Jason Laird takes plea agreement, sentenced to 7 years
Jason Laird, 44, of Gainesville, appeared for his May 20 Law Day hearing by video chat from the Douglas County Jail, where he was moved after an escape attempt from the Ozark County Jail.
He accepted a plea agreement offered by the state on the six cases, totaling 15 charges, and was sentenced to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Pursuant to the agreement, Laird pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary, three counts of stealing firearms, tampering with a motor vehicle, stealing a motor vehicle and two counts of stealing $750 or more. The 15 charges involve six different burglaries on different occasions. Each is briefly described below:
Stealing a car from the school
On Jan. 22, the Gainesville school district reported that a school-owned 2012 Chevrolet Malibu had been stolen. Surveillance video taken around 2:30 a.m. from the school grounds shows a man in a hooded sweatshirt drive the school’s Malibu to an area where a fuel tank is stored on the campus The footage then shows the suspect exit the vehicle, attempt to put fuel in the car from the school’s tank, enter a small outbuilding, exit the building and drive away in the car. Officers found the car in a driveway on Cedar Oak Drive the next day, near where a burglary was committed. Laird was also charged in the burglary (see next charge).
Workman home burglary
Laird burglarized Aaron and Jessica Workman’s home on Cedar Oak Drive Jan. 23. The couple told officers when they arrived home that day, they found several articles of wet clothing thrown on the floor of the home that didn’t belong to anyone in their family. They also found their front door locked, which was suspicious because it had been left unlocked. Some firearms were taken, along with ammunition for the guns and a pair of work boots.
Truck stolen from MLH
Laird reportedly stole a 1998 Dodge pickup truck from Gainesville-area business MLH Excavation. The truck, reported missing on Jan. 27, was later recovered with several other stolen items at a Taney County home where Laird was arrested.
Break-in at Dawt Mill Resort
Officers also received a report of a burglary at Dawt Mill Resort on Jan. 27. Laird reportedly broken into several building on the property including Dawt Mill, the general store and the Chef’s Table. Dawt Mill provided a detailed report of the items that were missing, which totaled $4,857.45. Missing items included several cases of alcohol, the DVR that recorded the resort’s security system (which Laird had installed several years ago when he worked for the resort), a Kitchen Aid mixer, fishing equipment, portable security radios, two cash registers, assorted batteries, hooded sweatshirts, shirts and other clothing.
Caney Mountain Conservation Area
Officers received a call from a resident who said he’d seen Laird driving the stolen MLH truck down County Road 116 in Romance on Feb. 15. Officers responded and found a bent and damaged metal gate at the end of the county road that restricts access to the Caney Mountain Conservation Area. The gate looked “as if it had been rammed open by a vehicle,” court documents say. The ranger station at the conservation area had been broken into, and several items were missing from a shed, including hand-held radios and game cameras. A second building had also been burglarized, and several guns were missing.
Lick Creek Fire Department
On Feb. 16, Lick Creek VFD contacted the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department to report that the firehouse had been broken into through a window in the back. Several items were scattered on the floor of the garage portion of the firehouse, and the department was missing a Stihl chainsaw, a 5-gallon gas can and miscellaneous firefighting and outdoor equipment.
Laird was arrested Feb. 20 at a Taney County home. During his apprehension, several of the missing items from the Ozark County burglaries were recovered, including the 1998 black Dodge truck.
Items recovered from Dawt Mill included portable radios, each of which included a label with Dawt Mill information, as well as a staff, fishing equipment and a blue bag cooler. Two sets of license plates registered to Ozark Mill Carriage, a company owned by Dawt Mill, were also recovered.
Items recovered from Caney Mountain Conservation Area included a .22-caliber rifle and suppressor, both with serial numbers matching those of the missing items, as well as fire-starting flairs, a bolt for a .22-caliber rifle, several game cameras identified by serial number and tranquilizer darts specific to a dart gun owned by the conservation area.
Items recovered from the LCVFD included the chainsaw, a gas can with “Lick Creek F.D.” engraved on the top, as well as several other items identified by LCVFD chief Jerry Rowlett as belonging to the fire department.