Lee sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to theft of firearms
Dustin Lee, 35, of Vanzant, will spend five years in prison in connection with the burglary and theft of multiple guns and other items in Ozark County earlier this year. Lee pleaded guilty Dec. 5 before Circuit Judge Craig Carter to first-degree burglary and stealing a firearm and was sentenced to five years in prison, with the sentences to be served concurrently. The Ozark County sentence is to run consecutively to a Wright County case in which Lee was sentenced in May to six years in prison after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, receiving stolen property and possession of a controlled substance.
Lee was originally charged with 13 felonies in the Ozark County case. He was charged as a persistent offender because he was convicted of passing bad checks on Dec. 6, 2005, in Douglas County, two counts of burglary on Aug. 3, 2011, in Ozark County and forgery on Oct. 6, 2011, in Wright County.
The latest sentence stems from a March 4 incident when Tiffany Fox and Kyle Hannaford, Ozark County deputies at the time, were dispatched to a residence at 192 Carson Lane at 6:16 p.m. after a burglary was reported to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department, according to the probable cause statement in the case. The deputies spoke with homeowners Beryl and Carol Murdy, who told the officers they had left for church around 9:05 a.m., and when they returned they noticed that several items were missing from their house, including numerous guns, a chainsaw and a laptop.
After noticing the missing items, the Murdys checked their home security camera footage and saw a black, two-door Jeep arrive at the residence at 9:10 a.m., five minutes after they had left for church. Two men were seen entering the home and returning to the Jeep carrying several items, the statement says. The Murdys told the officer that only one person had been to their residence in the last year: Lee, a former employee. The officers took several items as evidence to undergo fingerprint analysis.
The next day, on March 5, Fox received a tip that a black Jeep driven by Lee was in the Mountain Grove area. Fox spoke with a Wright County deputy about Lee, and shortly afterward the Wright County deputy called the Ozark County officer to tell her he had taken Lee into custody.
Fox met the Wright County deputy and Lee shortly afterward and searched the vehicle, the statement says. A Taurus .357 magnum, reported missing by the Murdys the previous day, was reportedly found in the Jeep’s glove box. Fox asked the man where the other guns were located, and he said he would not tell her, the statement says. A silver pocket watch, matching the description of one stolen from the Murdys home, was also found on Lee.
Teresa Schulz, who was riding as a passenger in the Jeep when the Wright County officer stopped Lee, said the vehicle belonged to her, but Lee frequently borrowed it. Schulz told the officer that Lee had borrowed the vehicle Saturday, March 3, and returned in the Jeep around noon on March 4.
Schulz also told the officer that Lee often stayed in a storage shed on her parents’ property, but she said she had no knowledge that Lee had stolen any items. Schulz gave the officers permission to search her shed, and inside the officers found a Husqvarna chainsaw model 435, an Optima .50-caliber muzzleloader rifle, a Gamo pellet rifle and a Savage .243 rifle, along with multiple drugs and paraphernalia items, the statement says. The rifles and chainsaw all matched the ones reported as missing the previous day.
Additional weapons that Lee is charged with stealing include a Winchester 30-30 model 94 rifle, a .243 Rossi single-shot rifle, a .270 Stevens model 200 rifle, a Stoeger 20-gauge over/under shotgun, a Marlin .22-caliber model 60 rifle, a Marlin .22 long model 60 rifle, Taurus .357 magnum pistol, Churchill semi-automatic shotgun, Marlin model 6085 rifle and a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle.
Lee reportedly told officers that he’d been using methamphetamine for several days.