The 1987 manhunt for a man who killed a Missouri trooper

Missouri

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On Sunday, February 8 of that year, Trooper Harper pulled over a pickup truck and before Harper could even step out of his patrol car, he was shot and killed.

Sam Kaunley, former public information officer with the patrol, says he had just gotten home from a weekend of celebrations.

“I didn’t even get my suitcase sit down in the house Sunday afternoon when I arrived and the phone was ringing,” said Kaunley.

Kaunley – a close friend to Harper – says he was in shock but had to get to work and head to the Troop D headquarters to figure out what happened.

“By that time, the media had heard. At first, it was a little chaotic because the media wanted to know and had a right to know, and it was my duty to do all of that. But I didn’t know anything myself. All the time that was going on, our troopers were around investigating it and getting immediately got leads,” he says.

The shooting took place on U.S. 60 near Farm Road 189 near Highland Springs Country Club. As the investigation on who shot Harper began, one eyewitness came to authorities with what she saw.

“She was from Kansas City, and she was visiting some family down here, and she was actually leaving. If I can remember now, it’s been a long time, my facts aren’t just right, but my intentions are. I believe she was leaving her family home when she actually saw Russell Harper pull in behind Glenn Paul Sweet in that pickup that Sweet was driving, and Sweet got out with an automatic weapon, and begin to shoot from the left headlight across the hood of a car up through the windshield and the visa bar, the red lights on top of Russ’s car. Russ dipped to the side when he saw what was happening, he ducked. One round caught Russ right above the right eye and it was instant, But she did see that and let us know.”

After talking to the witness, the patrol began a manhunt in several counties for Glenn Paul Sweet.

After days of tips and searching several counties, the patrol was able to capture Sweet. Kaunley says a nearby business owner recognized Sweet and called authorities.

“I think a gift from God to us. There was a house in West Springfield near a large manufacturing plant. And one of the guys that worked there, that was kind of up in the plan a little bit, had walked outside on the ramp of his business there on that large manufacturing place, and there was a single house sitting out in the field. He saw a guy walked out of that house, and I believe he was carrying the weapon, and he saw him put it in the trunk of an old Monte Carlo. That person called our office on a tip. So we sent a SWAT team over to this house, and sure enough, Glen Paul Sweet was hiding in the attic of this house. They were able to recover the weapon, and they made contact with him. At that time, our equipment was pretty sophisticated, and we put a red dot on him. And it was, come out or, or that’s you know. And so he did. He surrendered,” said Kaunley.

The arrest of Glenn Paul Sweet.

After Sweet’s arrest, troopers brought him back to the Troop D headquarters for questioning. While that was going on, Kaunley was handling the media circus happening there as well. After some time, there was a lull, and Kaunley got asked by the troopers handling the questioning to go see Sweet.

They were doing some kind of work on getting their evidence together, and they asked me, I had about a two-hour break, they said would you come downstairs and guard Sweet, we’ve got him downstairs, and I said sure. I remember going downstairs to a room that we had him. He was handcuffed, sitting in a chair, and he was 15-20 feet from me. And I remember the feeling of walking and looking at the man that just killed my dear friend. I didn’t have any big television feelings of ‘I want to shoot you. I want to kill you.’ My thought was, ‘What a waste. What a waste of Russ Harper. What a waste of your life.’

Sam Kaunley

Sweet obeyed Kaunley’s orders, and to this day, Kaunley has never heard Glenn Paul Sweet’s voice.

Funeral coverage for Russell Harper.

The Trial

“Before 31-year-old Glenn and Sweet of Ozark County goes on trial for the murder of state patrolman Russ Harper, a crucial piece of evidence has to be considered.

The trial for Sweet wouldn’t start until December 1987. It was expected then prosecutor Thomas Mountjoy would call an expert ballistics witness who would testify that the shell casings and the bullets found in Harper’s car would match the assault rifle found on the property where Sweet was caught hiding out. Sweet’s defense attorney Ty Gaither countered that testimony with an expert of his own who will testify that the bullets could have come from other rifles as well.

Mountjoy also called an eyewitness who will say they saw the shooting as they were driving by the scene. The prosecution witness list also includes state troopers and associates of Sweet and investigators for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Gaither indicated earlier that the defendant would testify in his own defense. Sweet testified that at the time of the shooting, he was already at the home alone.

Harper’s wife Gayla also worked at the Troop D headquarters with Russ. She attended the trial every day and only stepped out when a medical examiner talked about Russ’ injuries.

“I just wanted to say I pray that justice will be served in this case, and I really feel that it has. And on behalf of Russell and myself, I thank all the agencies that worked on the case hard and long and the prosecution.”

Sweets sentencing happened on January 20, 1988; the Clay County judge sentenced Sweet to death.

On March 20, 1998, the Missouri Supreme Court said Sweet would be executed on April 22, 1998. When Kaunley heard Sweet was going to be executed, he felt it was finally closure in the death of his friend Russell.

“That day that I heard Glenn Paul Sweet was going to be executed, it all rushed back in. it was almost like a fever. This was the culmination of everything that happened. And I thought, where would Russ be today, where would Gayla and Russ be today. It’s not that I didn’t have sympathy for Sweet, but I didn’t have sympathy in regard to what he’d done. You asked me about closure. I think that was the day the door slammed on it. To know that it was going to cost his life… I didn’t feel like it was retribution or anything. I think we felt that this is closure on something bad and sad to us,” says Kaunley.

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