Benevolent or Predatory?
Lake Ozark Politician Gives Women Prisoners Help, Gets Sex
by Casey J. Bastian
In 2015, Gerry Murawski was an elected city alderman for Lake Ozark, Missouri. Murawski was also engaging in questionable relationships with several young women. During the period of 2015-2016, Murawski would provide money and favors for at least four women who had been held in the local Laclede County Jail. The young women would give massages, companionship, and sex after they were released; one stated that she felt “obligated” to engage in sex acts with Murawski for the financial help he had provided.
This conduct would eventually lead to three separate investigations by local, state, and federal authorities. At one point, Murawski admitted to the FBI that a prostitute he solicited through Craigslist in 2015 had been only 16 at the time. Meeting an underage girl online and having sex with her at a Columbia, Missouri hotel did not lead to any criminal charges. In fact, not one of the three investigations resulted in any criminal charges against Murawski. It didn’t even hurt his political career. Murawski would be elected mayor of Lake Ozark in 2019.
Murawski was recently asked by local reporters with the LakeExpo.com news website about his soliciting a teen prostitute and the subsequent 2016 investigation. After initially denying the allegations, Murawski admitted that “it happened.” He defended himself, “I thought she was 20...I made a mistake.” FBI documents reveal that Murawski initially claimed he thought she was “around 19.” Whichever age Murawski claims he believed her to be, authorities determined that she was merely 16. Murawski attempted to mitigate his conduct to the reporters: “I admit to you that after my wife died, I went through about two years… I was lost. And I kind of came back to my senses. I didn’t ever have another prostitute, so I learned a lesson from that.”
While there is no evidence that Murawski had other prostitutes, further investigations revealed his continuing contact with other vulnerable, young women.
FBI documents reveal that, in addition to using Craigslist to secure the underage prostitute, Murawski frequented Backpage.com and had an account on SeekingNaughty.com. Murawski claims that he was just viewing the Backpage site because one young woman was a friend with a crack cocaine habit; but Murawski did have a sexual relationship with the woman. The 16-year-old prostitute used the cell phone Murawski provided her after their 2015 liaison to advertise on other sites. The use of the cell phone number linked to Murawski on sites known for prostitution, as well as the SeekingNaughty.com account, is what primarily triggered the other two investigations. There was also a tip from the wife of another alderman to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office (MAGO) that included salacious screen shots in 2019. Law enforcement agencies would declare that it was Murawski’s continuing connection to the teen prostitute and his political position that placed him at the center of a joint human trafficking investigation. MAGO investigator Matt Rodriguez and Missouri Highway Patrol investigator Darrin Haslag looked into whether Murawski was trafficking young women through the local jail.
The investigation focused mainly on three young women. Crystal, Stephanie, and Kelly (whose names have been changed to protect their identity). All three spent time in the local jail. Stephanie told reporters, “I think he’s… interested in girls in jail. You’re about at the lowest point in your life… for him to use that… use it against you… I thought it was crooked… I was already at some point in my life where I needed help.”
Crystal was Murwaski’s initial humanitarian project. Murawski had found Crystal, drug-addicted, walking down the street and picked her up and moved her into his condo. When Crystal went to jail, she would pass around Murawski’s cell number to the other girls and describe the relationship as “pretty much like a trick.” Murawski would provide the women with money for commissary, bail, attorney fees, and when they got out of jail, cell phones, housing (with him) and even vehicles. Murawski has even helped “fix” tickets. Murawski would get phone sex, massages, companionship, and physical sex.
Stephanie was 22 when the sexual relationship with Murawski occurred. She felt obligated to return the favors for the $1,050 he had given her. When Stephanie tried to move on with her life, Murawski tried to get her bond revoked. The bail bondsman said, “He tried… he really wanted her to go back to jail.” Stephanie says that Murawski would repeatedly ask her if she had any friends that needed similar help. Murawski seemed to want to do the same things with any of those women as he had done with Stephanie: provide money and help for sexual favors.
Kelly also reported feeling pressured to have sex with Murawski. Multiple times Murawski attempted oral sex and Kelly would refuse. Kelly calls Murawski a “predator.” “Crystal was down and out and needed help. [She was] vulnerable,” stated Kelly, and she believes that is what attracted Murawski to Crystal. Local bar owner Terry Huston says Murawski would bring by a variety of young girls trying to get them jobs. “Something wasn’t right,” said Huston, who refused to hire any of the young women. Huston told Rodriguez that it was “common knowledge among the locals that Murawski was involved with prostitutes.” This belief was held by Stephanie.
Murawski disputes these assertions, insisting that he was just wishing to help people in their time of need. Sex was not expected. “I never said, ‘Hey you gotta have sex with me. I’ll help you.’ That never… I just don’t do that,” Murawski said. Investigator Haslag wrote in his report, “[Murawski] is not overheard telling [Stephanie] that it is being done in exchange for sex[…] although the conversations often center on plans for sexual contact between the two, upon her release.” None of the women claim Murawski forced them to have sex.
Murawski also claims that it was Crystal who was responsible for trading his number amongst the other prisoners to curry favor in the jail. In addition, Kelly has described her interactions with Murawski as a “hustle.”
The FBI report calls Murawski a widower who was attracted to young women and helped them financially. “Murawski realized these women sometimes took advantage of his generosity, but this did not bother him because he enjoyed their companionship,” reads the report. “I had no expectation of [sex in return for helping]. In some cases, they did have sex with me, but it was their choice. It was never pushed. It’s just not what I do,” Murawski claims.