Sheila Stogsdill

Special to the Grove Sun

FAIRLAND — An Ottawa County official said Friday he wonders if there is a connection between a man convicted of stealing money from an apparent drug ring and the slaying of the man’s father.

Wesley Shawn Sanders, 45, of Seneca, Mo., pleaded guilty in February in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo., to interference with commerce by threats or violence. He has not been sentenced.

“Looking at the criminal behavior Sanders has exhibited, it makes you wonder if there is possible involvement in his father’s death,” District Attorney Eddie Wyant said.

Ottawa County Sheriff Terry Durborow, however, said he is not prepared to make that connection.

And Sanders’ attorney, C. Ross Rhoades, said, “This case has nothing to do with his father.”

Sam Sanders, 64, who had just retired from a trucking business, was shot to death March 24, 2009, in his rural Fairland home. Authorities said he fought off two gunmen who forced him, his wife and their 20-year-old grandson to the floor.

A 15-year-old granddaughter also was in the home during the shooting. When authorities arrived, they found Sanders’ wife, Lillian, tied to a chair and beaten.

At the time, Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said the motive likely was robbery.

“We have looked at many different suspects,” Brown said, but she declined to say if the younger Sanders was one.

Wesley Sanders also is facing two counts of forgery and two counts of theft under $500 in McDonald County, Mo., and two counts of first-degree burglary and first-degree arson in Newton County, Mo.

In April, he pleaded guilty to larceny of an instrument in Ottawa County and received a five-year suspended sentence. In 2008, he pleaded guilty in McDonald County to theft of under $500 and received two years probation. He pleaded guilty in 2007 for passing back checks in Newton County and was fined.

Wesley Sanders was convicted in a Jan. 25, 2009 theft in which he and three accomplices stole $480,000 from a Louisiana truck driver, who, according to court documents, told Sanders he was hauling drugs and money for a Detroit-based narcotics organization.

In his plea agreement, Sanders said the trucker first suggested he and Sanders fake a theft of money from his truck, then backed out of it. Sanders and three other men stole the money when the trucker came back through the area.

The truck driver was indicted in April on federal charges of money laundering and racketeering, according to court records.