Update: Neighbors say shooting victims gave suspect 'chance after chance'

10 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, November 09 2017 Nov 9, 2017 Thursday, November 09, 2017 11:13:00 AM CST November 09, 2017 in News
By: Tara Lang, Blythe Nebeker, James Packard, Annie Hammock, Sydney Kalich and Nick Allen KOMU 8
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LAKE OZARK - A Rolla man is accused of two murders and a long list of other crimes in a Lake Ozark shooting.

The shooting happened Wednesday at an RV Park on Wood River Road in Miller County. The victims are Jim and Sherri Parker, according to police. 

The Miller County Prosecutor's Office charged Gary Sweet, 58, with two counts of first-degree murder, four counts of armed criminal action and two counts of assault or attempted assault. All are felonies.

According to the probable cause statement filed Thursday, police responded to the park shortly after midnight Wednesday. When they arrived they found a man who had been shot but survived, and his wife who told officers gunshots had come through the walls of their RV.

Police later found two victims dead inside the park's office building, which has living quarters on the upper floor. Both were lying in bed with gunshot wounds, and officers said the door had apparently been forced open.

"Awesome people, just awesome people. And then we became very good friends. If you needed anything, they were right there, always willing to help," said Pattie Hughes, a tenant of the park owned by the victims. 

Court documents said police obtained surveillance video showing a man matching Sweet's description entering and exiting the office/home building at the park before approaching an RV and shooting at it.

Witnesses identified Sweet as the suspect and said the victims managed the RV park on behalf of the owner. They also told police Sweet had been a former tenant at the park but was evicted in October.

Park resident, Kelly Love, described the suspect as a "belligerent" drunk who caused problems within the park.

"Well he would over drink, and he would just get belligerent I mean they gave him every chance- alright, no drinking on golf cart. You have to say it in your campground site. Now you have to drink in the house," Love said. " They did not just come up one day and say you’re out of here. They tried to give him chance after chance after chance.”

At around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, a state trooper went to Sweet's home in Phelps County, where Sweet allegedly said he'd been at his house when the shootings happened. The trooper found Sweet's truck was still warm, suggesting it had been recently driven.

Investigators also determined Sweet's phone had been in the Lake Ozark area at the time of the shootings, not in Phelps County. They further found shotgun shells at Sweet's home matching the type found at the RV park, as well as a hoodie similar to the one seen on the person in the surveillance video.

Several agencies responded to the scene, including the Mid-Missouri Major Crimes Unit.

A resident of the RV park said he was sleeping at 1:30 and got a knock on the door.

"We opened up the door, there was a cop out there," Allen Moudy said. "He said there has been a shooting that we needed to go and lock our doors and get back in. He said, 'I got to get in your trailer to check and make sure that he isn’t in here.'”

Brandon Mize, a tenant of the park, said his son originally heard gunshots at 12:30.

"We told him at that point it;s probably just someone who had a blow out on the highway. Probably within five minutes after that we heard the other gunshots," Maize said. "My biggest concern was the safety of my family, so just in the moment you don’t really have time to think you just react.”

The Lake Ozark Police Department said Wednesday it did not have reason to believe the community was at any risk.

Moudy said the park is typically a very safe place to be.

"It’s very peaceful, very calm. I don’t even lock my doors out here. Everyone is camping, everyone has a good time. Kids are out here,” he said.

(Editor's note: this story has been updated with new information from court documents filed by the Miller County Prosecutor's Office)

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