ST. ANN — The day before Katherine Pinson died in their custody, St. Ann jail officials had twice called paramedics but then refused medical advice that she be taken to a hospital, according a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court this month.
Pinson’s mother, Patricia Becker, says records show officers repeatedly ignored her daughter’s rising blood pressure, vomiting, chest pains from the moment she arrived at the St. Ann jail Aug. 21. Pinson was incarcerated for outstanding municipal and traffic warrants.
Video cameras in her cell, which officers are supposed to monitor, showed Pinson having convulsions at about 3:10 p.m. on Aug. 22. No one checked on her until just after 4 p.m., when she was found dead, the petition states.
Yet, records show that officials marked her as “OK” during wellness checks at least five times from 7:37 p.m. to 11:16 p.m. that night — after her body had been taken to the hospital, according to the lawsuit against St. Ann and its police and jail officers.
Becker says she wasn’t informed by police about her daughter’s death until three days later.
“I’m not against police officers. We need them. But, we need to weed out the ones that are weighing them down — and there’s a lot in that police department,” Becker said.
St. Ann’s jail is in the midst of another federal suit filed by civil rights law firm ArchCity Defenders for running a ”debtors’ prison” to hold people from multiple municipalities who couldn’t pay their court fines and fees. The firm has also sued St. Ann’s municipal courts for unjust practices, which resulted in the municipality’s end of using cash bail.
St. Ann police did not return a request for comment.
Becker described her daughter as quick-witted and funny, someone who loved constructing home projects. Growing up, she was a great student and daughter, her mom said, but started suffering with depression and cutting herself in high school.
At 19, Pinson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and started becoming addicted to opioids after a medical procedure to remove a tumor in her 20s.
Pinson died at age 45, leaving behind two daughters, a son and a big Irish family, her mother said.
“She would give anyone her last five dollars — and then call me to come borrow it,” said Becker. “When she was abusing, it just wasn’t my Kate.”
Officers need better training on how to handle incarcerated people who may be experiencing drug overdoses, withdrawals and other medical needs, Becker said, changes she hopes her lawsuit will prompt.
St. Louis County Police arrested Pinson on Aug. 19, and initially took her to a hospital to determine if she was medically fit to be incarcerated. The hospital staff decided she was, but noted her heroin/fentanyl use and said she would need over a dozen medications when she was released to the jail.
Those prescriptions were never filled at the county jail, where Pinson was first held, or by St. Ann officers, the lawsuit states.
“Pinson’s medical need was so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the need for medical attention,” stated Becker’s attorney, Lynette Petruska, in the lawsuit. “Nonetheless, she was not provided additional medical care, against medical advice.”
An autopsy performed by a St. Louis County Medical Examiner found that Pinson died of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and gabapentin intoxication. Becker said the last time Pinson ingested any drug was at noon on Aug. 19, the day she was arrested.
The lawsuit seeks punitive and compensatory damages.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch tracks the data behind reported homicides on an interactive map that allows readers to explore information in vari…
Taylor Tiamoyo Harris • 314-340-8319
@ladytiamoyo on Twitter
BYRNES MILL — Allegations made by a resigning city official of voided tickets and questionable police spending reveal what prompted the criminal investigation now facing the town’s police force.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department last week confirmed its investigation into Byrnes Mill police for “alleged criminal violations.” The review was prompted by claims made in a 190-page document written by city prosecuting attorney Allison Sweeney upon her resignation. The document was released this week to the Post-Dispatch in response to a public records request.
The report alleges Byrnes Mill police officers — at the direction of Chief Frank Selvaggio — voided cases for DUIs and other crimes without Sweeney’s knowledge. It also details examples when Selvaggio spent city money without a vote from the Board of Aldermen and alleges sexism on the force, including claims the chief did not allow a female officer to wear makeup “because the officers couldn’t control themselves.”
Sweeney wrote in her March 1 resignation letter that she collected her observations to show why “the city’s trajectory is no longer compatible with my own moral and ethical values.”
Selvaggio’s attorney Travis Noble said Friday that the police chief denies all the allegations of wrongdoing.
“The chief maintains he did nothing inappropriate or illegal,” Noble said.
