A southern Missouri sheriff and a deputy with whom he had an affair were both indicted last week on felonies -- including assault, robbery and harassment -- in a scenario that the interim sheriff described as “wheels (falling) off.”
Former Texas County Sheriff James Sigman, 48, and Lt. Deputy Jennifer Tomaszewski, 38, also were indicted on child endangerment and unlawful use of a weapon.
Sigman hired Tomaszewski as a jailer in December 2016, which was around the time they began a romance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, citing court records. She was then promoted to administrator of the 72-bed jail seven months later, the report said.
The probable cause statement said she did not have “prior experience” when she was promoted.
Under Sigman and Tomaszewski’s leadership, 40 sheriff's office employees were fired or quit.
“Our reaction is not necessarily shock, but disappointment — extreme disappointment because the first term that Sheriff Sigman had served, I’ve said this over and over, it was textbook,” Presiding County Commissioner Fred Stenger said. “It was one that everyone could be very proud of.”
Tomaszewski declined to comment through a friend, but Sigman spoke with the newspaper and used an expletive to describe the official story.
“It’ll all come out in the end, that’s all I can tell you,” Sigman said as he shut the door.
“It’ll all come out in the end, that’s all I can tell you."
Sigman and Tomaszewski have both been released on bond, KRBK Fox 5 of Missouri reported.
Tomaszewski hit an inmate with the mental capacity of a 9-year-old in the face with her elbows after he was rendered unconscious, possibly by a "choke hold," a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper wrote in a report.
A corrections officer told investigators that Tomaszewski said she was "trying to bust his (the inmate’s) eardrum out."
"If we hadn't been there, they would have killed that boy. He was completely unconscious and his lips were turning blue," a deputy told investigators, according to the probable cause statement.
"If we hadn't been there, they would have killed that boy. He was completely unconscious and his lips were turning blue."
The statement said Sigman was present during the incident and that reports about what happened were removed from the mentally disabled inmate's file.
The trooper wrote that Tomaszewski also threatened to put a bullet in the head of another inmate but that the grievance the inmate filed was missing when a search warrant was served this spring at the sheriff's office.
The statement said she went on ride-alongs, acted as an undercover officer during stings and served search warrants during which she would detain suspects, search residences and perform other duties reserved for commissioned officers.
Sometimes she was armed with an AR-15 rifle normally used by Sigman and wore a uniform that was indistinguishable from what deputies wore, the trooper wrote.
While serving one search warrant, she pointed a firearm at several people, including a 1-year-old, who lived across the street from the home being searched, placing all of them in "immediate danger," the trooper wrote.
Tomaszewski confronted them because she thought they were video recording the officers and taking photos -- and mistakenly believed that wasn't allowed.
The statement also said that a child was brought into the jail multiple times, helped serve meals to inmates and ate with two of the inmates, including a sexually violent offender.
Sigman is “essentially accused of not doing anything to stop his girlfriend (Tomaszweski)” from misrepresenting herself as a peace officer, abusing inmates and putting residents at risk, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Rowdy Douglas, 33, told the newspaper that he had quit the sheriff’s department in early 2018 because of the atmosphere.
“Everything seemed like it was running smooth. Then it was like the wheels fell off.”
“Everything seemed like it was running smooth,” said Douglas, who was sworn in as interim sheriff. “Then it was like the wheels fell off.”
Douglas said he is trying to rebuild the department.
“We’ve lost some trust with the community, I mean that’s a given,” Douglas said. “We’ll get it back. We just gotta get our stuff squared away and get back out there and put people in jail again.”
Sigman’s wife, who worked in child advocacy down the hall at the Texas County Justice Center, filed for divorce, according to the report.
Texas County is about a 3-hour drive southwest of St. Louis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.