And detectives are looking for possible links of this group to similar crimes in other counties in southwest Missouri.
Sheriff Ron Long held a news conference Wednesday morning in Waynesville. Long says Robert Willhite, 82, remains in critical condition after being found severely beaten at his home near Swedeborg on July 25.
Long says Willhite has been in the community since the 60's, is a former business owner, and a U.S. Navy and Korean War veteran. His daughter says he was very independent and loved the area. He was a Shriner and involved in the community.
Long says deputies identified a group, or ring, to find the suspects in the beating.
That lead them to Vernon Dale Parker, a fugitive with warrants, where an explosive device was found. Sheriff Long says he believes the device was there to hinder the apprehension of Parker. He is in custody of the Department of Corrections and has not been charged with this case.
Five arrests were made Tuesday and three people were charged.
According to the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Thomas Ernest York Jr., 34, of St. Robert, Roby Sapere, 57, of Richland, and Jessica Anne Berry, 24, of Dixon have all been charged in the case as of Tuesday (July 29) afternoon.
Berry, Sapere and York are all facing felony charges in connection with the robbery and assault incident deputies responded to at a home on 19865 Highway T on July 25.
Deputies say several collectable coins valued at around $5,000, along with two AR-15 assault rifles valued at $3,000 were stolen in the incident.
A few days later, on July 28, deputies were approached by Jessie and Cheryl Berry who said their daughter, Jessica Berry, came home with several silver coins.
When her parents confronted her about the coins, Berry told them “something bad had happened,” according to a probable cause statement. Berry continued to tell her parents that her, along with a man, were lookouts during the time Willhite’s home was robbed.
Deputies went to the Berry residence to speak to Jessica Berry and she eventually led them to the coins, which were hidden in luggage on the front porch.
Before deputies left the home, Berry’s father gave them a revolver, which he says was given to him by Jessica Berry for Father’s Day. Deputies checked the serial number on the revolver and discovered it was stolen from Osage County.
Berry later admitted to deputies she was given the revolver to sell and when she couldn’t sell it, she gave it to her father. She said she knew the gun was stolen.
While talking to deputies, Berry said Roby Sapere drove her to the Willhite residence and pointed it out to her. According to Berry, Sapere later called her and said another man involved in the robbery “went too far by tying the old man up with duct tape.” Sapere told Berry every time Willhite moved or made a sound, he was hit.
Thomas York was arrested in connection with the robbery after deputies found a Kobalt pry bar inside Willhite’s home. Deputies checked the bar code and found it was purchased at Lowe’s on July 24 around 5:30 p.m.
Deputies received a copy of surveillance footage for that time and identified York as the buyer.
According to a probable cause statement, Berry’s mother also told deputies that Jessica Berry got a phone call saying York, along with two other men, severely beat and robbed an elderly man.
After York was arrested, he told deputies he bought a can of primer on July 25 at Lowe’s, but never a crow bar.
Berry is facing two felony charges of receiving stolen property. She is currently being held in the Pulaski County Jail under a $500,000 cash-only bond.
York has been charged with first-degree assault resulting in serious physical injury, first-degree burglary, felonious restraint, two counts of theft/stealing of a firearm, and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. He is in the Pulaski County Jail under a $1 million cash-only bond.
Sapere has been charged with first-degree assault and first-degree burglary. He is also being held in the Pulaski County Jail under a $1 million cash-only bond.
Sheriff Long says this group could be responsible for other crimes. Networking with other counties, including Greene county, to see if it's connected. The sheriff says a dozen more people could be arrested before it's all said and done.
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