RICHMOND, Mo. - A woman was killed in May. Her killer was arrested an hour later.
Three months pass, and a baby was found dead in her crib. Police say an autopsy showed severe child abuse.
Depending on which community you live in, that news may be routine. That’s not the case in Richmond, Mo.
Until this year, police hadn’t investigated a homicide since 1996.
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An 11-person department can barely stretch to cover regular shifts, let alone homicides that require detailed investigations.
Police Chief Chad Burnine said he’s had to be creative with his resources. To date, his team of 10 people includes only one detective.
“There’s times we’ll have one guy working at night,” he said.
To put this in perspective, Gladstone has 48 police officers and six detectives. Last year, Kansas City police reported 1,386 officers and more than 250 detectives.
"When you have a crime like a homicide, you're usually scrambling to try to pull guys off the street and still be able to handle the calls that come in and work the case of that magnitude,” Burnine said.
When Michelle Rheuport was killed in May, the Rural Missouri Major Case Squad helped process the scene.
Three months later, when a baby was found dead in her crib and suspicions rose about possible child abuse, the state was called in again to help out.
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“We automatically asked for the assistance of the STAT team, which is the State Technical Assistance Team," said Scott Bagley, the sole detective for the Richmond Police Department.
Thanks to that extra support, Burnine's department uncovered answers in both deaths. The charges filed show that even with just a handful of officers, justice is possible.
Burnine doesn't think the two homicides were a result of a change in Richmond. He believes the timing was coincidental.
“I think we're ready to tackle anything that comes at us," he explained.
According to Bagley, the small department allows the officers to create strong team bonds and great working relationships. He believes the success of his department is dependent upon it.
Burnine was able to add one officer to his department this October. He hopes to continue to do the same in coming years. His goal is to grow the Richmond Police Department to at least 15 officers.
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