Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

Murder at the Cathedral



Let me tell you about one of the murders I’ve been involved with.

 

In the late winter of 2002, we, (Peter & Paul Community Services), were approached by the staff at Christ Church, the Episcopal cathedral for the diocese, located downtown. As a church they were in the habit of opening their doors during the day. As a result, they had become a de facto day shelter for many of their “downtown neighbors” as they called the persons, homeless, who would hang out especially during inclement weather. We were requested to come to a meeting, along with another homeless service provider, with the dean, (The pastor of the cathedral parish.) and the administrative assistant, Carole Bledsoe.

 

They were seeing 45 to 60 individuals, mostly in the morning, who were mostly living on the streets and alleys around downtown. Some were spending nights in a large shelter a block away. During the day, they were knocking on Carole’s office door, asking to use the phone or for a toiletry or a bus pass. Some things she had. Some things she didn’t but the main thing she did have was job description that didn’t include social worker. Ministering to these folks was taking her away from her responsibilities, her regular duties. Carole and the dean were asking for help to offer a better response to the needs they were being faced with. The other agency recommended they simply keep their doors locked and direct folks to their location about 6 blocks away. The dean, looking a bit incredulous, told them, “We’re a church. We’re not in the business of telling folks to go away”.

 

We agreed to study the situation and see if we could develop a plan. Spring was in the offing and their current situation would be somewhat alleviated for the time being. I started coming by during the mornings and spending time with the patrons. It was no surprise that I already knew many of them. The busiest time was between 9, when they opened the doors, and 11. At noon there was a free lunch offered at the agency that had suggested they lock their doors. The crowd would diminish as lunch time approached. The idea of a drop-in center began to take shape. Several of the regulars were completely unsheltered and not connected to any services. There were a number of seriously mentally ill individuals so completely lost in their blur of senses they weren’t capable of lucid conversation. I made it a point to reach out to them over the ensuing months.

 

Leonard was, in the words of Groucho Marx, well over four feet tall. He frequently lit one cigarette from the butt of another. He was a profane, obnoxious little man about five feet tall with a heavy Brooklyn accent. He had butter yellow hair slicked straight back from body oil and grime. He never bathed or changed his clothes and was filthy. On a dry day, you wanted to be upwind of him. If it was damp outside, most people didn’t want to be anywhere near him. He always had an edgy demeanor. I regarded his attitude as a defense mechanism to keep people at a distance. Constantly chatting to no one in particular about how everything was inferior. Things aren’t like they used to be. If he was in charge, he’d make big changes. He was disdainful of everyone and always had to have the last word. He could be redirected and sometimes he had to be directed outside. If done the right way, he wasn’t a problem. Direct him to do things he could do as opposed to tell him what he couldn’t. It was futile to get into a power struggle with him. I always tried to phrase things in a way to not provide him something to push back against.

 

Robb was a gentle giant. Tall, thin and easily confused, he didn’t talk much and was very soft spoken when he did. He was deferential and passive to a fault. He was easily intimidated and was withdrawn. If there was tension or anxiety, he tended to remove himself to a quieter place. He occasionally helped the housekeeping and maintenance staff if they asked. Give him a specific task and he would take it on. He wasn’t fast but he was diligent. He helped clean the restrooms and empty wastebaskets and for this he was provided a bus pass and other helpful items.

 

Vickie was a legend. Alcoholic and schizophrenic, she had been on the streets almost continuously for at least 20 years. She had been through every shelter and transitional housing program St Louis had to offer. She had given birth to at least three children who were all taken by the state. She was a sometime sex worker. Any woman on the streets for anything more than a brief interlude will eventually be sexually assaulted. In all her years on the streets, I doubt Vickie could count the number of times it had happened to her. Her issues were well known and unmistakable. She didn’t trust the police enough to make a report. They didn’t trust her enough to take one if she tried.

 

Another was Mike. I was acquainted with Mike for years from the shelter. He had been in and out. HA big guy, he would sit and squint, his head tilted back and a big smile on his face. He didn’t draw attention to himself or much engage with anyone. In the cacophony of the shelter, it was easy to miss the degree of his isolation. At the cathedral, he kept to himself. He would walk around the halls or cathedral interior speaking softly, addressing the statues and portraits of the various religious figures. Mike had been hanging around the cathedral for a few years, sleeping outside on the ground between the buttresses at night.

