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Another prosecutor leaves St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, leaving 3 to handle 470 cases

Prosecutor Natalia Ogurkiewicz was working on the controversial case involving a suspect who was in a crash that left a volleyball player without her legs.

ST. LOUIS — Another high-profile profile prosecutor is leaving St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office.

Natalia Ogurkiewicz has been with the office for nearly three years. She resigned Friday, citing an unbearable work load and a lack of support.

She the following statement to Gardner Friday:

“Thank you for making my dream of being a homicide prosecutor come true. I am so grateful, but the Supreme Court of Missouri has made clear that when the choice between committing malpractice and resignation is the only option, resignation is what must happen. As such, I have no ability to continue like this, especially after watching the way the last month has been handled and the political position being taken at this point involves throwing staff attorneys under the bus. I wish you nothing but the best and will remember this time with gratitude.”

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s spokeswoman Allison Hawk refused to comment on Ogurkiewicz’s departure, saying the office does not comment on personnel matters.

Employment dates are public information.

Ogurkiewicz’s departure leaves three prosecutors to oversee hundreds of violent felony cases.

"I felt that I needed to leave the Circuit Attorney's Office at this time due to the position that our attorneys have been placed in, due to the impossible circumstances and the fact that were expected to do far more than one attorney's job," she said. 

"Right now, what we're expected to do is to be an attorney, to be an investigator, to be a paralegal, and to be a victim services advocate due to the lack of support and lack of structure in the Circuit Attorney's Office at this time," Ogurkiewicz told 5 On Your Side.

The Missouri Attorney General is trying to remove Gardner from office, claiming she's failing to do her job. In his lawsuit, Andrew Bailey wrote 470 cases were split between six prosecutors as of March 10. In that document, Ogurkiewicz had the highest number of those cases at 117.

"I can't speak on that given the ethical parameters of an individual whose involved in litigation but I'm sure that my thoughts, as well as the thoughts of others, are going to become clear because I am fully cooperative with the attorney general's efforts," Ogurkiewicz  added.

At a crime solution meeting Thursday, a representative from Gardner's office addressed the community.

"The appointed ... attorney general is trying to take away your right to determine who your elected officials are ... your presence, voters, is extremely important to make sure that we keep our city safe, and he wants to say he's the best knower of what the interests are in the City of St. Louis," Khatib Waheed said.  

5 On Your Side reported Thursday that Assistant Circuit Attorney Alex Polta announced he is taking a “four-week and 15-day” leave from the office.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Marvin Teer’s last day was March 31. His was the only departure Gardner’s office commented on.

Now, Nicholas Lake, Christopher Desilets and Srikant Chigurupati remain.

Ogurkiewicz told the court earlier this week she would be leaving the Circuit Attorney’s Office and that she would not be available to prosecute the Curtis Bailey homicide case, which was scheduled to begin Monday.

Bailey was one of two men charged in a triple shooting along the St. Louis riverfront in April 2022 in which one man was killed and two people were wounded.

Ogurkiewicz is also at the center of a controversial case involving a man accused of causing a volleyball player to lose both of her legs during a car crash in February.

The suspect in that case, Daniel Riley, was supposed to go to trial in July 2022 for an armed robbery, but “the state was not ready to proceed,” according to court documents.

Jim Dandridge, whose son was the victim of that armed robbery, said Ogurkiewicz told him she had just returned from her honeymoon and was not prepared for trial.

She re-filed the armed robbery charges against Riley, which started the clock toward a court date over again.

Riley, who had already violated the terms of his house arrest dozens of times, continued to do so without objection from Gardner’s office.

"The safety of the community requires that this circuit attorney's office be led with integrity and that the attorneys can be effective in their environment," Ogurkiewicz said.

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