Posted in C-Haze, Missing, Missouri, True Crime

The Disappearance of Bianca Noel Piper

Bianca Noel Piper was 13 years old when she went missing from Foley, MO in March of 2005. Bianca was a troubled child, and suffered from ADD, as well as bi-polar disorder.

Some say Bianca had the mentality of a six or seven year old. Others claim that isn’t true, that she was an average teenager, albeit with some behavioral issues.

On March 10, 2005, Bianca and her mother, Shannon Tanner, got into an argument about Bianca doing the dishes. Shannon had been instructed by a mental health professional to drop Bianca some distance from their home to let her walk back when her temper became a problem. The hope was that this would give Bianca some time to cool off. In fact, Bianca had requested this treatment the previous day when she was out of sorts, and it had worked quite well.

Frustrated with her daughter’s temper, Shannon drove Bianca about a mile away from their home, and dropped her off around 6 PM with a flashlight and instructions to walk home.

She never made it.

By 8 PM, Shannon was panic-stricken, and by 8:20 had reported her daughter missing.

The road Shannon dropped her daughter off on is not well-traveled, and it isn’t likely someone who isn’t local to the area would have known about it. Besides, what are the odds that a predator happened to be sitting on that lonely stretch at the exact moment Bianca was dropped off there? Not very high.

Next, there’s Bianca’s physical size. At 13 years old, she was already 5’6″, and weighed approximately 185 lbs. She was large for an adult, let alone a child, and likely would have been mistaken as grown by any passersby in the dark.

Some speculated that perhaps Shannon Tanner had a hand in her daughter’s disappearance. If not her, then perhaps her live-in boyfriend, Jim Felt. These suspicions heightened to a near-frenzy when, mere months after Bianca vanished, Shannon was charged with the assault of another daughter, allegedly hitting her repeatedly with a curling iron and punching her in the head. According to police reports, Shannon threatened to tie her daughter up and lock her in her bedroom.

Then there were the domestic disputes between Jim and Shannon…

… It couldn’t all be coincidental…

Or could it?

Apparently, the answer is yes, it can be. Local law enforcement has stated neither Shannon nor Jim are suspects in Bianca’s disappearance. Both were investigated fully, and both have passed lie detector tests.

In 2007, two years after Bianca vanished, investigators announced they were looking to find any possible links between this case and the Shawn Hornbeck/Ben Ownby cases. Shawn Hornbeck had been kidnapped in 2002 in Richwoods, MO by Michael Devlin, and held captive in Kirkwood (a suburb of St. Louis) for five years. Devlin, likely growing tired of Shawn, later kidnapped Ben Ownby. Both boys were found, and were saved.

Unsurprisingly, no link was ever established between the cases. Devlin pretty clearly preferred young(ish) boys, and Bianca simply did not fit that mold.

The case of Bianca Piper’s disappearance grew cold.

Shannon moved from her home in Foley, MO, where for years she had kept Bianca’s room exactly as she’d left it, hoping she’d return. She split from Jim Felt, and life went on, though her daughter’s disappearance was never far from her mind.

Locals never forgot, but their lives, too, had to move on.

The case again made headlines in 2014, when one of Bianca’s sisters was charged with promoting prostitution. The woman, Tiffany Piper, admitted to trafficking two high school age girls for sex, and received an eight year sentence for her crimes. Tragically, it was learned Tiffany herself had been a victim of sex trafficking. It appeared to be a case in which the victim becomes the perpetrator.

The family of Shannon Tanner, and Ms. Tanner herself, appear to have lived lives that were anything but charmed. Criminal histories abound, but through their presence in both mainstream and social media, it’s clear one thought remains forefront in their minds:

Where is Bianca Noel Piper?

Posted in ACLU, C-Haze, Current Events, Discrimination, Heather Ellis, KKK, Ku Klux Klan, Missouri, News, Police Officers, Race, Racial Profiling, Racism, Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart, the Heart of America and Racism’s Ugly Head

Ah yes…

The issue of race has again reared its ugly head… this time, at Wal-Mart.

In 2007 a black woman named Heather- then a college student from New Orleans- was in Kennet, MO to visit family. She took a trip to the local Wal-Mart with her teenaged cousin to pick up a few things, and after shopping, the two opted to stand in seperate check-out lanes. Heather realized at some point that her cousin’s line was moving faster than her own. She left the line she was standing in and joined him, butting in front of several patrons to do so.

The customers that Heather moved in front of were not happy that she wasn’t willing to wait her turn, and told her so. At one point, the customer directly behind Heather put her things onto the conveyor belt while the two exchanging heated words. Heather, in response, angrily moved the woman’s things off the belt, replacing them with her own merchandise.

