Prosecutor Reviewing Ellingson’s Death Claims She Was Being Blackmailed

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DES MOINES, Iowa - The special prosecutor reviewing the case of a Clive man who drowned while in the custody of a Missouri State High Patrol trooper has asked to be removed from the case citing a conflict.

In this story

 Brandon Ellingson, 20, drowned while handcuffed and in police custody for alleged drunk boating at the Lake of the Ozarks last May. A Coroner’s Inquest last September cleared the arresting state trooper, Anthony Piercy of criminal wrong-doing. But in January, prosecutor Amanda Grellner re-opened the investigation when a witness came forward with additional information.

“The information that they gave me put things in a different perspective,” said Grellner.

Then, last week, Grellner asked to be removed from the case, citing a conflict of interest. An email obtained by Channel 13 News indicates that conflict arose from a situation involving Grellner’s son three years ago. The email makes reference to Sgt. Randy Henry of the MHP, who initially interviewed Piercy about the drowning. Henry is also expected to be a witness for the Ellingson family in a wrongful death suit filed in December.

Grellner writes in the email, sent to a witness to the drowning, “What has happened is that Randy Henry has been giving others false and misleading information about my son and an investigation that was conducted three years ago.” She goes on to say Henry “tried to convince others that I was somehow beholden to the Patrol and owed them a favor. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

When questioned about the email and her reasons for stepping down, she said she doesn’t want anymore “taint” to this case.

“He’s made an allegation that I’m involved in things I’m not involved in,” said Grellner. “I believe this case needs to have a prosecutor that can look at it with fresh eyes, and that there is no additional allegation that there’s additional conspiracy or anything along those lines related to this case.”

Grellner claims to have been within days of reaching a decision in the case, which has now been turned over to another special prosecutor who has been chosen, but not named publicly.

Attempts to reach Henry for comment were unsuccessful. An attorney for the Ellingson family said Grellner’s allegations are “so misguided they’re laughable.”

The MHP also refused to comment on allegations that another investigator in the case, Corporal Eric Stacks, has been placed on administrative leave. A spokesperson for the MHP added, “There will be no further comment regarding the Ellingson drowning.”

47 comments

  • Jodie Gratias

    The corruption and cover-up in this case is beyond your imagination! Those of us who have been involved in the investigation of Brandon’s death, will not stop until justice is served, and Piercy faces his punishment for his reckless and negligent actions, and the many other officials are made to answer for their part in the cover-up. There are so many lies in this case, and other information that hasn’t even been released to the public yet. The official’s in that state are now scrambling and getting lawyers, cause their web of lies and deceit are unraveling very fast!! You haven’t seen anything yet, Missouri. But you will….. SOON!!! Craig and Sherry Henrickson Ellingson, we will continue to bring out the truth, and do all that is necessary, so Brandon’s death will not be in vain, and may very well save another person and family, from gong through the hell that you all are going through!!!
    #BEMyVoice
    #JusticeForBrandonEllingson
    http://www.justiceforbrandonellingson.org

  • bjertbjaeger

    All I see is a drunk that drowned and his family doing everything in their power to avoid the fact that the primary cause of their sons death was his own drug abuse. It’s more like a gang of thugs than anything resembling actual justice.

    • Pam Majd

      Obviously you do not see well then. The gang of thugs are those with taxpayer jobs who have done nothing but lie and cover up this crime. But then again, you might be one of them… BUI does not require death (not that he even made it to the testing site). Competency and honesty are required to serve the public, not harm them.

    • don

      once you are in the custody of an officer, you are the responsibility of the officer.

      properly handled, there is no way a suspect should be able to get out of the boat and not be buoyant

    • Jodie Gratias

      Big words from someone that hides behind a screen name. Learn the FACTS in this case before spouting off your nameless, baseless, false assumptions.

      • bjertbjaeger

        Tell ya what Jodie, when I see YOU admit that the man was drunk and endangering the lives of others prior to his own demise, I’ll consider your opinion. Until then, it’s meaningless.

        I wonder how a family would have felt had he killed someone, outraged, demanding justice?

        Ever had someone you love killed by a drunk?

      • marcopolish

        Bert, have YOU? And while we’re at it, you endanger people every day when you drive and talk on the phone. Should YOU be put to death in anticipation of what you may do? How about that Des Moines Councilman and his dozen recent traffic citations. Nobody dead yet. Should he be given the chair because he might hit someone? I bet under your rationale, you yourself have already used up your nine lives several times over.

