Two brothers have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of stealing and burglary filed after an October break-in of a West Plains business.
Ethan J. Echternacht, 18, and Derek T. Echternacht, 19, each face a count of second-degree burglary and stealing at least $750, and both entered not-guilty pleas during a counsel status hearing held Monday in the courtroom of 37th Circuit Associate Judge R. David Ray. Special Public Defender D. Colin Young, West Plains, represents the younger brother, and Larry Burton, Mtn. View, also a special public defender, represents the older brother.
West Plains Police Detective Sgt. Aaron Galiher said in a probable cause statement filed with the court that, on Oct. 4, the owner of D&D Produce on Utah Street reported a burglary had occurred there, resulting in $816 being stolen from the business. In addition, Galiher said, a door was damaged, a window shattered, and merchandise valued at about $630 was damaged by the suspect.
Ethan Echternacht was identified as a possible suspect through investigation, and was interviewed after having been read his rights, the detective reported. During that interview, Ethan allegedly said his brother, Derek Echternacht, had planned to burglarize the store, where he had previously been employed, and convinced his younger brother to do it. Ethan Echternacht reportedly told Galiher that his brother told him how to enter the business and where to find the money, and that he broke in, stole around $800 and split the money with Derek.
In a second probable cause statement filed to request charges for Derek Echternacht, Galiher said the older brother was also identified as a possible suspect and interviewed in the same manner as Ethan. Derek Echternacht reportedly told the detective he planned the burglary and convinced his brother to carry it out, instructing him as to where the money was and to break the window to get into the business. He further added, Galiher said, that he advised Ethan to wear socks over his shoes to avoid leaving footprints, and gave his brother a mask to wear. He also reportedly corroborated his brother’s account that the pair split the money, around $800.
Ethan Echternach is next set to appear in court for a criminal case setting on Dec. 19, having waived formal arraignment when he entered his plea, public court records show. The setting will take place in Ray’s courtroom.
Derek Echternacht is scheduled to appear before Ray for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 3, 2024, having also waived formal arraignment.
Both cases are being prosecuted by Assistant Howell County Prosecutor Jodi Wake, with the addition of county Prosecutor Michael Hutchings in trying Ethan Echternacht’s case.