By DONALD BRADLEY
The Kansas City Star CHRIS OBERHOLTZ/The Kansas City
Glenn and Irene Stevens raised five children in the south Kansas City area. Now in their 70s, they are fighting to clear Glenn in alleged thefts.
Each morning, Irene Stevens of Raymore gets up and checks a Missouri courts website to see if her husband has been charged with knocking over another Walmart.
Irene had never heard of Casenet before July 2. That was the evening police officers showed up at the couple’s home with an arrest warrant for Glenn, the high school sweetheart she married in 1954.
While the officers waited, Irene called Glenn, who cleans office buildings at night to supplement the couple’s retirement income.
Don’t worry, he told her. Has to be some kind of mistake.
“I left my mop bucket and went to the police station,” he said in a recent interview.
Within seconds of walking into the Raymore Police Department, Glenn, 74, was handcuffed and headed to jail, charged with stealing a shopping cart load of electronics from a Walmart in Versailles, Mo.
He has since been charged with similar Walmart heists in Maryville, Mo., and Iola, Kan. He’s also suspected in nearly 20 others, stretching from the middle of Kansas to Illinois, in cities such as Joplin, Fort Scott, Manhattan, Hannibal and Kirksville.
Video surveillance, vehicle license plates and photo identifications all point to Glenn, according to court documents.
The Stevenses and their children said the man in the one video that they had seen looked nothing like Glenn, the license plate was wrong and the whole thing had been a nightmare for a senior citizen couple with five children, 18 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and for whom the occasional buffet dinner at a casino qualified as a big night out.
The charges stem from an “obtained” license plate of a red Mercury Villager, the complicity of Glenn’s brother, Charles, and, supposedly in Versailles, a report that Glenn identified himself as Glenn Stevens to store employees before stealing merchandise, documents say.
Glenn and Irene’s only vehicle is a silver Dodge Caravan, and Glenn has no brother named Charles.
“And why would a thief go up to store employees and tell them his name?” asked Andy Russell, one of Glenn’s attorneys.
So far, Glenn and Irene, with help from their children, have shelled out $70,000 for lawyers, private investigators, fill-in workers for the cleaning business and travel to courthouses in three counties.
Glenn also spent four nights in jail. Those were the hardest times, Irene, 72, said in the recent interview at the couple’s dining table. She put a hand over her mouth.
“When he got out, the grandkids saw him cry.”
Glenn has three upcoming court appearances, although none in Joplin where Glenn was first suspected in an attempted theft but never charged.
Last week, though, one prosecutor called the cases “fishy.” Jerry Hathaway, attorney for Allen County in Kansas, postponed a preliminary hearing until January and said if investigators don’t come up with more evidence he would drop the Iola charges.
In this case, the suspect was accompanied by a woman.
In Morgan County, the office of prosecuting attorney Marvin Opie said he would respond to questions about the Versailles case if questioned were faxed. Those inquiries were faxed on Nov. 5. Opie said Wednesday no response would be coming.
And in Maryville, public safety director Keith Wood said he wasn’t confident the case in Nodaway County was strong, mainly because the evidence came from elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a 51-year-old Sedalia man and a 35-year-old Topeka man were arrested last month in Maryville, charged with stealing at the same Walmart that Glenn allegedly hit. The two allegedly did it in much the same way: through the lawn and garden fence. They were caught in the store parking lot at 2 a.m. — with the goods.
The two, neither of whom looks like Glenn, were later charged in Saline County in Missouri with the same thing. They are suspected in several other Walmart thefts in three states.
Glenn and Irene think Walmart spread Glenn’s name through the company’s theft reports.
A Walmart spokesman last week put it all on police.
“We have a great partnership with law enforcement, but ultimately they are the ones who file charges,” Dan Fogelman said. “We share information with them, and they do the rest.”
He declined to answer questions specifically about Glenn Stevens.
Glenn got out of jail once for charges in one county only to be arrested again almost immediately for charges in another. At one point, Irene thought she was having a heart attack, and Glenn rushed her to the hospital. Turned out to be anxiety.
Through it all, authorities have not served a search warrant on the Stevens home. Irene said maybe she had watched too much TV, but she thought one of the first things police did in a theft case was search the suspect’s home.
“Where do they think we’re putting all this stuff?”
The couple has asked Raymore police that if any more warrants come in, please just call and don’t come to the house. Glenn will go down to the station.
“We just don’t know what to do,” Glenn said in the recent interview. He pulled on his chin while shaking his head.
“It’s never ending. We can’t get away from it.”
Video surveillance at 4:07 p.m. Feb. 27 showed a man wheeling $1,525 of electronic equipment — TVs, computers, DVD players — to the lawn and garden area at the Walmart in Versailles.
He puts the items in trash bags and leaves the bags near a chain-link fence. The man then walks out the store’s front door to, according to a store employee, a mid-1990s white Ford Taurus.
He drives to the outside of the garden area, uses bolt cutters to cut a hole in the fence, grabs the bags, puts them in the car and the car leaves.
According to a court document, that suspect is identified as Glenn Stevens by Scott Hastings, an “asset protection officer” for Walmart, who had been investigating an attempted theft in Joplin, in which a license number traced back to Irene Stevens. The document said the plate number was “obtained.” It does not say how.
