December 6, 2023

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ST. LOUIS • A woman angry at a judge’s order to repossess her car threatened to stab him and showed up at the courthouse Thursday with a long box cutter, police say.

Valerie D. Mitchell, 57, of Country Club Hills, has been charged with tampering with a judicial officer, a felony, and resisting arrest.

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Mitchell called court officials several times and threatened to physically harm Circuit Court Judge Jason Sengheiser, authorities say.

Mitchell indicated that she knew where Sengheiser, who uses a wheelchair, parked when he arrived at work in the morning and planned to wait for him at the wheelchair ramp into the Civil Courts Building at 10 North Tucker Boulevard.

She was taken into custody Thursday morning when she showed up there.

Sheriff’s Capt. Donald Robinson said Mitchell had a nearly 7-inch-long box cutter wrapped in a scarf and stuffed into a glove inside her backpack.

Mitchell had taken to Facebook to complain about Sengheiser’s ruling Oct. 26 to repossess her car, which court documents describe as a 2014 Nissan Sentra, Robinson said.

The order came after she was sued over breach of contract by a credit union.

She made several calls over the course of a few days to the Circuit Courts Building and to the Eighth Circuit Court Appeals Clerk downtown, where Sengheiser used to work, and threatened him by name.

In at least one call, Mitchell said “I’m going to come down there and cut his throat” in reference to Sengheiser, Robinson said.

When Mitchell said she would show up at the courts building on Wednesday, authorities distributed her picture to police and court employees, Robinson said. Court staff recognized her when she arrived about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, entering the courts building through the Tucker entrance.

Deputies stopped her before she went through security and found the box cutter, Robinson said. She was taken to a holding cell in the basement of the court, where she punched police Officer Nicholas Harbaugh.

Court documents say Mitchell punched Harbaugh in the face when he and a partner tried to arrest her at the Civil Courts Building, and she “pushed away from the officers” to try to evade arrest.

It took the combined effort of Harbaugh, his partner and two sheriff’s deputies to arrest her, Robinson said.

Mitchell was being held with bail set at $10,000.

Sengheiser, who was an associate circuit court judge in the city, was appointed by Gov. Eric Greitens in September to replace former Judge Julian Bush, who retired to become St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s city counselor.

His appointment as an associate judge in 2016 marked the first time a quadriplegic had been sworn into the Missouri judiciary, according to Missouri Lawyers Weekly.


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