Trooper charged with involuntary manslaughter in Lake of the Ozarks drowning

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GRAVOIS MILLS, Mo.  — A Missouri State Trooper has been charged in the death of Brandon Ellingson, 20, who drowned on the Lake of the Ozarks while in the custody of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Trooper Anthony Piercy faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter, according to WHO-TV in Iowa. The special prosecutor in the case, William Seay, announced the charge Friday morning and said Piercy is expected to turn himself in later Friday.

Ellingson, of Clive, Iowa, drowned on May 31, 2014.   The accounts of what happened differ, but Ellingson either fell or jumped overboard from a Missouri State Highway Patrol boat that was transporting him from the Lake of the Ozarks on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. The patrol says Ellingson stood up on the moving vessel before going into the water at 5:23 p.m. on that Saturday. A patrol dive team recovered his body around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, June 1, 2014.

The investigation has been long and had several delays.  In August 2014, a special prosecutor was appointed and conducted a coroner's jury on the matter. That  jury ruled the death an accident in September 2014 and an investigation cleared Piercy of criminal negligence.  Then, the special prosecutor asked to be excused citing a conflict of interest. Another special prosecutor, William Seay,  was appointed in March 2015. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the matter for violations of federal civil or criminal laws when he felt the process might be stalled.

On Friday, Seay said Piercy is charged with Involuntary Manslaughter, a Class C felony. Seay alleges that Piercy 'recklessly caused the death of Brandon Ellingson by handcuffing him behind his back while intoxicated and not properly securing his flotation device, thereby causing his death when he fell in the water.'

A Class C felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

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.

Ellingson was attending Arizona State University, enrolled as a business student.

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