Heather claims that while this was occuring, other customers began hurling racial slurs at her. Witnesses dispute this, saying Heather was the one hurling insults, and that she was so loud, patrons at the rear of the store could actually hear her. She went “ballistic”, they say.

Upon paying for her items, Heather became further enraged when the cashier refused to give her back her change, opting instead to call the police.

The officers, upon arrival, stated that they tried to escort Heather to the parking lot, asking that she leave the facility because she was causing a scene. They said she became extremely beligerent, and was cursing, yelling that she wasn’t going anywhere without her change. Heather states that while attempting to escort her to the parking lot, one of the officers told her she should “go back to the ghetto”.

The incident ultimately escalated to the point that the officers chose to arrest Heather. When attempting to place the handcuffs on her, it is alleged that Heather kicked one officer in the shin, and busted the other officer’s lip. She was booked on charges of resisting arrest, assaulting police officers and disturbing the peace. While being placed in the police car, Heather’s cousin claims he saw her getting her head, repeatedly, slammed against the vehicle. When asked why they were being so rough with her, the officers responded that “she cursed”.

If  convicted, she was looking at a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Heather has always claimed the charges were blown up, and disputes all of the allegations against her but two- she admits she did switch check-out lanes at the Wal-Mart to join her cousin in line, and she does admit to touching another customers merchandise after it was placed on  the conveyor belt.

She has always believed that she was the target of racism.

The incident has opened old wounds in Kennet, MO, a small town with a history of racial intolerance.

Minorities- mostly black and hispanic- have for years accused the all-white Kennet police department of racial profiling. The ACLU staged a peaceful protest in Kennet after Heather’s arrest. The KKK joined the crowd of onlookers during the protest, carrying signs with swastikas and Klan slogans. At the end of the march, officers reported finding business cards allegedly printed by The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan stating that the Klan had been there, and that the “next visit will not be social”.

Heather, this past week, finally stood trial for the charges against her. Her lawyer, the well-known Missouri criminal defense attorney Scott Rosenblum, did not use the issue of race in Heather’s defense. It is important to note, she has no criminal history, has graduated from college since the incident, married, and is a school teacher.

Just as the case was given to the jury for deliberations, Heather reached a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for their dropping the more serious felony charges against her, Heather has agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. She will do no jail time, instead receiving a suspended sentence, one year of unsupervised probation, and will attend court-ordered anger management classes. If she completes the class and breaks no laws over the course of the next 12 months, the conviction will be sealed, and will not be part of her permanent record.

So what really happened that day in 2007 at the Wal-Mart in Kennet, MO? Was a woman unfairly targeted because of her race? Or was the woman, who just happens to be black, at fault here?

Unfortunately, we will likely never know.

Racism is all too real, and sadly, small town America is not exempt from this ugly fact. In actuality, many would claim small town America is where racism is at its worst.

The problem with this particular case is that we wouldn’t even be having a racial discussion at all, had Heather behaved herself. Had she stood in line, not butted in front of anyone, simply paid for her things and gone home, none of  this- not her arrest or her subsequent racial allegations- ever would have come to pass. By her own recollection, no one had given her any trouble whatsoever until she jumped in line and was confronted for doing so. It’s not as if she had been harassed from the moment she came into the store… it wasn’t until after she began displaying inappropriate behavior that people began reacting and saying inappropriate things.

It is not in dispute that Kennet, MO has had racial problems in the past. It is important to note, however, that the ACLU has never gotten itself involved in that particular town until Heather graced the scene. 

Seems to me that the ACLU would have had more success in bringing this town’s racial issues to light had they chosen to protest on behalf of some of the many minorities that have been targeted in that town while they were actually obeying the law. People who were simply driving through the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, and were stopped by racially profiling police officers. Not some half-crazed black woman who was being treated just fine- as just another customer- until she decided to raise a ruckus, cause a scene, and show her ass. 

As minorities, we must stop using racism as a defense to our own bad behavior. We cannot expect to be taken seriously when, by our own admission, we are treated badly after behaving badly.

We have to do better.

The ACLU and the NAACP both have picked some terrible examples of late in an attempt to showcase racism in America. Be it this particular case or the one in Cambridge, MA when a black Harvard Law Professor acted a damn fool and was consequently arrested by a white police officer.

In both cases, racism was never a factor until after the minority in question behaved completely inappropriately.

