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Bellefontaine Cemetery tours

A statue depicting a hand laying a rose on a grave at Bellefontaine Cemetery on Tuesday, Sept. 22. 2015. The 'last flower' motif is commonly used at gravesides to denote death. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • The widow and son of a maintenance worker fatally shot last year at Bellefontaine Cemetery say they have been kept in the dark about the investigation and were illegally denied police reports on the case.

They are fighting the city police department in St. Louis Circuit Court over a Dec. 16 open records request for unredacted investigative records in the murder last summer of Omar Villasenor, 44, of St. John, a Mexican immigrant seasonal worker living here on an H1B visa.

Villasenor was a BrightView landscaping worker for Bellefontaine Cemetery, according to court records.

He was fatally shot about 6:30 p.m. June 3 as he was cleaning and putting equipment away at a maintenance building on the eastern edge of the cemetery in the 4900 block of West Florissant Avenue. He was shot several times and died at the scene.

Villasenor’s widow, Sandra Pulido, and their 22-year-old son Raymundo, who live in Mexico, are battling the police department in court over the police department’s refusal to provide the entire investigative file for Villasenor’s case.

“It is unconscionable that the city of St. Louis police department has kept the family of the murder victim in the dark and refuse(s) to provide any further information related to this homicide,” lawyer Gonzalo Fernandez wrote in a petition for records.

Fernandez said in a hearing Tuesday before Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty that the family thinks “there isn’t any real investigation going on because no one’s ever called them.”

In a filed response, Assistant City Counselor Raymond Flojo said the release of the investigative records to the family “will likely jeopardize the ongoing criminal investigation.”

Flojo said the records contain “confidential information not necessarily known to suspects, witnesses or persons of interest” but that the department would be willing to provide records stripped of names and personal information to the family’s lawyer with an agreement they would not be shared with the family.

The Sunshine Law, which is Missouri’s public records law, says immediate relatives of a deceased victim or their lawyer shall be provided “unaltered and unedited records as part of any civil claim or defense” unless a judge rules that a criminal investigation might be jeopardized by their release.

Fernandez said the family has been provided only an incomplete four-page incident report containing a brief narrative on the shooting and where Villasenor’s body lay.

He said he wants to give Villasenor’s widow and son an update in the case as well as explore a possible civil case against the landscaping company.

Fernandez said all the family has heard is that Villasenor, a supervisor, was threatened after warning one of his subordinates to work harder.

“I just want to be able to give (the family) some general information,” he said.

In court Tuesday, Moriarty asked Flojo and Fernandez to try to reach a compromise before a hearing March 7.

Joel Currier is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter here: @joelcurrier.