Online Exclusive

Mo. Deputy Slain Loading Woman Into Ambulance

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Mo. -- The suspect in the fatal predawn shooting Saturday of Washington County sheriff's Deputy Christopher R. Parsons was taken into custody after a 15-hour search.

Police arrested Gary W. Sancegrow, 30, without incident at a police checkpoint near Mineral Point.

Parsons, 31, had been with the department for about two months after graduating from Mineral Area College law enforcement academy, said Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Juston Wheetley.

Parsons was shot when he and another Washington County deputy were helping load an unconscious woman into an ambulance about 2:10 a.m. Saturday at a mobile home on Nuggett Road in the Mineral Point area. A gunman outside the mobile home fired one shot, fatally wounding Parsons, Wheetley said. The gunman then fled into the woods.

"He used a rifle, but I don't know if it was high-powered or a shotgun or what," Wheetley said.

Sancegrow was taken into custody at a Highway Patrol checkpoint on Huff Road about 5:15 p.m. Saturday and taken to the Washington County Jail, Wheetley said. Sancegrow was escorted to the checkpoint by people he knew, police said.

Sancegrow was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action, the Washington County sheriff's office said.

More than 100 law enforcement officers had spent much of Saturday searching the rural area east of Potosi using all-terrain vehicles, a helicopter and K-9 units.

The FBI brought in a plane with infrared search equipment. Police set up armed checkpoints in the roads leading in and out of the residential area where the shooting occurred. Police stopped vehicles, searching trunks and looking into the passenger compartments.

The U.S. Marshals Service also was called in to assist in the search.

"We were prepared for the worst-case scenario," Wheetley said after the arrest.

According to court records, Sancegrow, also spelled Sancegraw in court documents, has a history of mental problems.

He was charged by the Washington County sheriff's office with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, in 2006, and given five years' probation. However, he violated probation and was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation by the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The Washington County Circuit Court in 2007 deemed Sancegrow "incompetent to proceed" and committed him to the department's care.

The court in 2008 continued his probation under conditions that he submit to more evaluation and take all prescribed medication. He violated probation again in 2010, prompting the court to issue a warrant for his arrest.

His grandmother Mary Sancegrow said Saturday that he had a troubled past.

"He lost his father when he was 13 and hasn't been right since," she said. "He's kind of paranoid and just hasn't gotten along too well."

Sancegrow did not graduate from high school and does not have a job, according to his grandmother.

Sancegrow's father, according to published reports, died in 1994 when his truck went off a country road and flipped, throwing him from the vehicle.

Wheetley did not know whether Sancegrow was staying at the Nuggett Road address. It was unclear whether it was his mother's house.

Police didn't provide further details about the unconscious woman who was loaded into the ambulance early Saturday. She was taken to a hospital, and "it was a legitimate medical call," Wheetley said.

Several neighbors in the area said they kept their doors locked during the search and had their firearms nearby.

Marty Harper, 50, who lives on nearby Springtown Road, said he awoke to the police search early Saturday. He thought it might have been an escape from the state prison, which is about two miles away.

Harper didn't hear any shots in the middle of the night, but he recalled hearing some gunfire earlier Friday evening. He did not consider it terribly unusual.

"You always hear gunshots around here," he said. "That's nothing new. (People) sighting their rifles."

The residential area is known as Springtown, Harper said, although it has a Mineral Point mailing address. The neighborhood is just outside Potosi, about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.

"The way the world's going nowadays, nothing shocks me," Harper said. "After yesterday and 20 kids being shot for no good reason. There is no good reason. So nothing surprises me anymore."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service