Prosecutor: Missouri Trooper ‘Recklessly’ Caused Brandon Ellingson’s Death

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

VERSAILLES,  Missouri -- A Missouri State Trooper has now been charged in the death of an Iowa man who drowned while in custody at Lake of the Ozarks in 2014.

“I’ve filed the charge of involuntary manslaughter against Anthony Piercy today,” said special prosecuting attorney William Seay. “I have charged him with recklessly causing death."

Piercy is charged with the Class C felony in the death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson. Authorities said he was expected to himself in Friday afternoon. He was placed on leave without pay starting Thursday.

Ellingson, from Clive, drowned on May 31, 2014 after being arrested for allegedly boating while intoxicated. Ellingson fell out of Piercy’s boat while he was handcuffed. A life jacket Piercy placed on Ellingson was put on wrong and Ellingson drowned.

Four months after Brandon’s death, Piercy claimed he had never been taught how to use life jackets and a jury ruled the death accidental.

During the investigation, allegations of a cover-up between the Missouri State Patrol and special investigator Amanda Grellner surfaced. Grellner then removed herself from the Ellingson case and was replaced by William Seay.

A jury ruled the death an accident during a coroner’s inquest in Morgan County in September and an investigation cleared Piercy of criminal negligence in the case.

Controversy has raged over the training Piercy received because he admitted he didn’t know how to use some of his own equipment. Some claimed a merger between the Highway Patrol and Marine Patrol in 2011 led to inadequate training.

Ellingson's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Family reaction

“Anthony Piercy deserves what he's getting and he'll have his day in court, but he knows what he did wrong,” Craig  Ellingson said.

Craig Ellingson spoke with Channel 13 shortly after the news came out that Piercy will be charged for the death of his son. ellingson family 1

Craig Ellingson said that despite the charges filed Friday, the family is still actively pursuing the two lawsuits already in place, which accuse the Missouri State Patrol of negligence. They also claim that the Morgan County coroner conspired to cover up facts in Brandon's death.

Now after a year and a half of fighting for the truth, Craig Ellingson said he can find some closure.

“I think Brandon’s smiling down on us and appreciates what we are doing, and we are not going to quit until we get justice.”

He also said that it's Brandon's hard work ethic and perseverance that has helped the family constantly push for justice.

Attorneys' reaction

Thomas H. Burke and Jerry Spaeth of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C. and Matt Boles, of Parrish Kruidenier, released statement Friday:

"Since Brandon’s death on May 31, 2014, his parents, Craig and Sherry Ellingson and sister, Jennifer, have sought justice and accountability for the untimely death of their son and brother.

The Ellingsons are pleased that, after the long delay in holding Anthony Piercy accountable for his criminally negligent conduct in the death of Brandon Ellingson, justice will be determined in a criminal, as well as a civil court of law. The family appreciates the investigation by the special prosecutor and recommendation of a criminal charge that addresses the improper conduct of Trooper Piercy, who was entrusted with public safety on the state’s waterways.

On behalf of the Ellingson family, we appreciate the continued public support across the nation for Brandon and his memory."

Stay with Channel 13 News for updates to this developing story.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.