Top Stories at Lake of the Ozarks in 2017: Vacation rental re-assessments overturned and several big criminal cases finally decided

3. Vacation Rentals: Re-assessments overturned

In July, just months after a highly contentious legislative debate over nightly rentals and lobbying efforts by international corporations, former Camden County Assessor Kayla Henry broadened the re-assessment of 133 nightly rental properties appealed to the Board of Equalization to approximately 500 nightly rental properties at the Lake, returning their commercial assessment back to residential. The return to residential assessment was seen as a win for property owners, and newly elected Assessor Marty McGuire pledged to reverse any commercial assessment to original classification upon taking over the office in 2017. Osage Beach and Lake Ozark also received designation as worthwhile affordable tourism spots by several travel rating agencies. The vacation home renting industry is considered to be a multi-billion dollar business and source of secondary income for some residents. 

4. The Year of the Verdict

Multiple high-profile criminal cases came to a long-awaited end in 2017. Among them, Elizabeth “Susan” Van Note was acquitted of double-murder by a Laclede County jury earlier this year after an emotionally draining trial that lasted nearly two weeks. Emily Usnick, the former Brumley resident who was charged with infanticide for the death of her newborn daughter, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and received five years imprisonment for the crime that occurred in 2009. In July, Miller County resident Cheryl A. Patrick, convicted in 2012 of murdering 28-month-old Alexis Ward in 2008, was denied a motion to vacate or set aside the judgment of a Laclede County jury that found her guilty of second degree murder and child abuse in the death of her boyfriend’s daughter. The same month, Dennis Purdy, the former Camdenton fast-food restaurant owner, pled guilty to multiple counts of felony sexual assault and sodomy stemming from two separate cases. Purdy received a total of 20 years of imprisonment after past cases dragged on since 2013. Recently, Carol Elwyn of Hawaii pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and second degree assault from a fatal crash in 2016 that killed two from Eldon and seriously injured another. Elwyn, who was working at Shawnee Bluff Winery at the time, admitted guilt to operating an automobile while under the influence of alcohol. A civil case is still pending. Former Missouri State Highway Patrol Anthony Piercy of Versailles also saw his criminal case come to an end, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the death of 20-year-old college student Brandon Ellingson in 2014. Piercy was ultimately terminated by the MSHP and received a suspended execution of sentence, two years of supervised probation and 10 days in prison for conviction.