Story by Jason Wert, Branson Tri Lakes News
A Springfield man and woman are in the Taney County jail after a crime spree in Branson which included setting a car on fire in a parking garage at Branson Landing.
Christian Alexander Sneath and Cordilia Pearl Niederhelman are facing charges of first degree property damage and stealing in connection with the Sunday night incidents. Prosecutors tell the Branson Tri-Lakes News they are considering adding additional charges.
According to court documents, Branson police were called to the Cox Medical Center Branson parking garage around 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, because of a call about damage to a vehicle. Officers arrived to find the gas tank on a 2016 GMC Denali had been punctured, with tubing coming from the gas fill inlet.
Officers obtained video surveillance from hospital security and found a suspect vehicle, a gray Chevrolet Blazer with a “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker in the middle of the back window.
About an hour later, police and firefighters were called to the Branson Landing parking garage because of a vehicle fire.
Branson firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire without injuries.
Branson Fire Chief Ted Martin told Branson Tri-Lakes News early reports of explosions were more than likely the tires of the vehicle popping from the heat of the blaze.
“The vehicle was fully involved by the time the first firefighters arrived,” Martin said. “All four tires did burn and most likely popped, causing the loud explosion type sound. The vehicle was a total loss.”
One other vehicle parked beside the burning car was damaged in the incident.
Branson Landing parking garage surveillance video showed a gray Chevrolet Blazer damaging the stop arm at the exit to the garage as it fled the scene.
Later as officers were pursuing the suspects, they fled to Ballparks of America, located at 1000 Pat Nash Dr., in Branson.
According to Ballparks General Manager Scott Bailes, the suspects opened a double gate and drove behind the “green monster” outfield wall at their Boston field, which is a replica of the 37 foot tall outfield wall at Boston’s Fenway Park
“Back there in the dark nobody is going to see you,” Bailes said.
The vehicle caused ruts in the field’s turf surface, which Bailes said could cost $100,000 to $150,000 to repair.
On Nov. 8, officers spotted the suspect vehicle at the White Oak convenience store on east 76 Country Blvd. and took Sneath and Niederhelman into custody.
After receiving their Miranda warnings, Sneath admitted to the incident at the Cox Medical Center Branson, saying he and Niederhelman had tried to siphon gas from a Jeep at the parking area, but were unsuccessful. The two then tried to siphon gas from the Denali, but again were unsuccessful, so Niederhelman brought Sneath a drill to use on the gas tank.
Sneath then said they went to the Branson Landing parking garage where they again used the drill on a vehicle, which police said was a 2020 GMC Terrain.
Sneath said the drill slipped, which caused a spark that set the gasoline on fire. He said his hand, arm, and the drill were on fire, so he extinguished those flames, and returned to his vehicle with the drill. As he attempted to leave the parking garage by following a truck which had just exited, the stop arm came down and blocked Sneath’s vehicle. He then proceeded to drive through the arm.
After leaving the parking garage, Sneath said they went to Ballparks of America so he could remove decals, logos, and stickers from the vehicle.
Sneath told investigators Niederhelman was with him throughout the crime spree and she was a co-conspirator on all acts.
Investigators said the parking garage at Branson Landing has possible stress fractures from the fire, which is causing concern about the building’s stability, so a structure engineer is scheduled to examine the damage.
Branson Landing Security estimated the damage to the parking gate at $1,250.
The vehicle which burned at Branson Landing was ruled a total loss, with a Kelly Blue Book value of up to $24,858.
Neither Sneath nor Niederhelman have an attorney listed in Missouri Casenet as of press time.