Heather committed a crime in Kennet, MO, and unfortunately, because of her bad behavior, that town’s legitimate history of racism will not be discussed. We have missed yet another opportunity to hold a responsible conversation about the ills of racial disparity in America today. Heather has given the people of Kennet, MO, an excuse not to have to analyse their own behaviors and prejudices. They can simply look to her outlandish behavior, shrug their shoulders and say, “Just another black person behaving badly”.

The sad truth is that in this case, and in too many others, they’re right.

Posted in C-Haze, Children, Current Events, Cynthia Davis, Economy, Family, Hunger, Keith Olbermann, Missouri, News, Politics, Poverty, Recession, Single Parent, Stephen Colbert

Rep. Cynthia Davis, Hungry Kids and Marie Antoinette

Generally speaking, I don’t follow local politics too closely.

This little nugget, however, has made national news, shaming the state of Missouri, and helping to further cultivate the image of the backwards state so many people already perceive it to be.

Unfortunately, these people are not altogether wrong in their assessment, thanks in part to the recent contributions of such political gems as Cynthia Davis.

Cynthia Davis is a Republican currently serving in the house of Representatives.

She’s landed herself in hot water most recently due to the absolutely jaw-dropping comments she made regarding poor, lower-income, hungry children in the state of Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has a summer program that provides food for impoverished families throughout the state. For too many children, their only guaranteed meals came in the form of free or reduced lunch, during the school year. This program offers meals throughout the summer months, while school is not in session.

Rep. Davis has decided that the program isn’t warranted, and has even come up with a benefit to having hungry children.

Hunger can be a positive motivator.

Yep.

She really did say that.

Davis then goes on to ask, “What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals? Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.”

It is worth mentioning, Ms. Davis is the chairwoman of the state’s Children and Families Committee. Not only should she know better, she is charged with advocating on behalf of… well… children and families.

Wowsa.

I feel like I’ve been thrown back in time, to the days of Marie Antoinette and her famous quote, with a slight modern twist:

Let them eat french fries and a double cheeseburger!

Thank goodness McDonald’s stopped using trans-fat.

Otherwise her fast-food suggestion would have been downright unhealthy.

Nice Job, Cynthia.

I wonder if she’s aware of the fact that currently, in the state of Missouri, 1 in 5 children are hungry.

Or that Missouri has a whopping 9% unemployment rate.

If hungry kids really is a great motivator, Missouri ought to be gearing up for a heck of an upswing… we should see it any day now…

… Right?

Perhaps Representative Davis needs to be reminded that we are in a recession, a terrible economic downturn, and most people have already had the bright idea of  just “getting a job”… but have been unsuccessful in actually finding one.

Davis needs to drive to my neighborhood- located less than 15 minutes from hers. I live in a strong middle class area of the state where unemployment is slightly lower than, say, the City of St. Louis, and yet, there are no jobs here. Even McDonalds has a sign on its wall stating that they are not currently hiring… as does the grocery store down the street.

My neighborhood, in fact, is nearly a mirror image of Cynthia’s.

Many people who never in a million years thought they would find themselves needing to accept food from aid programs, have realized that in order to feed their families, they must do just that.

Our Cynthia claims to question the importance of a program that feeds hungry children because of its cost to regular citizens in the form of state tax dollars.

Unfortunately, Ms. Davis did not do her homework prior to shoving her big ol’ foot into her big ol’ mouth.

Most of the feed-the-hungry programs in MO are hosted by churches, funded by parishioners by way of tithes and donations.

Not at the expense of taxpayers.

In addition, the program offered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is actually funded by theU.S. Departmentment of Agriculture, not by way of state tax dollars from hard-working Missouri families.

Interestingly, it is Cynthia Davis herself, who in the past, has been observed stuffing leftover food into her purse at various committee and lobbyist dinners back in the capital city. One would assume she is taking the food home to feed her hungry children.

Perhaps that is what the hungry of Missouri should do…

Simply follow Davis’ lead and steal.

Why not?

Poor people are a bunch of unmotivated degenerates anyway, right?

The good news is that it does not appear Representative Cynthia Davis will be getting out of this mess unscathed.

Keith Olbermann has recently labeled her his “World’s Worst Person” for the second time.

Perhaps even better is Stephen Colbert’s satirical coverage of Davis’ very serious screw-up.

On a recent episode of the Colbert Report, he pretended to applaud her idiocy, through his “Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger” segment.

According to Colbert, the fact that she never managed to rise above the level of state representative is due to her development of the anti-motivating habit of eating.

He asked that Missouri residents begin denying her food as often as possible so that she can gain her edge back.

