JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that an Eldon, Mo., man has been sentenced in federal court for his role in a large-scale conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in the Cole and Callaway County area, as well as his attempted jail escape.
Mitchell Lynn Atterberry, 36, of Eldon, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2013, to 20 years in federal prison without parole.
On Aug. 15, 2013, Atterberry pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to escape from custody, and attempted escape from custody.
Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine
Law enforcement officers executed two search warrants at Atterberry’s residence on Nov. 15, 2010, seizing a total of 8.19 grams of meth and $6,050.
Atterberry, riding his motorcycle, led Jefferson City, Mo., police officers on a high-speed chase on June 2, 2011, which reached speeds up to 100 miles per hour. Atterberry crashed his motorcycle and, after a brief pursuit on foot, was arrested. Officers saw Atterberry discard 2.04 grams of meth during the foot chase. Officers also found $8,190 in six separate envelopes, including what appeared to be a drug ledger, in Atterberry’s motorcycle.
Atterberry, driving a Pontiac, was pulled over by a Holts Summit, Mo., police officer for a routine traffic stop on Feb. 11, 2012. During the stop, while the officer returned to his patrol vehicle, Atterberry fled. Atterberry led officers on a high-speed pursuit through Holts Summit, New Bloomfield and Fulton at speeds up to 163 miles per hour. Atterberry fled from his vehicle and was apprehended after a brief chase on foot. Officers searched the vehicle and found .29 of a gram of methamphetamine and $2,986.
Atterberry was pulled over by Jefferson City, Mo., police officers on May 22, 2012. Officers searched the vehicle and its occupants and found 13.02 grams of methamphetamine, a loaded .40-caliber Hi Point pistol, $2,234 and $900 in counterfeit currency.
Co-defendant Tami Jo Zeugin, 38, of Fulton, Mo., pleaded guilty on Jan. 9, 2014, to her role in the conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and awaits sentencing.
The total methamphetamine seized from Atterberry and Zeugin during the course of the investigation is 54.14 grams. Officers also seized a total of $20,939.
Conspiracy to Escape from Custody
Sheriff’s deputies at the Morgan County jail, where Atterberry was detained, received a tip on Nov. 14, 2012 and searched Atterberry’s cell. Atterberry’s cellmate was Steven Pyykola of Springfield, Mo. Pyykola was convicted of three state murder charges and is serving three consecutive life sentences without parole.
Deputies discovered that the cell window had been damaged. The metal support beam had been cut most of the way through. They also found a 10-inch saw blade in the mat on the top bunk of the cell and a smaller two-inch saw blade that appeared to have broken off the larger blade.
Authorities reviewed telephone calls that Atterberry and Pyykola made to co-defendant Amanda Leigh Lesh, 35, of Jefferson City. They asked Lesh to purchase saw blades and deliver them to the jail underneath their second story window. Atterberry and Pyykola would then slide a string out of a hole that had been made in the window to the ground where Lesh would tie on the items and they would pull them up and in through the window. Lesh also made references to picking up the two after the escape and buying them clothes to wear.
On Nov. 13, 2012, Atterberry told Lesh in a recorded telephone conversation that they “worked on it late last night, couldn’t get it done” and in a later call that day said they hoped to get it done “by tonight.” The next day, authorities received the tip about the escape plans.
Lesh pleaded guilty to her role in Atterberry’s unsuccessful escape attempt and was sentenced on Sept. 26, 2013, to time served.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Kummerer. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Jefferson City, Mo., Police Department, the Holts Summit, Mo., Police Department, the Fulton, Mo., Police Department, the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force, MUSTANG (the Mid-Missouri Unified Strike Team and Narcotics Group), the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Cole County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Morgan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.