New charge filed in Platte City Cemetery damage case from October

The Platte County Prosecutor’s Office was forced to drop a felony charge of property damage to the Platte City Cemetery against one local man and recently filed the same against his friend after he admitted in court to driving the vehicle when the crime occurred. Austin Bendzel

The incident occurred in October of 2014, described in court documents at the time as a celebratory joyride after the Kansas City Royals clinched a spot in the World Series.

Originally, Jacob Erpelding, 22, of Platte City faced charges of DWI and felony property damage after he allegedly drove his white Mercury Cougar through the cemetery, jumping hills and turning doughnuts in the grass while striking a head stone on the night of Oct. 15. However, Austin Bendzel, 21, admitted during a March court hearing that he drove the vehicle that night and not Erpelding.

Now, Bendzel faces a felony charge of property damage in the case, while Erpelding still faces the misdemeanor DWI count.

According to court documents, a witness saw the vehicle leave the scene and drive to an apartment on Second Street and saw a man go into an upstairs unit. At about 9:30 p.m., the Platte City Police Department responded to the witnesses call and located Erpelding in that apartment. His vehicle was found to have a flat front tire with a mixture of mud and grass clippings on the body.

When Erpelding answered the door at the residence, he admitted to driving the vehicle earlier in the night through the cemetery. Erpelding agreed to field sobriety tests, which he failed, and at one point, he told officers he could not pass the test and, “I don’t have the money for this (expletive).”

A chemical test of Erpelding’s breath revealed a blood alcohol level of .153.

When questioned about his actions that day, Erpelding said he spent the afternoon at a bar on Main Street watching Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which the Royals won 2-1 to reach the World Series for the first time since 1985. He stayed there for about two hours after the game ended.

Court documents do not indicate when or how Erpelding and Bendzel met up that night, but they were both linked to the damage, which totaled more than $750 which led to the felony charge. On the cemetery grounds, officers found tire tracks, some in tight circles indicative of the doughnuts and others in a weaving pattern in and out of the headstones. They noted that in some spots it was evident the vehicle left the ground, and at one location, they found a headstone struck and knocked from its concrete base.

There is no indication in the most recent probable cause statement if Bendzel was at the apartment with Erpelding that night or if they had gone their separate ways.