Former officer says he was set up

Friday, February 9, 2007
Former Chaffee, Mo., police officer Daniel Ayers stood by his wife, Mary, as he read a statement at a news conference Thursday at Circle Park in Chaffee. (Fred Lynch)

CHAFFEE, Mo. -- The former Chaffee police officer charged with patronizing prostitution spoke only briefly Thursday about his arrest.

At his news conference in Circle Park, Daniel Ayers told a small crowd and members of the media he was "set up" by police.

"I am innocent," Ayers said, flanked by his wife, Mary, and his attorney, James M. McClellan of Sikeston, Mo. "I was fired in retaliation for being a whistle-blower."

Ayers, 31, of Cape Girardeau, is out on a $1,500 bond, charged with four counts of misdemeanor of patronizing prostitution. According to the court complaint, Ayers reportedly paid cash and cigarettes to two Chaffee women on different occasions to remove articles of clothing and perform various sexual acts with each other.

Ayers said his arrest Monday and subsequent charges took his family and him by surprise and that he would not discuss details of either at that time.

He then turned the floor over to his attorney, who reiterated Ayers' claim of innocence.

"We are denying the charges against him," McClellan said.

Seventeen supporters bearing posters attended the news conference, including Chaffee mayoral candidate Hope Huey.

Her son, Charles Huey, vowed to circulate a petition to oust Chaffee police chief Martin Keys, which was met with a round of applause from the gathering.

"I'll go all the way up to Matt Blunt if I have to, but Marty Keys will be removed from office," he said.

Keys and Scott County prosecutor Paul Boyd have not been available for comment this week.

Chaffee resident and Ayers supporter Kim Harper said she is tired of what she calls corruption and incompetence in the Chaffee police force and angry that Ayers' efforts to expose alleged wrongdoings at the department were thwarted. She believes his arrest Monday night was an effort by police to silence Ayers.

Harper said an unsolved string of burglaries in the city has her feeling police aren't doing their job.

"None of these has been solved," she said. "Where is our chief?"

She added that controversy surrounding Ayers' arrest is in part fueled by a high-speed car chase by police in December in which two people were killed. At least one of the survivors has filed a civil suit against the city. It was a topic residents Thursday kept referring to as they rallied for Ayers.

Ayers' father, Jerry Ayers of Chaffee, said he wants answers as to why the Chaffee patrolman involved in the chase wasn't fired, particularly when his son was fired Jan. 26.

He also wanted to know why Jessica Smiley, 21, and April Mayberry, 19, the two Chaffee women allegedly solicited by Ayers weren't arrested on prostitution charges.

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter has said charges weren't being sought against the two women for prostitution now, although the case is still under investigation. The sheriff's department investigated the case at the request of Keys, who he said did not want to perform an internal investigation in such a small department, Walter said.

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