According to Glenn’s attorneys, Hastings told a private investigator the vehicle in the Joplin attempt was the red Mercury van. The license plate on Glenn and Irene’s silver Dodge van does designate a handicapped driver, however, just as the court document notes.
The document also said that the vehicle used in the Versailles theft was a mid-90s, white, Ford Taurus. Glenn’s attorneys said they were told that the car traced to a Charles Stevens.
“They think that is Glenn’s brother,” Russell said this week. “Glenn doesn’t have a brother by that name.”
The document goes on to say that Officer Gregory Berry later showed Walmart store employees the driver’s license photo of Glenn Stevens. The employees identified him as being the thief. On June 23, Morgan County prosecutors filed charges of burglary, stealing and property damage against Stevens.
Stevens’ name would soon be spreading through Walmart theft reports all over Missouri and Kansas, said former Jackson County prosecutor Dan Miller, who is another of Glenn’s attorneys.
Leroy Stevens was fly fishing near his home in Colorado when his sister called to tell him that their dad had been taken to jail. Leroy, the oldest son, chuckled. He figured his father would get things straightened out and have a funny story to tell later.
But soon Leroy and his sister were hustling to come up with a $30,000 cash-only bond to get Glenn out of jail.
Leroy, who spent 20 years in the Army and now works for a defense contractor, got in his truck and headed for Kansas City. He has since made three other trips, each time a trip to court with his parents.
“I’m where I’m at because of my dad’s hard work — we all are,” Leroy said. “He did what he did so we don’t have to.”
The children sent Glenn and Irene to Hawaii on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Glenn is a blue-collar guy. He dropped out of Manual High School during his junior year because he needed to go to work — and he wanted to marry Irene.
They were not of age — he was 17 and she was 16 — so their parents had to sign permission.
Their first child, a daughter was born a year later.
“We got married so young and so fast that I know people checked the calendar,” Irene said. “That was back when things like that mattered.”
For 42 years, the family lived in the Ruskin area of south Kansas City. Glenn drove a trash truck much of that time. He and Irene pushed their children toward school so that they could it easier in life.
But they couldn’t afford college tuition. So the children did it themselves with good grades, scholarships and student loans.
Never has any of the five doubted their father’s innocence.
Leroy has seen images from the surveillance video.
“Looks like an old white guy,” Leroy said. “Lot of them out there, and at least one is stealing stuff from Walmart, but it’s not my dad.”
He and the others try hard to not let anger take over.
Leroy was challenged early.
When he sent that first bail money on the July 4 holiday weekend, only one place could handle the transaction:
After that first night in the Cass County jail in Harrisonville, Glenn was loaded into a crowded van and transported to Morgan County.
He said a police officer told him that he would get a chance to prove his innocence. Glenn thought it worked the other way — that the state had to prove his guilt. But he’s prepared either way.
First off, the attorneys said the man in the surveillance video looked nothing like their client. When asked by a detective in Hannibal if she could question Glenn, Miller said absolutely — with the stipulation that she also watch the video with Glenn in the room.
“I never heard a peep after that,” Miller said.
Miller and Russell also have asked prosecutors to subpoena Glenn’s and Irene’s cell phone records to see where Glenn’s phone was at the time of the thefts. Investigators can learn what tower was used for which calls.
The attorneys also said a deposit slip put the couple at a Commerce Bank in Belton at 4:24 p.m. the day of the Versailles theft, which occurred at 4:07 p.m. The couple also have a $43.64 receipt for dinner at 5:07 p.m. that day at the Great Plains Cattle Co. restaurant inside Ameristar Casino, where they often go on Saturdays to eat and play penny slots.
Versailles is about 117 miles, or about two hours, east of Kansas City.
So far, no prosecutor has sought those records, the attorneys said.
It is also standard procedure for police to show photos of several people when asking a witness to pick out a suspect. Berry, the Versailles police officer, showed employees just one: Glenn Stevens.
That is “bad police work,” said Sean O’Brien, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School.
Doing so is inherently suggestive.
“When you show a witness just one photo, you are telling the witness that you think this is the guy,” O’Brien said.
And there is this: Glenn is suspected in nearly 20 cases. Only three counties have filed charges.
Glenn’s next scheduled court date is Dec. 7 for a preliminary hearing in Nodaway County.
On the wall in the Stevens’ living room is a photo that shows them as happy, young sweethearts.
The photo is torn, held together by tape.
“We could get it fixed for a hundred dollars, but we just did it the best we could and put it back in the frame,” Glenn said.
He and Irene are old school. In life, money and, especially, love. Glenn has no bigger believer in his innocence than his wife. He didn’t do it and she’ll tell you how she knows.
“He’s never out of my sight long enough to do those things,” she said.
Glenn recently received a document from Walmart advising him that it had been “determined you have engaged in conduct that is unacceptable.” The “Notification of Restriction from Property” bars Glenn from any Walmart store.
The document has a place for the recipient’s signature.
Shouldn’t have bothered, Glenn said. No way would he ever shop at Walmart now.
He worried, though, that signing would be an admission of guilt.
So did he sign?
Crime never pays, they say.
But, in the end, if Stevens is found innocent of the charges, justice won’t come as much of a bargain, either.