Sheena Greitens documented abuse allegations against ex-husband in 2018

The former Missouri First Lady laid out instances of physical abuse by Eric Greitens in emails to a therapist and a family lawyer

By: - June 23, 2022 5:44 pm

Eric Greitens has been accused by his ex-wife of physically abusing her and his children. He's vehemently denied it (Madeline Carter/Missouri Independent).

It was 10 days since her husband, Eric Greitens, resigned as governor and Sheena Greitens was terrified.

In that period, she wrote to a family lawyer in a June 14, 2018, email, Eric Greitens had been violent twice to one of his sons, lost his temper repeatedly and refused to admit his actions were a source of the family’s problems.

He could go from calm to enraged “in a flash,” she wrote.

An example was his reaction to an email to their marriage counselor.

“I received an irate call from Eric, who suggested I had deliberately and maliciously sent accusations of child abuse to a) the St. Louis Circuit Attorney, b)special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, and c)the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and that I was trying to stab him in the back, that I was ‘hateful and disgusting,’ nasty,’ ‘vicious,’ and a ‘lying bitch,’” she wrote. “This seemed to me to verge onto open paranoia.”

So she put the kids in the car, she said in an interview with The Independent, drove to the airport in St. Louis and called her husband to tell him she was going to visit her parents.

She says she fled because she didn’t know if he had access to a firearm and feared he would kill the family if he followed through on his threats to kill himself.

“That became a concern in June of 2018,” Sheena Greitens said. “That was why I left with the children. His anger was now being directed at me and the children and I could not guarantee their safety.”

That email, along with others from those weeks following Eric Greitens’ departure from office, were provided to The Independent this week by Sheena Greitens and her attorney.

She said there are two reasons she provided the emails and agreed break her silence with an interview about her marriage. 

One is his repeated accusations by her ex-husband that she is lying in their ongoing child custody case in Boone County. 

The other is that the fear she felt in those days was rekindled by the “RINO Hunt” video, posted to her ex-husband’s Senate campaign social media pages Monday depicting a SWAT-style raid.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens launched a new video for his U.S. Senate campaign featuring a group of men in tactical gear hunting Republicans (screenshot).

In March, she filed an affidavit accusing Eric Greitens of child and spousal abuse in 2018 and 2019, and stating that in the months before his resignation, he became so unstable that his access to firearms had to be limited. Two weeks later, she filed a second sworn statement that she had emails and photos to back up her affidavit.

“The claim that this is the first time the concerns are being raised is just dishonest,” she said in the interview. “I have oriented my life around trying to address these concerns since 2018.”

Eric Greitens on Tuesday dismissed criticism of the video as “faux outrage” and added that “every normal person around the state of Missouri saw that is clearly a metaphor.”

 Sheena Greitens said she received an email with graphically violent threats within hours after it appeared.

“All it takes is one abnormal person who takes this seriously to be a threat,” she said.

In a statement issued through Eric Greitens’ campaign, his attorney,  Gary Stamper, said with the new material, Sheena Greitens is accusing mandatory reporters of child abuse of failing to follow the law.

“The mediator and therapist are both exceptional professionals who worked diligently to find an amicable solution in the best interest of the kids,” Stamper said. “It’s surprising and sad that Governor Greitens’ ex wife would accuse them of criminal activity.”

The statement notes that Eric Greitens has custody of his sons this summer and to follow the parenting plan agreed to in 2020 through May 2023. That plan calls for the boys to spend “every major holiday” and “most of their free time” while school is out with their father.

“We believe that the ex-wife’s continued and most recent efforts to drag their children into the press are not in their best interests,” Stamper said.

In an April 8 filing, Stamper wrote that Sheena Greitens had lied to the court, either in the affidavit by claiming the abuse allegations were raised with a court-appointed mediator or when she signed the divorce agreement in 2020 stating the couple had “disclosed all material facts” for determining a parenting plan.

“In fact, mother did not share this allegation of abuse with the mediator,” Stamper wrote. “If mother had reported abuse or suspected abuse to a mediator, said mediator was legally bound to report it. No such report was made.”

The court case

On Thursday, some of those fears were aired in a brief hearing before Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider in Columbia. Sheena Greitens’ attorney, Helen Wade, asked for a statement from Eric Greitens that he did not mean his supporters should hunt his family.

Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider as she presides Thursday over a hearing in the ongoing child custody dispute between Sheena Greitens and her ex-husband, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (David Lieb, pool via Associated Press).

“I am disappointed that Eric isn’t here today because we were hoping that we would be able to get him to make a statement clearly denouncing the use of any sort of violence against my client,” Wade said

The issue before Schneider is whether jurisdiction over child custody decisions should be moved to Texas, where Sheena Greitens lives now, or remain in Boone County, where their divorce was filed in 2020.

The divorce came after a final separation in August 2018, Sheena Greitens said. 

“I told the professionals who were involved, and when that didn’t address my concerns, in August 2018 I did the only other thing I knew to do, and started applying for jobs that would let the kids and I leave the state,” she said.

The case is coming to a head, with a July 15 trial date, while Eric Greitens is looking to make a political comeback in the Republican primary for the Senate seat held by Roy Blunt, who is retiring.

He has led most polls against a field that also includes Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey and 15 other lesser-known candidates.

