Former Highway Patrol Sgt. calls for shake-up after second questionable investigation

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(KPLR) - Two big cases are raising serious questions about Missouri's top lawmen and their investigations.  A former Highway Patrol Sgt. is calling for a shake-up.

Former Sgt. Randy Henry has told FOX 2 in the past that he thinks the state needs an independent investigative bureau.  Now more than ever he`s calling for it, because of two high profile cases with disturbing parallels.

The Brandon Ellingson drowning on Lake of the Ozarks and the Kelli Smith wrong way driving investigation are two cases former Sgt. Henry believes the Missouri Highway Patrol botched.  He told me, “Obviously they have shown they can`t be trusted.”

Ellingson drowned while in custody, after being handcuffed by another trooper.  Henry had information he said investigators did not want to hear.  He said Eric Stacks turned off a tape recorder when Henry suggested it was manslaughter.  Henry added, “I`d want to know the truth and I`d want to know every detail.”

Now Stacks is being accused of failing to investigate an alleged drugging and rape of Kelli Smith, that may have led to her driving the wrong way on I-70.  While Stacks was on the stand at Smith’s trial, he said he gave the rape a “look see” and admitted he didn`t know what a woman`s cervix was as he asked, “…explain that to me please.”

Henry said, “Kelli Smith didn`t even know she had been raped. Neither did the family.  The doctors and the nurses from the emergency room had to tell them. This wasn`t some made up defense to try to get their client off.”

Then there are questions about blood tests in both cases.  Henry adds that Ellingson`s was meaningless.  He explained “(Ellingson) could`ve been stone sober and been arrested for another violation and he would`ve had the exact same consequence.”

I asked, “What do you think the motive was for the Highway Patrol to release those results?”

Henry answered, “To try to discredit Brandon Ellingson, to say if he wouldn’t have gotten himself arrested if he wouldn`t have been in that position.”

Hayes followed up, “No other reason?”

Henry: “No other reason.”

There were two reported results from Ellingson`s blood - one from Highway Patrol showing an alcohol level of .240 and one later from a hospital showing .268 with trace cocaine.  Henry says Ellingson's blood may have been compromised from staying underwater 20 hours.  He pointed to research about blood fermentation.

During an audio recorded conversation, obtained by KMIZ, the patrol joked about how long Ellingson remained underwater.

On the audio, you can hear an officer say, “(Ellingson’s) dad is seven times pissed off that we`re not going to dive tonight.”

Dispatcher: “Yeah well.”

Officer: “And I wanted to just tell him he`s not going to be anymore dead in the morning than he is right now.”

The dispatcher laughs.

Officer: “But I didn`t.”

The dispatcher continued laughing as she said, “He probably wouldn`t have appreciated that very much.”

Possibly compromised blood is also at issue with Kelli Smith, who tested at .085.  Smith`s blood went unrefrigerated nearly 10 days.  Smith’s attorney Jennifer Bukowsky told me, “It was with Miller in his car for 59 hours and 51 minutes because he drove around and kept it in a heated shed at his house then it was left for about a week in a room in the courthouse.”

Former Sgt. Henry explained to me, “It has to be refrigerated and it`s common knowledge that`s what you do with the blood.”  He continued, “That`s what the lab wants us to do and that`s why the state spent all this money on refrigerators for every zone office in the state.”

Henry says he never dreamed he`d question the Highway Patrol.  To this day, he`s the poster child for the Patrol, pictured on the latest Missouri Boating Laws Handbook.

He adds that he remains pro police, which he says means pro truth.

“Sometimes the truth hurts,” he said.

Henry says the Kelli Smith case adds to his belief the State of Missouri needs to create and independent bureau of investigation.

The Patrol is also under fire for allegedly withholding documents in the Brandon Ellingson investigation.  A judge is currently considering fines for possible violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law.

A Highway Patrol spokesperson said he cannot comment on the investigations because they remain active.  He did answer a broader question about blood storage, showing me general orders that do not mention a requirement of refrigeration.  Those orders contradict the Patrol's Forensic Evidence Handbook that says “refrigerate.”