A Phelps County jury Thursday deliberated for just over an hour and a half before finding Kurt Ross Jr., 20, of Edgar Springs, guilty of two felony counts of stealing a firearm.
Kurt Ross Jr. is the son of Edgar Springs Mayor Kurt Ross Sr.
The one-day trial was a retrial of a case that was tried back in May that resulted in a hung jury.
In December of 2011, Ross Jr. borrowed two rifles from a friend of his, according to the Phelps County prosecutor’s office, and less than three months later, Ross Jr. sold those rifles to a pawn shop in Rolla without the permission of the original owner.
When a Phelps County sheriff's deputy confronted Ross Jr. about the guns, he initially told the deputy that they were at a friend's house. Ross, however, did eventually admit that he had sold the guns to the Rolla pawn shop because he needed the money.
Two witnesses testified that the guns were loaned to Ross, not given to him. Another witness, the owner of the pawn shop, testified that Ross was the person who had sold the rifles.
Ross did not testify at the trial, but his mother and father did. Both said the original owner of the guns had made statements to them suggesting that the guns had been given to Ross Jr., rather than being loaned to him.
However, on cross examination, both witnesses admitted that they had never approached the investigating officer with this information.
The defense argued that Ross Jr. believed that he could sell the guns because the guns had been either given to him or that because the original owners had not come to retrieve the rifles. Instead, they had become abandoned.
Assistant Prosecutor Brad Neckerman, of the county prosecutor’s office, argued that Ross Jr. had changed his story multiple times and therefore could not be believed.
He also said the guns had a lot of monetary and sentimental value to the victim, as they had been passed down through the family and therefore the victim would have never have given the guns away.
Associate Circuit Judge Kenneth Clayton presided over the trial.
Ross Jr. remains free on bond. Sentencing has been set for Nove. 6, 2013. Ross Jr. gave up his right to a jury sentencing, so Clayton will make that determination. Stealing a firearm is a class C felony that carries a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison. Ross could face up to 14 years since he was found guilty on two counts.
“This was a very unfortunate case where the victim trusted one of his best friends and allowed him (Ross Jr.) to use his two family heirloom rifles and the defendant betrayed that trust," Neckerman said.
Page 2 of 2 - Reached for comment, Phelps County Prosecutor John Beger was complimentary of the efforts of the sheriff's department and Neckermann.
Beger said, "Theft is an ongoing crime in every community and ours is no different. Our office and the sheriff's department spends a lot of time trying to solve property crime and this case demonstrates that. After the first trial resulted in a hung jury, we felt that justice required trying this case a second time, and I want to thank the jury for their service."