Fox 2 about her family’s fears.

“(Our) family’s looked over their shoulders,” she said. “(Woods) has an arsenal. I watched him carry them out of his house three days after my son was shot. He has never spent so much as one hour in jail.”

How does prosecutor Wood know it was leaked by deputies and why?

“Why? You’ll have to ask them. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know how long they had the warrant or how long they had looked for him,” he said. “I’m not certain if that’s their standard procedure, but attorneys had told me that detectives had called them. At that point, they called me and asked to negotiate his surrender.”

Despite the sheriff’s social media post—which fights back against the prosecutor—the LCSO admitted via email on January 22, “Last week, detectives called Russell Woods’ attorney and asked her to turn in their client, which she agreed.” The spokesman also said, “The Sheriff`s Office attempted many locations to arrest Mr. Woods; however, we were unsuccessful.”

Prosecutor Mike Wood said he stands by what he told Fox2 last week, saying in a statement, “Sheriff Cottle’s office notified a murder suspect of a pending warrant. Instead of reprimanding his officers, he’s trying to shift focus away from himself in an election year.

“This stunt is a failed attempt to deflect attention away from another botched murder investigation. The baseless and frivolous accusations from the sheriff’s office are completely without merit.”

Meanwhile, Russell Woods bonded out and is being monitored by an ankle bracelet. He’s due back in court next week.

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