Murder At Riverview RV Park

This is a heartbreaking memory indeed.
I was just thinking about this this morning as I do this time of year, every year since.
2 weeks ago, I posted a memory of the very night that set these events in motion and would result in a double homicide and 2 attempted murders at the Riverview RV park where we were living while looking for and closing on a house here. It is the 4th anniversary of these events…..

Days and days drift by, ordinary and without much notice. Then, in a brief flashing moment the world seems tipped on edge and “ordinary” falls around you like ash.

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Last year we were heading out to a dog show again over the weekend and this time we’d decided to take the RV. I hadn’t been back to Riverview or in the RV that we left stored there since we left the November before. I didn’t realize the weight of saddeness that still hovered there and how much I’d feel it just seeing it again.

August, we’d finished remodeling the old farmhouse and put it up for sale. Surprisingly, it sold with a full price offer in 3 days and we needed to get out fast. We packed up the RV, our dogs and headed to The Lake of The Ozarks. (For those of you who watched ” Ozark” on Netflix, yes, same place.)

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On Sept 1st, 2017, we pulled into Riverview RV park. It was beautiful, tucked between the lake and the mountains with large mature trees and long pond running down the center of it with ducks. This would be our home for the next few months while we searched the area for a new home on the lake.

There were many full timers living there as well as those who left their RV’s there full time and popped in on the weekends.

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The managers lived in an apt above the office and the couple who were the camp hosts, lived in the RV in the second slot. The circled atea is right between and where they wanted to move us.

Sheri and Jim, the managers, were the nicest people. They made you not only feel at home but made the park a community…a big camp family. Sheri took care of everyones needs at the office and Jim was always making rounds on his golf cart, checking in to make sure you had everything you needed or simply stopping for a visit.

Everyone was friendly. In the RV in front of us, lived Blue Beard and his wife Kelly. (I’m not changing his name. I’m seriously just that bad with names!) They were old bikers about 60 yrs old and he an ex-con with beard he died blue. They lived there full time with next to nothing in an OLD, rickety camper and were the kind of folk who are there in a second to lend a hand or give you the shirt off their backs.

At the rear of us, just on the other side of the pond, was a man named Gary and his wife. They seemed very nice. She was quite disabled and Gary himself had a very pronounce limp. He would always walk out to visit with us when we walked the dogs. Later, I would be shocked to discover that he was only about my age.

Gary seemed to drink often and a lot! On those nights you could hear him ranting loudly throughout the night, passing out by morning and sleep most of the next day. Though they owned a house about 1 1/2 hrs away, they were staying at the park full time, possibly throughout the lake season.

The weekend before Halloween, the park holds an event every year and people reserve their RV sites a year in advance to attend it so we would have to move ours to a new site for the weekend. That night was filled with contests for costumes and decorated campers, trick or treaters, a fish fry and bingo. At 10:14 pm while the event wound down, our new sites power box shorted out.

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Unbelievable! It’s 10:14 at night and the power to the RV went out, back on then out again. Clay checked things out and could hear crackling at the power hookup. I called the park office thinking I could leave an after hours message so they’d be informed of an electrical issue first thing when they opened and we’d get by the best we could through the night BUT not only did someone answer but was at our site in about 3 min and working to repair fried electrical box! You can’t get that kind of service.. .we’ll, ANYWHERE!

I called the office to leave a message so Jim would get it on monday and know the site had a problem although we’d be moving back to our old slot by then. Surprisingly, he answered and he and the camp host came right away!

While they worked to rewire the power box, they told us that Gary got drunk again and when they tried to calm him down, he got physical. They had to call the police and Gary and his wife were asked to leave the park.

Jim was such a kind soul. Even under the circumstances, he spoke well of Gary and how he was a great guy who just drank too much. Having given up drinking himself years before, even tried to talk to Gary but to no avail.

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2 weeks later on Sunday Nov 5th, the weather turned cold and as we drove in from a dog show in Joplin, we pulled up alongside Jim on his cart and asked about filling our propane. While my husband, Clay stood with Jim, filling the tanks, all Jim talked about were he and Sherry’s kids and looking forward to seeing them soon during a visit.

He also advised us that we should move up to site #1 between the office and the camp host as it was better suited to handle freezing weather. We were closing on the new house soon so we decided against packing everything up only to have to move it again soon. (The circled area in the above photo)

At 12:04 AM on Weds, while I lay in bed watching tv and Clay lightly sleeping, we heard BAM like a shotgun, followed by the POP POP POP POP POP of a handgun! We both shot straight up and Clay grabbed his service weapon to check outside but didn’t see anything. Being in the mountains, sound carried so we pondered if it might just be partiers shooting in the hills?

Within minutes that theory would be dispelled as we first heard radio’s then saw the flashing blue lights through the bedroom window. As Clay peered through the window, there was a loud banging at the door. While Clay grabbed his clothes, I opened the door to be met with 4 deputies with their guns drawn and pointed at my face! I asked if this was about the shots we’d heard. Confirmed.

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We put the dogs in the pen and went outside so they could sweep our trailer to make sure the shooter wasn’t holding anyone or hiding. We sat at the picnic table, talking to the police and told them then that the only problem there had been in the park was Gary. The park would be on lockdown for the next 72 hrs.