Kudos to the nation for taking notice.

Posted in C-Haze, Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty, Missouri, Reggie Clemons, St. Louis

Justice For Reggie Clemons

The story begins late one night in 1991, and the scene is a run down bridge in the City of St. Louis, locally known as the Old Chain of Rocks bridge. A teen hang out, young people loved to come here to party, as it was isolated- the bridge had been closed for years- offering young partiers privacy and excitement.

On this particular night, seven teens were hanging out at the bridge. Two were sisters, Julie and Robin Kerry, and they were with their cousin, Tom Cummins. The other four teens (Reggie Clemons, Marlin Grey, Antonio Richardson and Daniel Winfrey) were unrelated.

No one knows for sure what exactly transpired, but before the night was over, Julie and Robin were missing, and a terrible tragedy was born- one that ripped countless lives apart- culminating in double homicide, police brutality, jury tampering, prosecutorial misconduct, witness intimidation and finally, death row.

Initially, upon the sisters’ disappearance, their cousin, Thomas Cummins was arrested.  He quickly implicated himself in what he admits were the brutal murders of his cousins. According to his initial statement, Cummins made an unwanted sexual advance towards one of the sisters, resulting in an argument between them- ending with Thomas Cummins pushing his cousin off the bridge, blacking out, and subsequently pushing her sister- his other cousin- off the bridge as well. He claimed he did not remember pushing the second woman off the bridge, and some have speculated she may have jumped voluntarily, in hopes of saving her sibling. Regardless, despite Cummins’ confession, Police were unable to get him to agree to have his statement video-taped, and in fact immediately hired legal counsel.

That’s also when his story changed.

Cummins suddenly began claiming his innocence- that he and his two beautiful cousins were actually victims of a heinous crime that night. He stated that not only did he have nothing to do with their murders, but was brutally beaten and robbed, his cousins raped, and was ultimately forced to jump off the bridge, after witnessing Julie and Robin being pushed. Miraculously, he survived, while his cousins, unfortunately, did not. The perpetrators were unknown. Skeptical of this new story, police administered a lie detector test, and Cummins failed miserably. His own father, upon learning the results of the test, stated he wasn’t surprised. It seems his son had a history of concocting wild tales.

There was other evidence of Cummins’ deceipt, besides the results of the lie detector test and his ever-changing stories. In addition to the failed polygraph, he had no bruises (despite claiming to have been beaten and then forced to jump off an 80 foot bridge into the river below), and his hair, upon testing, showed no evidence of river silt- it was also completely dry when he was brought into the police station that night for questioning, as were his clothing. In addition, one of the victims’ bodies was recovered from the river, and showed no sign of sexual assualt, despite Cummins’ claims that both of his cousins had been raped.

Thomas Cummins did eventually change his story one more time, claiming he didn’t actually jump into the river, but instead climbed down to the banks, entering the water at that point to try and save Julie and Robin.

With no evidence to corroborate Cummins’ changing accounts of what happened on the night in question, and no confession on file to disprove his claims of victimhood, police found themselves back at square one. They re-launched their investigation, returning the Old Chain of Rocks bridge, in search of clues. They found a flashlight that they were able to trace back to one of the other four teens present that night- Antonio Richardson- and immediately hauled him in for questioning. Richardson quickly implicated his three other friends that were also present on the bridge that night. Shortly thereafter, Thomas Cummins met with both investigators and the prosecuting attorney’s office, and all charges were dropped against him.

Police immediately charged the remaining four youths- Reginald Cummins, Antonio Richardson, Marlin Grey and Daniel Winfrey with the crimes committed on the bridge that fateful night- rape, robbery and murder. Three of the four charged, except for Daniel Winfrey, were black.

Police came to 19 year old Reggie Clemons’ house shortly thereafter, telling his mother Vera only that they needed to question him about a homicide. They had no warrant, but Vera, taking the police at their word (they promised to bring him right back home), didn’t think there would be a problem in allowing Reggie to answer the officers’ questions. She had noticed no strange behavior in her son, and knew he wasn’t capable of committing a murder. She only became suspicious when police refused to tell her which precinct they were taking her son to. In fact, she had to follow the officers out to their cars before anyone would give her any information at all.

Despite the officers’ promises to bring her son “right back”, Vera did not hear from Reggie again until the following week- and was told late on the evening that her son was taken for questioning, that he would not be returning- he had been charged with murder.

When Reggie was again seen by family, his face was battered, and he was badly bruised. Injuries, he claimed, were caused by St. Louis City police officers, determined to beat a confession out of him.

