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Widow of KCPD officer killed in crash wants Jackson County prosecutor off case

James Jim Muhlbauer and Champ KCPD.jpg
Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 19:36:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The widow of James Muhlbauer, the Kansas City officer killed in a crash last month, wants a special prosecutor appointed to the criminal case involving the death of her husband.

Cassie Muhlbauer, the widow of James Muhlbauer, penned a letter to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey asking for the change.

Muhlbauer's letter was included in an e-mail to Kansas City news stations from one of Officer Muhlbauer's former partners, Justin Huttie.

Huttie's e-mail and Muhlbauer's letter both accuse Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker's office of having "a strong conflict of interest with numerous cases against KCPD and its personnel."

In an e-mail to KSHB 41 Wednesday night, a spokesperson for the Missouri Attorney General's office says while it stands ready to assist in a local prosecution, it can only become involved if a judge disqualifies a local prosecutor or if the local prosecutor requests assistance.

The suspect in the case, Tonganoxie, Kansas, resident Jerron Lightfoot, is facing two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection to the death of Muhlbauer and a pedestrian that was also killed by Lightfoot, Jesse Eckes.

Lightfoot bonded out of the Jackson County Detention Center on Feb. 17 per the conditions of his bond, which was set at $30,000 with a 10% option. As part of this bond, Lightfoot remains on house arrest and is not able to drive.

In her letter, Muhlbauer says a special prosecutor would be able to review the charges in the case. Missouri statutes outline charges available to prosecutors.

"We believe the conflict(s) of interest can be found with her numerous cases and documents going against KCPD and its officer," she said in the letter to Bailey.

She mentions the conviction of Eric DeValkenaere, the former KCPD detective who shot and killed Cameron Lamb in 2019.

"Jean Peters Baker and her office have prosecuted former KCPD officer Eric DeValkenaere," she said in the letter.

Cassie Muhlbauer also mentions former KCPD officer Brandon Sherman, who was charged for lying about working hours at an off-duty job.

In response to the letter, Baker released a statement denying any conflict of interest in the case.

"There is no apparent conflict in this case," Baker said in the statement. "We prosecute teachers, but we are not anti-education. We prosecute nurses, but we’re not anti-nursing. We prosecute priests, but we are not anti-Catholic. We will prosecute this case vigorously and ethically on behalf of all victims involved, as we do in all cases."

Baker also said she wouldn't further comment on the case.

A spokesperson for KCPD said they wouldn't comment on the letter due to the ongoing investigation in the case.