Grand jury indicts Sunset Hills mayor on two felony charges

Indictment returned Dec. 10, same day panel heard case

Mark Furrer

Mark Furrer

By Gloria Lloyd

A St. Louis County grand jury indicted Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer last week on two felonies he was charged with in October, second-degree assault and property damage.

In a closed proceeding, the grand jury heard testimony from St. Louis County Police Department Detective Matthew Wilson, who took over the investigation from the Sunset Hills Police Department two days after the July 29 incident.

Prosecutors allege Furrer drove his car into Fenton bicyclist Randy Murdick, knocking him off the road and injuring him. Furrer denies the allegations.

Furrer’s attorneys have not yet seen the 21-page police report outlining the incident, but when they do, they might want to settle for a plea deal, Murdick said when the Call informed him of the grand jury’s decision.

“I think it’s great,” Murdick said. “And honestly — I’ve had the police report all along, and I knew once somebody started looking at that, the evidence starts speaking for itself. And I think they’re going to be petrified when they see it. That’s the thing that’s shocking to me is he’s backed himself into a corner … It might not go to trial when they read all this.”

Three eyewitnesses back Murdick’s version of events completely, the cyclist told the Call — including at least one Sunset Hills resident. Murdick and the witnesses would have testified at the preliminary hearing that was originally scheduled to see if there was probable cause in Furrer’s case, but prosecutors took the case to a grand jury instead.

The grand jury returned the indictment Dec. 10, the same day it heard the case.

Unlike in the Michael Brown case, where Wilson was also the lead detective, Wilson recommended the charges against Furrer after concluding from his investigation that Furrer assaulted Murdick.

Furrer did not respond to a request for comment after the grand jury’s Dec. 10 decision, and neither did either of his attorneys, Thomas Magee and Daniel Bruntrager.

However, grand juries usually return indictments requested by the prosecutor, and Magee told the Call earlier in the week that an indictment was not unexpected.

“I think the police officer will just say what the statements are and go forward,” Magee said. “It’s a lower standard. It’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s just whether or not to go forward.”

Magee has previously said Furrer’s attorneys plan to “vigorously” defend the mayor’s case at trial and win.

The first step toward trial will be finding out which prosecutor will handle the mayor’s case, Magee noted.

After that, Furrer’s legal team will begin taking depositions of Murdick and the other witnesses to the incident, he added.

Recordings of 911 calls first obtained by the Call indicate that at least two of the three witnesses to the incident, a father and son, back Murdick’s version of the incident.

“The guy hit a bicyclist, drove off and then turned around and came back,” one witness responded when Sunset Hills Police Department dispatchers asked what happened.

As the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen discussed measures that could eventually lead to Furrer’s impeachment last week, the large contingent of cyclists in the audience called out to Ward 4 Alderman Donna Ernst that Furrer should be impeached because of allegedly hitting Murdick, who was also at the meeting.

She responded that ultimately, the case will be decided by the criminal justice system, not the Board of Aldermen.

“The cyclist incident is not a Sunset Hills public (issue),” she said. “Isn’t Mark going to be in court with you on Thursday? … This is a different matter. This isn’t the grand jury.”

“These are your roads!” a cyclist called out. “This is your community here!”