Kansas man's description helps Columbia police make arrest

Monday, November 26, 2007 | 9:23 p.m. CST; updated 7:35 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — A Kansas family making their annual trip to Columbia for their son’s medical treatment may have narrowly escaped becoming victims of a violent crime on Nov. 13 when a man later identified as a murder suspect tried to push his way into their hotel room.

The experienc left the Plattners rattled and with changed feelings about Columbia.

“I was kind of past it, but being contacted by the police stirred up the emotion again,” Jeanelle Plattner said.

But their description of the man helped Columbia police make an arrest in last Saturday’s robbery and homicide at the Comfort Inn on Clark Lane.

The Plattners make the four-hour trip from their home in Sabetha to Columbia twice a year to visit a University Hospital doctor who treats their 3-year-old son’s rare disease, Plattner said. The family always stays at the Hampton Inn at 3410 Clark Lane.

On the evening of Nov. 13, Plattner, her husband, Brian, and their son were in their room when Brian Plattner heard a knock at the door, she said.

“Feeling safe in Columbia, my husband answered the door,” she said.

A man at the door asked her husband for an ice bucket, Plattner said.

“My husband closed the door, got the ice bucket and went back to the door to give it to the man,” she said.

What seemed to be a harmless request suddenly turned into something quite different.

“The man at the door became violent and asked for money,” she said. “He tried to force his way in, and my husband said he displayed his gun.”

Brian Plattner quickly slammed the door and immediately tried to call the hotel’s front desk, Plattner said. The phone in their room wasn’t working, so they called Columbia police from their cell phone. They later discovered that the phone in their room was disconnected.

According to the probable cause statement, Brian Plattner spoke with police and gave a detailed description of the suspect. Police were able to obtain a video clip of the man Brian Plattner described from video surveillance near the elevator of the hotel.

Police released the picture to the media with the hopes of making an arrest after two robberies, on Nov. 16 and 24, occurred at Comfort Inn, less than half a mile from the Hampton Inn.

Police received a call about the man in the picture and arrested Dwight T. Hayes, 21, of 1411 Carter Lane early Sunday evening. He was arrested at the home of a relative, 1812 McKee St., in connection with the attempted burglary.

Police sent a five-person photo lineup to Brian Plattner, and he positively identified Hayes as the man who tried to break into his hotel room, according to the probable cause statement.

The incident left Jeanelle Plattner uneasy.

“I really just wanted to leave that night,” she said, but her son’s appointment was early the next morning.

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