Posted in Arson, Current Events, News, Race, Racism, St. Louis

St. Louis, Arsons and Churches

A suspect has been arrested in the St. Louis church fires.

These fires were long seen as a sign of the racial turmoil in the St. Louis area, as the churches were burned in predominantly black neighborhoods.

With that in mind, I wonder how many are surprised to learn the suspect is a black male.

I have long worried that people against peace in our city will stoop to such lows as to manufacture racial disparity in an effort to spearhead some sort of revolution. Not just black people, either.

The facts are still a long way from being sorted out. Maybe this guy did it, maybe he didn’t. We don’t know much yet, other than he’s been arrested.

Our city needs peace.

Posted in Race, Racism, St. Louis, Uncategorized

Al Sharpton, and the Uncomfortable Race Baiter

In the wake of the tragic death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, a lot of things have been happening. Lots of celebrities and activists have descended upon our fair city, with few as controversial as the Rev. Al Sharpton.

First, let me say that I am not on the Al Sharpton bandwagon. I don’t dislike him, but I don’t love him either.

He annoyed the hell out of me when he came to St. Louis to speak to the media on behalf of the Brown family, but didn’t bother actually going to Ferguson. I was not happy, watching him on the courthouse steps in the city of St. Louis (which is decidedly not Ferguson, nor is it even in the same county), flanked by St. Louis city officials, without a single Ferguson official in sight.

I mean, could he not have done just a little research on the area before gracing us with his presence?

I get it, he’s busy.

However, hearing him speak at Brown’s funeral two weeks later made me forget that little geography snafu with a quickness. I mean, wow. What powerful, moving words. He nailed it, and just when I thought he couldn’t possibly say anything better than what he’d already said, he nailed it again…

… And again.

I loved every second of it.

What I do not love, is some of the backlash I’ve heard about him since then. Most of it on social media, people are especially fond of dismissing The Rev as a “race baiter”. What never- and I mean, never– follows that accusation is anything specific, like why these folks believe him to be said “race baiter”.

Hold on- I take that back. One lady did give a specific example as to why she felt that way. She said that while speaking at Mike Brown’s funeral, he accused white people of murdering the young man, and then called the Black Panthers to action.

Do I need to actually tell you how patently, completely false that is? I mean, 100% pile of straight-up horse shit. I have no idea what that lady was watching, but it was not Al Sharpton giving the eulogy at Mike Brown’s funeral service.

Regardless, what I’ve come to believe is that the term “race baiter”, spit out in accusatory tones, really just means  “makes me feel uncomfortable”. Try it, like this:

Al Sharpton is a race baiter makes me feel uncomfortable.

See? It works!

Al Sharpton is like a recovering alcoholic, and the people that think he’s a race baiter are full-fledged, off-the-wagon drunks. No drunk wants to go out to the bar with a recovering alcoholic, because that recovered addict makes the drunk uncomfortable. Why? Because the drunk is forced to look inside, and look at his/her own drinking habits. That’s no fun, which is why drunks don’t like to do it.

Al Sharpton makes people who have race issues uncomfortable, because he forces them to look at their own issues. He shines a spotlight on racial disparity, and then dares people to make a change, prove him wrong, make a difference. Lots of people just aren’t ready to do that yet, which is fine- it just isn’t Al’s fault.

My plea: stop with the Shapton-bashing, and let’s all work towards a better world; a bigger, brighter future for our babies.

Posted in Race, Racism, St. Louis

Mike Brown, Cops, and a View on Society

I used to tell my husband that while some white people may be prejudiced against black people, most do not realize their prejudices. It’s just ingrained in them somehow… they’re victims of a system that was built to slyly discount us.

I never believed it was this conscious, purposeful thing, until now.

Mke Brown was an 18 year old, scheduled to start college two days after he was killed by an officer in Ferguson, MO. He was unarmed, and he was shot 6 times. The case has caused an uproar, particularly in my hometown of St. Louis, a city in which Ferguson is a suburb of.

Many of my “friends” on social media are white people. I associate with all kinds of people, and the diversity, for the most part, is wonderful. Most of my friends, regardless of race, are amazing people.

In the wake of the emotionally charged aftermath of Mike Brown’s killing, I noticed something strange…

… and heartbreaking.

While not the majority, a quite substantial number of white “friends” had horrible, insensitive, flat-out racist things to say about Mike Brown, about Ferguson, about black people in general. As a whole, we were called animals, criminals and thugs. We were referred to as gangsters, and some of my “friends”- people who know me, and know my black husband, our two black daughters- called black people the most vile and hateful of things.

These vicious attacks against people of color came after reports of a small crowd of looters and rioters posing as protesters in Ferguson late at night. I won’t sugar coat the damage they did. It was substantial, but these were not Ferguson residents, and the number of people looting compared to the thousands of people protesting was negligible.

Even though the majority of the protests were peaceful, these “friends” of mine didn’t focus on any of that. They didn’t care that the United Way was doing drop-ins to provide food and water to the protesters. They didn’t care that residents of the town came out at sunrise to clean up their streets from the activity of the night before, or that booths had been set up to register people to vote.

Rather than pay attention to the reality of what was unfolding in front of our very eyes- we were witnessing the historic moment in which a generation of black boys became activists- they chose instead to focus solely on the violence perpetuated by a criminal few.

These same people chose to completely ignore the shocking and heartbreaking terror being committed against peaceful people by our own law enforcements officers. They cheered when police officers began pointing military weapons at unarmed 90-year old women, they watched with excitement as these officers began kicking the media out of Ferguson, arresting reporters at McDonalds, bringing in tanks and tear gas.

