Man convicted in trooper’s death

Friday, July 20, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:18 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

UNION — The subject of a 2005 manhunt has been convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a Missouri state trooper who crashed en route to help in the search.

Massigh Stallmann, 28, of High Ridge, was found guilty in the death of Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Ralph Tatoian. He was also found guilty of nine other felonies after jurors deliberated more than three hours Thursday night.

The incident on April 20, 2005, began at about 1 a.m. in Mount Sterling, 75 miles southwest of St. Louis, when Stallmann broke into a store and confronted a woman who lived in an apartment above the store, authorities said. Armed with a shotgun, he stole her car keys and cash.

Gasconade County deputies arrived, and a gun battle ensued. One reserve deputy was grazed in the cheek by a bullet fired by another deputy. Stallmann fled and was seen running into woods about an hour later near Leslie.

Tatoian, a trained sniper, was at his St. Louis County home when he was called in. He was driving to the scene on Interstate 44 when he struck a tractor-trailer that had stopped to help another motorist near Pacific.

Missouri law allows a felony murder charge when an officer is killed while responding to aid in a felony arrest.

“Stallmann was the impetus for all the events,” Gasconade County prosecutor Ada Brehe-Krueger said. “But for his actions, Trooper Tatoian would not have been killed.”

Tatoian’s widow and more than a dozen uniformed troopers attended the trial.

Stallmann’s lawyer, Robert Taaffe Jr., plans to appeal.

“The jury wanted to do something for Trooper Tatoian, it’s a gut instinct when you’re looking at this woman who lost her husband,” Taaffe said. “Although it’s a tragedy, he was responsible for his own conduct. He was going to work and he died in a car crash. It’s not a criminal case.”

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