Crime & Courts

Alleged Chester horse shooter accused of attempted murder, stealing guns from coach

Jon-Michael Sanders, right, in court with his lawyer Barney Giese.
Jon-Michael Sanders, right, in court with his lawyer Barney Giese.

The 16-year-old alleged gang member accused of shooting a horse last month now faces two counts of attempted murder and other charges in connection what prosecutors called a weeks-long crime spree.

Prosecutors say Jon-Michael Sanders, a former football and basketball player at Chester High School, terrified two elderly victims by holding guns at their heads during break-ins at their Chester homes. Sanders also had a problem with a coach, they said, and took his revenge by stealing guns, money and mementos from the coach’s home.

Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons denied bond for Sanders on Thursday.

Sanders did not speak in court, but his lawyer, Barney Giese of Columbia, said Sanders is innocent. Police arrested Sanders, Giese said, based on a statement from another 16-year-old charged with many of the same crimes. He had asked Gibbons to release Sanders on house arrest.

Sixth Circuit assistant solicitor Karen Fryar argued that Sanders should remain in jail without bond because his behavior “escalated” in danger and violence. Police are pursuing DNA and other evidence in addition to co-defendant statements, she said.

“They got caught red-handed breaking into somebody else’s house,” Fryar said.

Sanders first broke into a home and held a gun to the head of an elderly man before robbing him, Fryar said. Days later, she said, he broke into the home of an elderly woman and attacked her while she was in bed. Sanders held a gun to her head and pulled the trigger, Fryar said, but the gun did not fire.

In a letter read in court, that victim begged the judge not to let Sanders out because she was “horrified” and “violated.”

Chris Powell, a football and baseball coach at Chester High, said he had helped Sanders’ older brother and Sanders several times.

“There is not a thing I wouldn’t do for them,” he said,

But then, Powell said, his apartment was burglarized and possessions worth thousands of dollars were stolen. When he found out Sanders had been charged with the crime, Powell said, “It hurt; it hurt me very badly.”

Sanders’ co-defendant has not appeared in court. Like Sanders, he is charged as an adult in connection with most of the crimes, but not the shooting last month of a mare named Grey. Prosecutors are seeking to charge both as adults in connection with the horse shooting. A third defendant in the horse shooting, a juvenile, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Police say one of the two guns stolen from Powell was used to shoot Grey. The bullet severed the horse’s spine, and it had to be euthanized.

Judge Gibbons has coached Sanders and his brother in youth sports and has known their family for years. After neither side objected, he agreed to handle the bond hearing.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065