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first let me say that while shell shocked, we are fine.
at 12 am this morning, we were heading to bed. let the dogs out to potty one last time, turned on the tv in the bedroom and cuddled up for the night. I had just dozed off when I suddenly woke. I thought I had heard a gun shot but in the fog, considered I had only dreamt it….until 6 or 7 shots sounded in rapid succession!
” did you hear that!” Clay had and was already on his feet, grabbing his pistol to check things out. He returned quickly, but placed the pistol near the bed.
The RV park is nestled between woods hills and the lake, near the hwy bridge. He said it may have been someone in the surrounding area just screwing around with guns….sound really carries here.
We settled back down but not quick to sleep. soon the sound of sirens yet quickly silenced. we hoped it was just a traffic stop on the hwy but soon there was commotion outside. clay rose up in the bed and lifted the shade above the bed. Blue lights flashed across the room! we jumped up and soon there was banging on the door. while Clay grabbed his clothes, he instructed me to answer it…
opening the door, I was faced with 4 men identifying themselves as sheriffs dept, guns drawn. I asked if this was concerning the shots we heard. The officer responded that there was a shooting! we let the dogs out into the pen and exited so they could clear our RV.
By morning, the entire front of the park was cordoned off with crime scene tape and park was on lockdown!
men in white jumpsuits were on the balcony above the office where the camp managers live and officers walking down the drive stopping to interview each resident.
Clay walked closer to the front where campers were beginning to gather, passing what info they had along.
He walked back to let me know that the nicest, older couple who manages the park had both been killed!
all we’ve heard so far is that they were murdered first in their apt above the office, then they busted into the office which has been closed for the season, they also broke into a trailer parked next to the office. The camp host may have fired back at them.
details are sketchy right now and all that is certain is that at least, 2 of the nicest people are now dead.

By daybreak we learned all the details: At 11:30 pm Gary called Blue Beard making sure to tell him that he was at home, 1 1/2 hrs away in Rolla. That call was revealed to have been made within a mile of the park. The security footage showed a man with a significant limp, wearing a green hoodie, climb the back stairs up to Sheri and Jims apt where they were shot and killed in their bed.

Afterward, he went to the camp hosts RV and banged on the door. While Mark grabbed his clothes, his wife peered out the window and asked “what’s Gary Sweet doing here?” When Mark opened the door, he saw the rifle being raise and lept backwards, pushing his wife to the ground and recieving a shot to the leg. Gary then pulled out a pistol and unloaded it into the trailer before fleeing. He had every intention of killing them too.

By 3 am, the police were at Garys house in Rolla. Although he claimed to have been there all night, his truck engine was hot and still popping. The green hoodie was recovered and Gary arrested.

The police kept us all safe, park locked down with only residents allowed to enter and 24 hr police presence while they scoured everything for evidence. Days later, their 7 children arrived from as far away as Alaska for the candlelight vigil. The police attended as well.

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46 comments

  1. What a tragedy, Laura. 😭 I’m sorry for this anniversary. I lived in my RV full time up until I bought my small house last December. I understand the comradeship that occurs within our park “families”. My heart goes out to their families and friends, like you. ❤️🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] As with many adventures, not all memories are good ones.  Ours would be no different as evidenced by the late night murder of our RV parks managers as they slept in their bed and attempted murder of the park host and his wife, all who were in the RV park.  You can read about this tragic tale in my post, “Murder At Riverview RV Park“. […]

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    • It was stunning and heartbreaking. Story may have gone even more wrong had we moved slots the day before as offered. Clay was just newly retired federal officer so of course he would’ve grabbed his weapon and gone out to check only he would’ve come face to face with Gary that night and we’d had been in the middle of it. He still hasn’t been tried and it feels like we’re all stuck emotionally waiting and unable to move forward without bringing the story to close. 😥

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Laura, thank you for remembering those kind folks. I think things like this matter, that someone remembers them.

    I know it must have been some traumatic. If you ever have time I hope you’ll write about how it effected you.

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    • The man responsible has still not been tried. I feel like I’m still holding my breath. I don’t know if it’ll ever feel put to rest this side of heaven but it does feel like we’re all stuck on pause and can’t even start until then. A deep sadness runs like a stream just below the surface.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How horrible. We spent summers at a trailer park for 7 years, everyone becomes like family. The owners lived on site and had to evict many “drunks” what an experiencd for you, it is such a sad world we live in.

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  5. Oh my!!! You have indeed had more than your share of close calls. This and the fire, too!! It is a sad state of humanity that these kinds of things happen and we lose truly good people.

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  6. Oh my gosh, how terrible. I will never understand violence. It must have been really hard for you and your husband knowing the people who lost their lives. This is such a sad story. I feel for the family members of the victims.

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  7. It must have been terrifying at the time but then do hard to live with, news crews and rubber necker’s etc. When you know the people involved, peoples prurient curiosity is nauseating. What a shame, what a tragic waste of life all round. I’m so sorry that happened. It just goes to show how you really just do t know what’s going on in people’s heads

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    • Its so true! He killed 2 people but planned on 4, all because he was made to leave an RV park? He plotted for 2 weeks and attempted an alibi! Left his poor disabled wife without any support or help. There were no wins and all for such a trivial matter.
      My hubs being retired federal officer, I wasn’t really scared for us just shocked, disheartened in humankind, heartbroken by the loss. What a world.

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      • Effectively he destroyed a lot more lives than just two and I’m not even counting his. His wife’s, Jim and Sheris kids, the other couple he was trying to kill – all have to live with direct consequences. He really must have had a warped mind to plot all that. If he’d done it drunk it would be one thing, but the planning and premeditated calculation involved means this was no beer frenzy.

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