The case had received little public attention since the Greitens divorced. That changed when Sheena Greitens filed the affidavit with abuse allegations.

Eric Greitens responded with a Facebook video where he said the accusations were intended to distract the public from news one of the investigators of the 2018 criminal charges pleaded guilty to evidence tampering.

“In this very week, RINOS come out with a brand new set of allegations against me, which they claim are from four years ago,” he said.

And on April 5, Tim Parlatore, a Washington attorney hired by Eric Greitens, claimed his client had the documents and photos to prove Sheena Greitens lied in her sworn statements about the abuse.

“Sheena Greitens lied when she said ‘they were reported to multiple lawyers, therapists, and our mediator, in 2018 and afterward,’” Parlatore said in a statement issued April 5

The documents she provided The Independent show that was wrong, she said.

“Eric knows full well that these concerns were reported, because he was copied on my emails and he sat in these discussions,” Sheena Greitens said. “This claim, that I never reported what happened, is something  he’s knowingly misrepresented from the start.”

The emails, she said, prove that.

In the statement on behalf of Eric Greitens, Stamper said that during 2020, “the judge reviewed the ex-wife’s allegations, and found that they provided no basis for action, especially in light of records from the doctor, dentist, mediator, and therapist, all of which showed these allegations to be false.”

He said “overwhelming documentary evidence has been assembled corroborating one objective conclusion: Sheena Greitens manufactured and distributed lies to the press from Washington D.C.”

The emails

The documents provided to The Independent describe behavior that Sheena Greitens placed in several broad categories – violent and manipulative behavior towards her and their children; a “pattern of sucide threats and firearm confiscation”; and his “resistance to therapy/psychological help.”

“So let me be really, really clear: I am scared at Eric’s recent behavior,” Sheena Greitens wrote in her June 7 email to a marriage counselor. “I am especially scared because I do not hear any acknowledgement from Eric that this behavior on his part has produced a negative emotional impact, or understanding of what that might be.”

In that first week after resignation, Eric Greitens was already planning his political resurrection, Sheena Greitens said in an interview, while she wanted to get out of the public eye, where she was never comfortable.

Sheena Greiens holds a doctorate from Harvard University and is a scholar in Asian, and especially Korean, affairs. In 2018 she was employed on the faculty of the University of Missouri and decided to seek another post.

“He blamed me for his resignation,” she said. “I had serious safety concerns. And I thought that, given the absolute public wreckage of our family life, that it would be better for the boys to grow up in a place where they weren’t  viewed through the prism of their father’s scandals.

Eric Greitens began carrying a gun in January 2018, she wrote in the June 14 email, after KMOV first reported his 2015 sexual relationship with a hairdresser in a story reporting he had attempted to blackmail her with a nude photograph.

He had revealed the affair in late 2015, Sheena Greitens wrote. 

That was also the first time he spoke about suicide. 

He brought it up again after the KMOV story, she wrote, saying that he said “it would look like an accident to the kids and everyone.”

“He told me in January 2018, that he had taken the photo in question, but told me that there would be legal consequences for me if I ever disclosed that to anybody,” she said in the interview.

His behavior caused concerns among his staff in the governor’s office, she wrote, and in February, after he was indicted, his general counsel Lucinda Luetkemeyer, “requested that the governor’s security detail remove any access to firearms that he might have via their vehicles, because she was concerned about his stability in the aftermath of the indictment.”

In late May, she wrote, Greg Favre, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety and a close friend of Eric Greitens, was visiting them.

“I happened to go into the hall and see him removing the bag that Eric’s firearm was in, which Favre said he thought was best ‘out of an abundance of caution,’” she wrote.

Eric Greitens went to meet Greg Favre for a workout on June 10. She asked Farve in a text if he had returned the firearm but got no response.

Neither Luetkemeyer nor Favre could be reached for comment.

Phone records

Along with providing the 2018 emails, Sheena Greitens allowed Wade to show The Independent the phone records produced in response to a subpoena from Eric Greitens’ attorney, Gary Stamper.

Stamper initially sought records for phones owned by Karl Rove, former Greitens aide Austen Chambers, Sheena Greitens sister and one other unidentified person. When the subpoenas were filed, a Washington D.C. attorney, Tim Parlatore, held a news conference where he said the records would “show what happened to bring us to this point.”

The request for Rove’s records was dropped before it could be argued in court and Schneider granted only the subpoena for Sheena Greitens’ phone records for the period Feb. 1 to March 30. There are several February phone calls to Chambers and to her sister, and calls after the release of the March affidavit to her family.

Sheena Greitens is a frequent traveler to Washington for her post with the American Enterprise Institute.

“That communication is not about Eric,” Sheena Greitens said. “We would all really like to move on from the chaos that Eric caused in our family.”

The phone records also show calls with a handful of journalists and opinion writers. She was in Washington the week that President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a virtual meeting. The calls all related to her scholarship, Sheena Greitens said.

One of the calls was an appearance on St. Louis Public Radio.

The accusations of a conspiracy are another way to manipulate and demean her, she said.

“One of the things that’s frustrating about this,” Sheena Greitens said, “is that Eric has taken normal communications with my family and normal things like me going to my office in Washington, D.C., to do my job and tried to spin them into something sinister.”

This article has been updated with a statement from Eric Greitens’ attorney.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.