Selvaggio was appointed in 2018 to lead the department for the city of about 3,200 people in northern Jefferson County.
Sweeney served as city attorney and Byrnes Mill prosecuting attorney for more than a decade, along with a stint as interim city administrator. She declined to comment on her claims, citing attorney-client privilege.
Sweeney writes that as prosecuting attorney, it’s her, not the police, who in most cases can dismiss a misdemeanor citation in Byrnes Mill municipal court.
But, she claims in her memo, she discovered police officers and a city clerk acting at their direction voided tickets for DUIs and other offenses without her knowledge. Some of the case files stated they were sent to the higher Jefferson County Circuit Court under the police chief’s request, but, Sweeney writes, she discovered a few actually just disappeared.
“I do not know why the tickets were voided,” she wrote. “Best-case scenario: The tickets were voided because staff was sloppy or incompetent. The worst-case scenario is that someone of influence is dismissing DUI tickets as favors to friends.”
Sweeney wrote that the actions violated her authority and included using her signature stamp without her knowledge.
“The staff and I take the prosecution of DUIs very seriously,” she wrote of her concerns. “I believe this offense to be the most dangerous and serious crime I am authorized to prosecute.”
Sweeney also alleges that Selvaggio moved forward with spending city money without the required vote from the Byrnes Mill Board of Aldermen for items including a shed, a fingerprint machine, and several police Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs. She claims the department also entered a $50,000 five-year contract with Flock, a license-plate reader camera company, without a board vote.
“The city can absolutely not afford this reoccurring expense,” Sweeney wrote of the Flock contract. She adds: “Good news: The contract is void. Bad news: You have already paid for the first year.”
Sweeney alleges that Selvaggio also asked a city employee to care for his dogs during work hours and mistreated female staff.
Sweeney wrote Selvaggio had all the male officers vote on whether a female officer could work lighter duties during parts of her pregnancy.
“I should not have to say this,” Sweeney wrote. “Under no circumstances should all the men be asked to make a management decision regarding a pregnant co-worker.”
Sweeney writes that the chief told her he would never hire another female officer because the maternity leave “almost killed the department.”
After Sweeney says she detailed her concerns, she claims the chief eventually told her he did hire another woman, but “she’s the perfect female officer because she’s gay, so she won’t get pregnant,” Sweeney wrote in the memo.
The investigation into the allegations of crimes in Sweeney’s memo continues, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Jefferson County sheriff’s investigators also seized municipal court computers last week as part of the investigation.
The sheriff’s department will eventually send the findings to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the municipal presiding judge, the department said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Byrnes Mill municipal court remains temporarily closed until the city can hire a new prosecuting attorney.
The city hopes to approve the hire of a new attorney in the position at the next Board of Aldermen meeting April 5, Mayor Rob Kiczenski said in an email.
Kiczenski declined to comment on Sweeney’s allegations but said the city has hired attorney Craig H. Smith.
“We have provided information to our new legal counsel for his review,” Kicenski said.
The Byrnes Mill police department, which now has 12 officers, made news over the last six years when two officers were charged with crimes.
A former interim police chief, Michael Thomas Smith, pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 for stealing $7,000 found inside a Bible during a police raid. Another former Byrnes Mill officer was convicted of sodomizing a boy he met on a dating app in 2019.
Take a look at some of the video highlights of 2022 from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff.
Erin Heffernan • 314-340-8145
@erinheff on Twitter
St. Louis Post-Dispatch CLAYTON — Global footwear
company Caleres,hot off a record year of sales, has struck a deal to have a new developer buy its Clayton headquarters after previous plans with a different buyer fell through.
Local development firm Pier Property Group confirmed it has Caleres'9-acre campus at Maryland Avenue and Topton Way under contract to buy. The developer is planning a large-scale project with apartments, retail, entertainment, office space and a hotel, said Pier Property Group owner Michael Hamburg. He declined to comment further.
His plan is similar to what the previous buyer, Overland-based CRG, the local development arm of construction company Clayco, had envisioned for the site when it announced its project last year.