    • Gunther

      I can’t believe you just said that. You have no compassion. So a young kid was drunk….and what not. Their lack of training on that boat is a proven fact. And the high speed they were going. He had his whole life ahead of him. What a shame. Nobody is perfect.

    • DOUG SHAW

      When one is willingly blind one is bearing false witness, one is evil and easily rationalizes the murder of a human being.

      • marcopolish

        Doug, he’s just being a troll, intentionally saying things he doesn’t believe but that sound outrageous so he can get your attention. The thing to do is not reward or reinforce by paying attention.

      • bjertbjaeger

        Well Doug, I guess you’re evil then.

        The autopsy report proved he was drunk and had cocaine in his system, so I’m not bearing false witness, you are. You evil doer you.

        And it wasn’t murder, so there you are “bearing false witness”, at worst it was a case of gross negligence at the end of a chain of events that began with the deceased abusing alcohol.

        Now had he killed someone himself boating drunk as he was, that would have been murder.

      • marcopolish

        Except it wasn’t murder, he didn’t “do” anything, except die in handcuffs under the water because he could not free himself to get air, and if he could have done that, his impairment might have been too much to get air anyway. So you wish him death, for as many endless “might have” hypotheticals that you can churn out. You “might” do the same behind the wheel driving to your cash your welfare check. Maybe we should get you out of circulation for something you “might” do someday.

  • John Smith

    You know, this certainly doesn’t clear matters up, does it? This whole case seems to have had a dark cloud over it from the start. And, now, it sounds as if it has become a considerably more complicated one.

    I think the Special Prosecutor did the correct thing by requesting to be replaced; I have to wonder, though, if any of the others in the case expected her to do otherwise…

  • J Danielson

    Regardless of Brandon being intoxicated or not, he should still be alive. He should have been given an MIP, ticketed and back at school in Arizona this year.
    However, that is NOT what happened due to the negligence of the arresting officer. I wonder what you would think if this was your son? Perhaps one should know the facts before they presume the guilt and subsequent death of another human being before they start spouting off.
    The amount of lies and cover-up in this case is deplorable. I will continue supporting the Ellingson family as they seek the justice Brandon’s memory deserves.

  • Susan

    I have been going through something just like this only MUCH WORSE. Believe it, it happens. If it were me and it were my son I would have them and they would be buried!

  • LoveMeSomeCop!

    First and for most it is sad that a young man died because poor decisions were made on BOTH parts, the officer and Brandon himself. But here’s the thing I’m married to one of those horrible human beings everyone wants to trash talk and belittle. He has had training and is a excellent Missouri State Trooper. Sure do some things of this case smell funny but the smell is coming from both sides. NOT one person on either side is innocent by any means, so lets take them off the pedestal we’ve all put them on. My husband does not wake up every morning looking to hurt someone looking to “boost” his numbers by writing tickets and to ruin someone’s life that day. If that is what you honestly believe I think you need some prayers because the type of person who honestly believes that isn’t worth knowing. First to the people who got their 15 minutes of fame on TV by saying “we watched everything happen it was horrible that cop did nothing to help Brandon”. Here’s my question to you, how do you sleep at night knowing you did NOTHING to help that man and you watched him die? You sat there knowing there was a commotion and did nothing, how do you lay you head on your pillow and think your still a good person? Here’s a tip, I wouldn’t believe everything those 15 minutes of fame people say; their stories don’t match up and it’s not hard to figure out. So for all the nasty people that are going to reply, “you don’t know anything”, “your delusional”, “Why don’t you use your real name”? Well I do know things I’m educated, I am not delusional I was raised to know right from wrong and to respect people in authority. I refuse to use my real name for the pure fact that I don’t want my car egged, my house to burn or my husband to get ambushed by a bunch of hillbillies. Here’s a food for thought as your cussing at your screen because I’m a cop lover and a horrible person. When the State Trooper was hit last summer on the water and almost DIED, where was the out cry from the public then. Where were the facebook accounts to stop drunk boating and to publicly humiliate the person that hit him and almost took a dad and husband way. To the people out there that hate cops and think that they are out to get you……stop breaking the law your life will be easier I promise!

    • marcopolish

      Sorry, one thing does not equate to the other, and with all due respect, even if your own cop is a good guy, this guy messed up and higher ups COVERED and MISDIRECTED and maybe BLACKMAILED and other abuse of authority under color, all of which are crimes and likely mens-rea “guilty-mind” crimes; while all the other side, who lost their fellow friend and family member did nothing but avail themselves of the legal recourse that is their right to pursue, since a death, quite possibly a wrongful death, and possibly too criminally wrongful death and crimes to cover it up, were committed. Being stupid is not justification for a death sentence from negligence or, more likely, hubris. HE has his life to live.