They wildly cheered when police began firing rubber bullets on unarmed citizens, who did nothing more than exercise their constitutional rights to stand in their community and protest the death of yet another unarmed black boy.

So you see, it isn’t violence they hate.

It’s us. It’s me. My daughters, my husband.

They ignored the violence that killed Mike Brown, choosing instead to criminalize him. They circulated a (fake) picture of Brown, showing him drinking alcohol, smoking weed and holding a gun. Even when they learned the picture depicted someone else, someone wholly unrelated to Mike Brown, they continued.

These “friends” knowingly perpetuated a lie against a dead black boy.

They circulated a picture of State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, a Kappa from college, posing with a fellow Kappa, a frat brother, claiming the Captain (a black man) was “throwing up gang signs” in the streets he was charged with protecting.

As support for the police officer that killed Mike Brown began to grow, these “friends” began to label those protesting on the officer’s behalf as “supporters”. Those who rallied in support of Mike Brown’s family, in contrast, with their black skin, were labeled an “angry mob”. This, in spite of the fact that Mike Brown supporters chanted, “Hands up, Don’t shoot!”, while Wilson’s supporters chanted, “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”

I realized, as I watched all of this unfold, that the hatefulness, the ugliness of my “friends”- yes, the racism- they showed, couldn’t possibly be an accident. It was purposeful, and they are not the unsuspecting victims of some backwards societal norm that slights black people.

They want it this way. They want to hate my family and me.

The people I’m referring to don’t actually know any “thugs” firsthand. They hide behind their computer screens and act tough, but would honestly rather die than spend five seconds in the ‘hood, with or without thugs present.

No, the black people they know are gainfully employed, educated and family oriented. The black people they know do not fit the stereotypes these so-called “friends” of mine are so intent on perpetuating. The black people they know look just like my husband and I do, like our beautiful children. Our children who get straight As in school, who play the piano, like to swim, and volunteer for charity. The black people they know look like my husband, the college educated sports official who mentors kids of all ages for a living. They look like me- a woman who was educated at a private university, has a degree, and is successful in her field. A family that loves each other, demands excellence from each other, and loves the world around us.

That’s how I know this prejudice, this racism, is purposeful.

Even when their own experiences with black people are the complete opposite of what the stereotypes portray us as, they still choose- yes, actively choose– to market negative, false stereotypes about us, putting ugly, hurtful and downright horrific labels on our shoulders.

They know we are not what they say we are, and yet, they persist.

I finally understood that these people are not victims of a racist society.These people are what makes our society racist. 

Posted in abduction, Busch Wildlife, Missing, St. Louis, True Crime, Unsolved

Who Killed Angie Housman?

In the St. Louis area, there is a child’s name that      everyone knows. When the name is mentioned, it  send shivers down the listener’s spine:

 Angie Housman

In 1993, Angie Housman was a fourth grader who  lived in St. Ann, a quiet suburb just outside of St.  Louis, MO. She was a trusting little girl, a child who  was unusually friendly.

“…Angie would meet you two or three times and you were her friend… she’d go up to people and say, `Hi. My name is Angie. Are you my friend?’ She was looking for attention.”

It was a cool November afternoon when Angie disappeared. She was at school that day, and the only episode of interest is that she told her teacher she was looking forward to a trip to the country with an “uncle”, scheduled for the following day. Angie was later seen on the school bus that afternoon, and she exited the bus at her normal bus stop. She had to walk past eight houses before making it to her own doorstep.

She never made it home.

It was a simple- yet terrible- coincidence that no one saw her walking from her bus stop that day. Usually, at least two people would have seen her: a woman that normally watches out her front window, and another lady who stands on her front porch as the bus drives by. Neither were present that fateful afternoon, and consequently, no one saw a thing. She had simply vanished, without a trace.

Angie was missing for nine days before her body was found in the Busch Wildlife Conservation area in Saint Charles County, a remote area near St. Louis. She was found by a deer hunter, and had been tied to a tree. She was alive when left there, and had died slowly of exposure. A small pile of ice chips had formed over her body.

It was later revealed that her abductor had kept her alive a full week, torturing and raping her, before taping her to the tree, abandoning her to die.

Law enforcement officials state they do have evidence in the case. They have the killer’s fingerprint from duct tape found at the crime scene, and they likely have his DNA. Still, almost 20 years later, no arrests have been made, no suspects announced. A sketch was issued years ago, depicting a bearded man in a long coat, thought to have been seen in the area of Angie’s disappearance two days prior to her abduction, but nothing ever came of that account. In addition, no one has ever identified the mysterious “uncle” Angie told her teacher about, and no member of the family had plans to take the child anywhere at the time of her disappearance.

Marking the longest-standing unsolved case in St. Louis’ Major Crimes history, no stone has been left unturned. Angie’s step-father was carefully investigated, as were countless others. Over the years attempts have been made to link Angie’s death to such characters as Michael Devlin (the kidnapper of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Owenby), John Wayne Parsons (an admitted child molester from Florida who spent time abusing at least one child in Missouri), Gary Stufflebean (a local child molester, charged with attempted kidnapping in another St. Louis-area case) and many, many others.

Law enforcement has looked into whether other cases could be related to Angie’s- for a time a link was sought between this case and that of Cassidy Senter, another St. Louis-area child who was abducted and murdered in the same timeframe, from the same area, as Angie’s disappearance. Cassidy’s case, however, has since been solved, and authorities do not believe the two are connected. Since that time, other children have disappeared, girls murdered. Locals will remember the still-unsolved disappearance of Bianca Noel Piper (missing since March 2005), and the unsolved murder of 12 year old Heather Kullorn in 1999. While nothing is certain, authorities do not believe the cases are linked.

Almost 20 years later, the question still remains:

Who killed Angie Housman?

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.