That plan, estimated to cost $500 million, would have built a smaller office for Caleres while also bringing in housing and luxury amenities like a Life Time fitness facility.
It's not clear why that deal no longer is moving forward. Caleres referred questions to CRG, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Caleres, formerly known as Brown Shoe Co., has marketed its headquarters for sale since 2021 in hopes of cashing in on the competitive demand for Clayton's real estate that often commands the St. Louis' region highest prices. The company also looked to reduce its footprint — its campus includes two office buildings totaling341,000square feet—after the coronavirus pandemic that changed businesses' needs .Caleres also employs fewer people in Clayton compared to a decade ago. It still, however, remains one of Clayton's biggest employers.
Hamburg said he approached Caleres to acquire the site and that his redevelopment plan is still in the early stages. He declined to comment on a timeline or next steps. His Pier Property Group has built several apartment developments across the region, including in Maryland Heights and one in the city of St. Louis that nationwide retailer Target Corp. is anchoring near St. Louis University.
Caleres said last year that the deal with CRG hinged partly on whether Caleres could receive state and local incentives. Mark Schmitt, Caleres' senior vice president and chief logistics officer, said in a statement that the company still intends to stay in Clayton and referred all other questions to CRG.
Mayor Michelle Harris said the city had only a few conversations with CRG and that the developer never submitted an official application of redevelopment with Clayton.
But Harris said Clayton sees a silver lining in the CRG deal not moving forward: The city is embarking on a new master plan and can have more opportunities to weigh in on best uses for the property.
"We really enjoy having Caleres, being home to Caleres and hopefully that continues," Harris said.
Caleres, meanwhile, reported its best financial year in its 144year history this week with revenue for fiscal year 2022 up 6.9% to $2.9 billion over the previous year. Steph Kukuljan • 314-340-8506 @StephKukuljan on Twitter email@example.com
ST. CHARLES — Shawn Kavanagh was found guilty Friday of three counts of first-degree murder for the 2014 Valentine's Day killings of two women and a 7-year-old old boy.
Prosecutors will now seek the death penalty against Kavanagh, 32, who tracked down his then wife, Jessica Powell, in a friend's Warren County trailer the evening of Feb. 14, 2014, after she backed out of Valentine's Day plans. There, he stabbed Powell before repeatedly stabbing and killing her friends, Tara Lynn Fifer, 22, and Lexy Vandiver,29,along with Vandiver's7-year-old son,Mason.
Powell and Vandiver's 18-month-old daughter,Jeanette, survived.
St. Charles County Circuit Judge Rebeca Navarro-McKelvey convicted Kavanagh Friday on nine charges including counts of first-degree murder,domestic assault,burglary and armed criminal action.
Kavanagh's public defenders admitted he was behind the killings in the three-day trial in St. Charles this week,but sought the lower charge of second-degree murder because, they argued, the killings were not premeditated.
The verdict was a long time coming for the families of Kavanagh's victims. Delays were prompted by turnover on his defense team, the COVID-19 pandemic, illness among attorneys and the death of a defense attorney's family member.
"It was constant stress and worry every time the trial date would get moved," said Fifer's younger sister,Hayley Roberts.
Roberts attended all three days of the trial.
"Hearing that first 'guilty' was like a light coming on for me," an emotional Roberts said just after the verdict. "Maybe it was my faith in the justice system being restored."
Roberts said she would be satisfied with a sentence of either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Kavanagh told police he flew into a rage the night of the stabbings when he spotted his wife with Fifer.
Powell and Fifer worked together as nursing assistants at a New Florence nursing home and developed a romantic relationship, according to Fifer's family and texts presented during the trial.
"My sister was the most genuine kind of sweet," Roberts said. "She was so trusting."
Fifer loved her pickup truck and always smelled like good cologne, Roberts said. A nursing home resident cut her hair into the faux mohawk Fifer wore after her death to honor her.
"She was so loved by so many people,"Roberts said.
Lexy Vandiver's sister-in-law, Heather Vandiver, now has joint custody of Jeanette,the18-month old baby who was also in the trailer the night both her mother and 7-year-old brother, Mason, were killed.
Heather Vandiver carried a framed photo of Mason into court every day of the trial and cried tears of relief when the verdict was read.