Unfortunately for Reggie, the officers succeeded.

While never able to get him to admit to the murders of Robin and Julie, he did ultimately succomb to pressure, and confessed to raping the girls. Police had no evidence to corroborate this statement, but Reggie was charged nonetheless.

Reggie’s injuries were so bad that during his initial court appearance, the judge, having noticed the bruises, ordered him to the hospital for treatment prior to being returned to jail. The judge even speculated that Reggie may some day require reconstructive surgery to fix his face. He took the allegations of being beaten by police officers to Internal Affairs, and filed a formal complaint, but nothing was ever done about his accusations, or the physical evidence he had to support them.

Despite the evidence of police brutality, Reggie’s criminal trial moved forward.

In the process, his bad luck never ran out.

Of the four teens who were originally charged in the murders of Robin Julie Kerry, only one, Daniel Winfrey, was offered a plea.

Winfrey, strangely enough, was also the only white person among the group. In return for testifying against Richardson, Grey and Clemons, Daniel Winfrey was sentenced to 30 years in prison…

… and is currently eligible for parole.

Both Winfrey and Thomas Cummins were tapped to testify at the defendants’ trials, though neither seemed to be the slightest bit reliable. Cummins, having failed a lie detector test when telling his version of events, and Winfrey for admitting to at least one witness while awaiting trial that he was willing to lie on the stand in exchange for leniency.

Reggie Clemons’ attorneys, in the meantime, were no more helpful than the police officers were. One of his lawyers, for example, moved to California to begin working another case, when he should have been preparing for Clemons’ trial. He also forgot to notify Clemons or his family of his departure, and was AWOL for an entire week before being located. His remaining lawyer was so incompetent that he neglected to request even basic reports from the prosecution, so that when the trial finally rolled around, Reggie’s mother was charged with coming up with many of the questions to ask witnesses on the stand.

If police and defense council didn’t pose enough problems for Reggie, there was the prosecution to contend with. Prosecutor Nels C. Moss, Jr. was a most corrupt man, and made it all-but impossible for Clemons to receive a fair trial. Ultimately, a non-profit group called The Center for Public Integrity labeled prosecutor Moss as the “leading example” of the nation’s top prosecutors known for prosecutorial misconduct. 

 The trial judge even held Moss in criminal contempt and fined him for his antics during Clemons’ court proceedings.

Some examples of the prosecution’s miscoduct include the fact that even though the crime was committed in the city of St. Louis, a city with plenty of blacks, Clemons’ jury consisted of ten white people and only two african americans- despite Reggie Clemons’ constitutional right to a jury of his peers. This was accomplished by Moss’ actively moving to strike minorities from the jury- and from his planting a St. Louis police officer in the jury pool, having this person dictate to potential white jurors how to answer the questions asked of them, so that they- the white people- would be the individuals picked to serve.

None  of which constitutes the most ethical of behavior.

In addition, Nels Moss was also accused of witness intimidation, scaring one witness so badly prior to the trial that they refused to testify at all.

Not surprisingly, Reggie Clemons and the three other defendants were found guilty of first degree murder, and all three were given the death penalty. Antonio Richardson’s sentence was ultimately commuted to life in prison.

Marlin Gray was executed by the State of Missouri in October of 2005.

Reggie is the only one left. He had a brief moment of hope, after his trial, when a judge overturned his conviction, siting incorrect selection of the jury. Unfortunately, an appellate court reinstated his death sentence, due to Reggie’s attorneys not filing their paperwork on time, according to the constraints of the law.

The date for his state-sanctioned murder was set for June 17, 2009.

Recently, he was issued a stay of execution due to a challenge questioning the state’s use of lethal injection.

For the moment, Reggie’s life is not in immenent danger, but that will not remain the case for long. It is important that we get the attention of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Please.

Sign this petition, requesting clemency for Reggie Clemons.

We don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent at this point. What we know for sure is that he is a fellow American, a fellow human being, who has received anything but a fair trial. Not a shred of evidence has been produced to show that he murdered, or had anything to do with the murders of beautiful Julie and Robin Kerry. We don’t know what his role was, if any, in this heinous crime. We owe it to him, to any citizen of this great country, to be sure.

WE ARE NOT SURE.

Reggie Clemons, like any other person on this earth, does not deserve to die, and justice is not served for the family of Robin and Julie Kerry if we sanction the murder of a man, in retaliation for the murder of their beloved daughters. Robin and Julie cannot come back home.

Reggie, if innocent, still can.

Please get involved, as next time, it might be your brother, husband or father whose life is on the line.