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Complaint against ‘whistleblower’ trooper in Ellingson drowning is withdrawn

Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Randy Henry (left) testified last October alongside then patrol superintendent Col. Ronald Replogle as a special legislative committee reviewed the merger of the Missouri Water Patrol into the Highway Patrol. On Friday, a former special prosecutor withdrew a complaint against Henry.
Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Randy Henry (left) testified last October alongside then patrol superintendent Col. Ronald Replogle as a special legislative committee reviewed the merger of the Missouri Water Patrol into the Highway Patrol. On Friday, a former special prosecutor withdrew a complaint against Henry. kmyers@kcstar.com

The Missouri Highway Patrol sergeant who spoke out after the drowning of a handcuffed Iowa man no longer faces the initial internal complaint filed against him months ago.

Sgt. Randy Henry, who faced demotion and was transferred in June from the Lake of the Ozarks, was scheduled to have an appeals hearing early next week. On Friday, his attorney said former special prosecutor Amanda Grellner had withdrawn her complaint against him.

“She had a number of really good reasons and they are largely personal to her,” said her attorney, Michael Berry of Jefferson City. He did not elaborate.

In a written statement later released by Berry, Grellner said: “I do not wish to be involved in any further proceedings between Sergeant Henry and the Patrol.”

After Grellner’s decision Friday, Henry decided to submit his retirement, said his lawyer, Chet Pleban of St. Louis. Henry has been eligible to retire for more than three years.

Pleban has referred to Henry as a “whistleblower” in the investigation into the death last year of Brandon Ellingson, 20.

“This matter is concluded as far as Sgt. Henry is concerned,” Pleban said in a written statement. “And he has retired wanting nothing else to do with this organization.”

After Grellner filed her grievance against Henry, the patrol added two of its own. It wasn’t clear Friday what would happen with those complaints. A call to the patrol was not returned.

But the patrol did issue a statement saying Henry’s appeal hearing, scheduled for Monday, had been canceled.

“The Patrol no longer considers Sgt. Randy Henry an active employee,” the statement said.

Grellner filed her complaint against Henry in March, about the time she recused herself from the investigation into the death of Ellingson, the college student who drowned in handcuffs last year while in the custody of a trooper.

After deciding to not file charges in the case last year, the special prosecutor had taken another look at the investigation early this year.

Henry had said Grellner’s involvement in the case had the appearance of a conflict of interest. About a year before Ellingson’s death, the patrol had been brought in to help investigate a sexual assault of a teenage girl in which Grellner’s son was initially questioned. The patrol later cleared him using DNA.

In his release Friday, Pleban said he had no evidence Grellner had used any influence to affect the rape investigation conducted by the patrol.

“Or that this investigation influenced any decision that she made in connection with the Ellingson drowning,” he wrote.

Pleban, though, did question the quality of the patrol’s investigation into the rape allegations. According to information provided by Cpl. Stacy Mosher, Pleban said, DNA evidence was developed from two subjects, one of whom has been identified as a juvenile suspect.

Mosher investigated the rape case, and “by her own admission, after eliminating (Grellner’s son), Cpl. Mosher and the patrol made no effort whatsoever to locate any other individual involved in this rape.”

Grellner’s attorney reiterated that his client’s son was not involved in the assault. Other than the DNA clearing him, Berry said Grellner’s son does not match the description that the victim gave several times. The victim also said she knew Grellner’s son and “denied he was involved,” Berry said.

“Further, the depositions and investigation show that at all times Amanda Grellner exercised her duties ethically and with integrity,” Berry said in a statement.

Henry received his discipline in early June and appealed. The patrol immediately transferred him to Truman Lake after he had worked nearly 30 years on the Lake of the Ozarks. Though part of the discipline was a demotion to corporal, that didn’t go into effect pending his appeal.

Ellingson drowned May 31, 2014, while in the custody of Anthony Piercy, a veteran road trooper.

In the days after the drowning, Henry told investigators what he said Piercy had told him the night Ellingson died.

According to Henry, Piercy said he had jumped in the water to try to save Ellingson and then waited for his flotation device to auto-inflate.

Henry told Piercy that the type of device he was wearing doesn’t auto-inflate, to which Piercy reportedly said, “Oh, I thought they did.”

Henry said he then told Piercy, “You have to pull the ripcord.”

A few days later, Piercy talked again with Henry. At that time, Henry told the investigators, Piercy said he wished he had pulled the ripcord. He didn’t mention anything about thinking the device would auto-inflate.

At a coroner’s inquest in September 2014, Piercy told jurors that when he was in the water with Ellingson, he struggled to find the ripcord so he could bring them both to the surface. When he eventually found the cord, he said, he no longer had hold of Ellingson, so he didn’t pull it.

Jurors at the inquest found the death to be accidental, and Grellner announced days later that she would not file criminal charges against Piercy.

Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

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