    • marcopolish

      Here you go, Love me some cop. Is this what your man does? Sounds like felony manslaughter to me, or worse.

      And Bert, see if you can get so neighbor to read it to you.

      Piercy told patrol investigator Sgt. Jeff Johnson that he was passing by Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar & Grill. As he was idling through the area, Piercy said he saw Ellingson’s boat, and noticed that it didn’t have visible registration numbers. He said he moved closer to the boat to investigate, and eventually saw a Bud Light can tossed from the passenger side:

      “I saw it hit the water, but I wasn’t for sure which one threw it,” Piercy told Johnson. “Or I guess that would be the left side of the boat that it came out of.”

      “So it was on the port side then?” Johnson asked.

      “Yes,” Piercy said. “I’m not real good with the nautical terms.”

      Piercy’s account contradicts what Timothy Vogel, the owner of Coconuts, told The Star in August. Vogel said Piercy had been spotted outside Coconuts for several hours that day. He thought the trooper was “harassing” his customers, so Vogel called Piercy’s commander, 911, and an area state representative to complain. Vogel also said he spoke to Piercy and asked him why he was sitting out there all day. Piercy claimed he was responding to complaints.

      Some say Piercy was likely targeting Ellingson. Paul Ellison, a Missouri native who has lived in the Lake of the Ozarks area for most of his adult life and runs the website American Spring, is one of them.

      In Ellison’s September 16 post titled Vests, Lies and Videotape: The Cover-Up of Brandon Ellingson’s Murder, he pointed out the following:

      The excuse of not having visible registration numbers leading to ‘eventually’ seeing a beer can come from the boat very clearly indicates that Piercy had targeted the boat and was looking for an excuse to stop them.

      In fact, Brandon was onboard a boat that was a USCG documented vessel. These boats, with names displayed on the back along with ports of call, are not required to have registration numbers. They instead have color-coded stickers on the front of each side of a boat. They function much like license plate stickers on a vehicle. This calls into question the legality of the stop in the first place. Piercy’s claim of a beer can going over the side, when paired with the other lies he has told, is not reliable.

      Piercy told Sgt. Johnson that he performed field sobriety tests on Ellingson, cuffed his hands behind his back, and went to get a life vest, reported The Kansas City Star:

      “I put the life jacket around his shoulders,” he said. “… I didn’t zip it because of his shoulders, but I secured it around him tight, clasped the three straps and buckled him, or I guess tightened them on him.”

      But Ellingson’s friends, watching from the boat, shared a different account. They said Piercy took a pre-buckled Type III vest and pulled it over Ellingson’s head, getting it only partially down his torso. They said Ellingson’s chin touched the top buckle.

      “That life jacket, it was an orange one. It was already strapped up and everything he just pulled it over him. He was already handcuffed and everything he just pulled it over him,” said Louis Guiterrez, one of Ellingson’s friends, to Highway Patrol investigators.

      “He tried to pull (it) over his shoulders … and was having a very hard time doing so,” Ellingson’s friend Myles Goertz told investigators. “… It clearly was not the proper way to wear a life jacket. It was not how the life jacket was designed to be worn.”

      A Type III vest has armholes and cannot be secured on someone who is already handcuffed. Type I jackets go around a person’s head, so even if they are handcuffed their head will float to the surface of the water. Type I life vests are the kind which troopers are trained to use on handcuffed subjects. They were available on Piercy’s boat. One was just feet from where Ellingson was seated during field sobriety tests.

      Why didn’t Piercy use the correct life vest on Ellingson? And why didn’t he put Ellingson’s arms through the holes of the vest he DID use before handcuffing him?

      Hey, Piercy was “in a hurry”, as he told Sgt. Randy Henry during a phone call the night of the incident. One of Ellingson’s friends jumped in the water during the sobriety field test and swam to Piercy’s boat to give Ellingson an advice card listing his personal rights. Piercy said he wanted to “wrap it up, get out of there,” before anything escalated, even though he admitted the swimmer wasn’t acting in a threatening manner.

      Piercy was in a hurry, alright. He took off at speeds in excess of 39 mph.

      Then, when Piercy saw big waves ahead, he slowed down “to almost an idle speed.”

      That’s when he turned and noticed Ellingson was gone.

      He’d fallen overboard.

      The life vest Ellingson was wearing popped off. Piercy had trouble maneuvering his boat to get closer to Ellingson. He tried to grab the drowning man with a boat pole, but was unable to reach him.

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