Savvy work by the Seymour Police Department last Friday led to the arrest of a 41-year-old murder suspect from Thayer.
Now in custody at the Oregon County Jail in Alton is Shelby A. Couch, who has been charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, armed criminal action and tampering with a motor vehicle, all associated with the death of Walter “Red Feather” Earls in Thayer.
Couch’s bond has been set at $1 million.
However, if not for the efforts of several Seymour city employees, it’s likely Couch would remain at large.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Patrolman Tyler Smith received a call from Patrolman Austin Gavin, who said he had received a call from a city employee, informing him that a red Pontiac Firebird car was a 416 B Street.
“This vehicle matched the description of a vehicle that was stolen from Thayer in Oregon County that was associated with a murder in that jurisdiction,” Smith wrote in his report.
Smith then drove past the home on B Street and ran its license plate, which came back as a stolen vehicle.
That’s when Smith contacted Sgt. Scott Dinwiddie, the Seymour Police Department’s interim chief, who advised Smith to continue watching the home as he waited for additional officers. In the interim, Webster County dispatchers notified Oregon County Sheriff Eric King that the vehicle was located, and two members of the Oregon County Sheriff’s Department began driving to Seymour.
“A short time later, (Webster County) Sheriff Roye Cole arrived in the area and was sitting at A Street and Washington Street,” Smith said in his report.
“I observed a vehicle backing out of the driveway and drive to the stop sign at Summit (Avenue) and B Street, then turn westbound onto Summit. I called over the radio to inform the other officers, and deputies were able to catch up to the vehicle and make a traffic stop on it.”
The driver of the vehicle was Couch.
He was driving a gray Pontiac G6 car.
“Couch’s (driver’s) license was suspended, and he was detained and transported to the Seymour Police Department,” Smith said.
Soon thereafter, Smith and several law-enforcement officers from multiple departments, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, entered the home at 416 B Street and searched the home with the consent of owner Sharla Sartin.
“Nothing was located inside in connection to the vehicle,” Smith noted in his report.
“I then collected a statement from Sartin, who stated that Shelby (Couch) had came by and was driving a red car ... and had parked the red car in her driveway and had left it there for awhile.”
Officers discovered that Couch also had been staying at a home at 216 South Division Street in Seymour, so search warrants were written for both homes, which were signed by Associate Circuit Judge David Tunnell.
Smith said nothing was found at 416 B Street; however, four items belonging to Couch were found at 216 South Division Street, including one Samsung Galaxy II phone, one pair of blue jeans, one pair of Fruit Of The Loom underwear and one pair of white socks.
“The Oregon County sheriff and his detective went back to the (police department) here in Seymour to question (Couch),” Smith’s report concluded. “Once Shelby requested a lawyer, they stopped questioning. I was asked if I could transport Shelby to the Webster County Jail.”
Smith transported Couch to the Webster County Jail in Marshfield. Later that weekend, he was taken to the Oregon County Jail.
While Smith was watching the home on B Street, Gavin was on South Division Street.
“The vehicle Couch was driving (when arrested) was a gray Pontiac G6, which was registered out of Arkansas to Tywana Lahm,” Gavin wrote in his supplemental report.
“I was familiar with Lahm and knew she had been living at 216 South Division. Lahm had come out of her residence and was upset that the police were in front of her house. She stated that the car Couch was driving when he was stopped by (Cole) belonged to her.”
Cole then spoke to Lahm. That’s when Gavin said he remembered that he had observed Couch earlier that day driving Lahm’s G6. When he saw Couch in Lahm’s car, Gavin recalled that Couch was putting items into a storage unit on South Water Street by the car wash.
Lahm then was arrested.
“She was yelling that we were harassing her and that we had no reason to be at her residence,” Gavin’s report said.
“Lahm was transported to the Seymour Police Department by Sgt. Dinwiddie.”
Soon afterwards, Lahm was released from custody, and Gavin drove her back to her home.
“On the way back to her residence, Lahm asked me if she needed to be worried (about Couch),” Gavin said. He said she asked, “Should I be scared of him? I just met the guy the other day.”
Lahm then asked Gavin, “Is he like a murderer or something?”
The statement peaked Gavin’s interest.
“I asked Lahm why she made that statement, and she said, ‘Just the way you guys were acting.’ I dropped Lahm back off at her residence and went back to the police station.”
Gavin then went to Sartin’s residence on B Street.
“Sharla Sartin told Sheriff Cole that Shelby Couch had driven the red Pontiac to her residence approximately three days prior,” Gavin’s report said.
Dinwiddie noted on Monday that every officer in his department was involved with the Couch arrest last Friday.
He added that every officer did an excellent job with the tasks they were assigned.
“It’s an interesting series of events,” Dinwiddie concluded.
“It just happened that Roye (Cole) and I happened to be in town here in Seymour at separate events on the same night.
“Roye was at ‘Trivia Night’ for the S.A.G.E. program at the school, and I was eating dinner at the Old Hickory Café for all-you-can-eat catfish night.”