Benjamin P. Lambert

Benjamin P. Lambert (right of center) appears in Christian County Circuit Court for a bond status hearing Oct. 3. Lambert appeared at the Christian County Justice Center in Ozark with defense attorneys Martin Gilmore (left) and Dee Wampler (right).

A member of the family whose name is attached to an iconic Ozark restaurant will undergo a psychiatric evaluation in order to determine whether or not he is mentally fit to stand trial.

In September 2018, a Christian County grand jury indicted Benjamin P. Lambert, 50, on five felony charges: two counts of sexual trafficking a child under the age of 18, one class B felony count of sexual exploitation of a minor, one class C felony of possession of child pornography and one class D felony count of third degree promoting prostitution.

On May 28, a Christian County judge sustained a motion from prosecuting attorneys for Lambert to undergo a psychiatric examination. The ruling postpones a six-day trial that was set to start July 19. If Lambert is deemed fit to stand trial, a new date will be set after the evaluation.

Lambert reportedly lives in a nursing home facility in Scott City, located near Cape Girardeau in southeastern Missouri. He posted a $100,000 jail bond on Sept. 7, 2018, the same day he was indicted by the grand jury.

At a trial setting Jan. 16, 2019 in Ozark, defense attorney Thomas Carver said Lambert had already undergone private psychological evaluation to determine whether or not he is mentally fit to be tried. Lambert reportedly wears an electronic monitoring device on one of his ankles to keep track of his whereabouts. At a hearing in October, a defense attorney told the judge that Lambert suffered from aneurysms, seizures and memory loss.

In previous hearings, Lambert’s defense attorneys have stated they would likely question his competency to stand trial as part of their defense.

The chapter of Missouri statutes which Carver referred to states, in part, “No person who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or her or to assist in his or her own defense shall be tried, convicted or sentenced for the commission of an offense so long as the incapacity endures.”

Carver has been Lambert’s defense attorney since Nov. 26, 2018. At a hearing that day, defense attorney Joseph Passanise moved to withdraw the Law Offices of Dee Wampler and Joseph Passanise from representing Lambert in the criminal case.

Carver also told the court of his intent to use expert witnesses to defend Lambert in the event he is found competent and the case goes to trial. 

Lambert is the son of Lambert's Cafe founder Norman Lambert, and is also one of the original signers of the incorporating documents of the Ozark Lambert's Cafe according to documentation with the Missouri Secretary of State's Office. Lambert's Cafe issued a statement on Facebook on Sept. 21, shortly after Ben Lambert's charges because publicly known.

"We were surprised and saddened to hear the news and charges of Ben’s indictment. While Ben is the son of Norman Lambert, he has not been active in the management of the store in recent years," the statement reads.

The Lambert's Cafe in Ozark has been incorporated since 1992. The restaurant is one of Christian County's most recognized restaurants and attractions.

"Lambert’s would never condone behavior of this nature. Lambert’s Cafe will continue to be a destination for family entertainment," the Lambert's statement reads.

In addition to the Ozark location, Lambert's operates its original restaurant in Sikeston, in New Madrid County, and another restaurant in Foley, Alabama.

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