Squad is vital to arrest of suspect

September 11, 2010

One day after the Sedalia Police Department opened its investigation into the killing of Rebekah Marcus, dozens of detectives from across the region descended on Sedalia to provide additional manpower and resources, helping secure an arrest in the case within three days of her death.

When announcing the arrest of slaying suspect Daniel J. Maschger, Sedalia Police Chief John DeGonia and Cmdr. Larry Ward commended the work of more than 30 detectives with the Rural Missouri Major Case Squad who assisted in the investigation.

Ward said members of the squad worked at least 75 leads in the days after Marcus’ death. He described the force as a “tremendous resource” that greatly enhanced investigators’ ability to make an arrest.

“We have a limited number of resources, so the case squad is vital,” he said. “I can’t speak highly enough about it. This was a team effort.”

This week’s activation of the major case squad, which has existed for about 40 years, marked the second time this year the regional agency, described as a mobile investigation division, has assisted in a slaying investigation in Sedalia. The squad’s scope is typically limited to serious injury, kidnapping or slaying investigations in which police “have to get somebody before they leave the area or have to follow a large number of leads in a short time,” Ward said.

Ward and DeGonia said the purpose of the unit is to maximize the capabilities of local law enforcement agencies in the immediate aftermath of a major case, enabling investigators to work a quantity of leads while the case is fresh.

Ward said the additional manpower, technology and shared information made available by the unit is extremely beneficial for the rural agencies dealing with a serious crime.

He said the squad gives law enforcement officials the ability to spread their coverage and more easily track criminals who have traveled outside the original investigating agency’s jurisdiction.

Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond, who is chairman of the squad’s board this year, said members of the squad go through specialized training that includes various classroom and practical sessions required for certification.

When activated, the squad’s investigators typically work in small teams to track leads, gather evidence and compile and review reports after a major crime.

“Whenever you have something of this magnitude you have so many different angles you have to be able to investigate, so it takes a large amount of resources,” Bond said.

He said with the assistance of the major case squad, law enforcement agencies can often make as much progress in the first week of a case as they otherwise could accomplish in a month.

“With any major crime, the longer it gets from the event, the more difficult it is to resolve. The idea of the squad is to throw a lot of resources at it as quickly as possible,” Bond said.

The major case squad usually provides the bulk of its assistance in the days immediately after a major crime, supporting an investigation in its initial week when the majority of information on the case is developed.

When the squad is disbanded and the case handed back to the original agency, the investigation has typically progressed significantly but is not necessarily completed.

In addition to convening for major investigations, the major case squad meets each month to share intelligence about crimes occurring throughout the region. Ward said the meetings provide an opportunity for members to review a collection of shared information, which is advantageous because they often are working with the same crimes and criminals as their neighboring agencies.

Bond said the squad, composed of the “best and brightest” investigators from across the region, was an invaluable resource to local law enforcement agencies, and last week’s investigation exemplified the benefit it can provide helping secure a quick resolution in major crimes.

“It’s kind of a well-oiled machine at this point. It is a process, and it’s proven to be very successful,” he said.