She said she hopes Kavanagh gets the death penalty in the case.
"With all the trauma he's caused so many people,he deserves to be put to death," she said.
Jeanette is now 10 and lives in Lincoln County.
"She doesn't know the story yet,"Heather Vandiver said. "She just knows they're in heaven now."
Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Kelly King is personally prosecuting Kavanagh with help from the Missouri Attorney General's Office.
King said in closing arguments Wednesday that Kavanagh told police only Fifer "deserved it" because she was having an affair
with his wife and trying to"steal" her.
"Jessica, to him, was a possession,"King said."He wasn't going to let anyone take his possession —particularly Tara Fifer."
Defense attorney Anthony Davidson said in closing arguments that Kavanagh has mental disorders that made him incapable of deliberation while in a rage. The defense called two psychiatric experts who testified that Kavanagh has borderline personality disorder and intermittent explosive disorder.
David son argued Kavanagh was likely in a dissociative state and became remorseful soon after the stabbing ended, calling 911 to report the stabbings himself and screaming at a mirror: "Why did I do this?"
Beginning Monday both the prosecution and defense are expected to present victim statements and character testimony that the judge will consider for sentencing.
Kavanagh waived his right to a jury trial and requested the case be held outside Warren County, so it will be up to Judge Navarro McKelvey to decide if he will be sentenced to death for his crimes. Erin Heffernan • 314-340-8145 @erinheff on Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org
ST.LOUISCOUNTY—Four charged after teen shot 11 times: Four were charged on Thursday in a teen's killing in Florissant.
Charged with murder and armed criminal action are Brandon Jackson, 19, André Pollard, 19, Kaylen Russell, 19, and Antynious Williams, 18.
Police say the group got out of a car in October in the 800 block of Graham Road to fatally shoot the victim, identified as Demetrion Simmons, 19.
Authorities say Simmons was shot more than 11 times.
Bond is set for each at $750,000. ST. LOUIS — Boy dies in crash on I-70: A teenage boy died and two people were injure dearly Wednesday when the car the boy was driving hit a pole and broke apart on Inter state 70 in St. Louis, police said.
Police identified the boy who died as Isaac Harper,17,of the1500 block of Cochran Place.
Isaac was driving a 2006 Infiniti M35 that was speeding east on I-70 about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said. Isaac was changing lanes near Carrie Avenue when he lost control of the car and hit a median wall, police said.
The car slid along the wall until it struck a Missouri Department of Transportation sign pole. The force of the crash caused the car to split apart, and all three occupants were thrown from the vehicle, police said.
Isaac died at the scene. One of his passengers, a 17-year-old girl, was stable at a hospital. The other passenger, an unidentified male, was critically hurt; police said they don't know his age.
WASHINGTON COUNTY — Iron County sheriff, two deputies face felony charges: The Iron County sheriff, two Iron County sheriff's deputies, and another man have been criminally charged in Washington County this week.
Iron County Sheriff Jeffery L. Burkett, 46, Deputy Matthew A. Cozad, 39, Deputy Major Chase R. Bresnahan,31, and Donald R. Gaston, 62, were reportedly taken into custody Thursday afternoon on multiple felony charges.
Burkett has been charged with eight counts, including participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, first-degree attempted kidnapping, first-degree stalking, second-degree stalking, obtaining criminal history record info under false pretense, misusing 911, making a false report, and conspiracy to commit a class a/b/c felony or unclassified felony exceeding 10 years.
Bresnahan is charged with seven counts, including participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, first-degree stalking, second-degree stalking, obtaining criminal history record info under false pretense, misusing 911, and two counts of conspiracy to commit a class a/b/c felony or unclassified felony exceeding 10 years.
Cozad faces six counts, including participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, first-degree stalking, second-degree stalking, misusing 911, and two counts of conspiracy to commit a class a/b/c felony or unclassified felony exceeding 10years.
Gaston has been charged with six counts, including participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, attempted parental kidnapping, first-degrees talking, second-degrees talking, making a false report, and conspiracy to commit a class a/b/c felony or unclassified felony exceeding 10 years.
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