 

There was a guy whose real name we didn’t know. For lack of anything else, Carole gave him the moniker ‘John’ for simple convenience’ sake. We had to call him something. He was a bear of a man. A complete loner, he only came into the cathedral when no one else was around. Carole was the only one he would speak to. No one knew where he stayed although we knew he sometimes hung out, alone in the downtown library next door. He had dark, curly hair and a matching, thick, bushy beard that came up high on his cheek bones. Whenever I said ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ he would grunt and move on.

 

These were only a few of the more acute personalities hanging around. The rest of the folks had issues but generally had a higher level of functioning. Depression was perhaps the most common issue. The challenge was recognizing whether it was clinical or situational. Whether that was a distinction without a difference is another question entirely.

 

Each day, when Carole arrived, the first thing she would do was to approach each of these most sick individuals, call them by their names and ask how their day was. Providing that interaction was important to her. She wanted them to know that she knew their names, and send some kindness their way.

 

Once the decision was made to open a drop-in center it was agreed the cathedral would compensate PPCS for staff time and material expenses. They offered an office on the ground floor. It was perhaps 600 square feet, not perfectly square, 18 to 20 feet per side. I managed to fit in three 36X36 inch tables and 17 stackable chairs. I hired some new staff into the shelter to train them to work with the population. We would open on the first of October. We would serve coffee, a light breakfast, information and referrals. I would coordinate with other agencies to bring other providers to bear. We had an arrangement with a bakery who would donate their day old breads, bagels and pastries. Staff would arrive at 6 AM to prepare to open at 7. We would remain open till 11. Through all the planning Carole was my point of contact with the cathedral. I saw her every day and once or twice a week we would have an extended sit down conversation.

 

We opened on the first of October 2002 just as fall was really starting to kick in. When there was nothing more than an open door the traffic was 45 to 50 during the warmer months and perhaps 60 during the winter. We knew there would be an increase but within our first week of offering a light breakfast and coffee, we were seeing between 150 and 180 people a day, far beyond anything we had anticipated. Instead of lessening the traffic around the administrative offices we had multiplied it by a factor of at least 3. The Tuttle Building was ‘U’ shaped, built around the apse of the cathedral. Prior to opening folks sat in the nave. Our office was set off the north wing of the transept. The crowd filled the hallway pretty much all the way around the apse. In the process it was limiting access to the Parish offices and the elevator to the bishop’s and other diocesan offices upstairs. For some, unaccustomed to being around a crowd of chronic street people, it felt like running a gauntlet trying to do business there. Most of the crowd filled the hall because there was no way to accommodate them in our little room. I was trying to regulate the traffic flow and running into serious resistance from some volunteers, members of the congregation, who were militantly committed to the program. For them nothing was too much. They believed it was the single most important thing happening there. Some of the staff and congregation had never been comfortable with the situation and were now very concerned. Our ‘supporters’ feelings were: those fears and concerns be damned. The fearful just needed to get over it and deal with it. My fear was we were so crowded, if a fight broke out or if someone had a heart attack, it was too tight to navigate. Besides, the crowd was too thick for three staff and a few inexperienced volunteers to reasonably control should something bad occur. I was as wrapped up navigating the polarity of church politics as I was working with the needs of the folks we were trying to serve. We were serving too many people, doing it as best we could, which wasn’t always very good. Like a jockey in a race, the horse had almost run out from under us at the gate and we were trying to grasp the reins and keep from falling off. We had become aware of a large downtown population living in the shadows, disconnected from family and not receiving services from anyone. In fact, many were being denied services because the city and county had residency requirements. If a person’s last paid address wasn’t from the city or county they were barred from receiving services. Some of these people had been in St Louis literally for years but had never paid rent. It was a stupid rule that many of us fought against and sought ways to circumvent.

 

Along with the day old bagels we supplied coffee, creamer, sugar, margarine, peanut butter and jelly. I had a volunteer doling out the sugar, no more than three teaspoons per cup. Even so, we were quickly going through 50 pounds of sugar every week. (A coffee drinker myself, having a decent cup of coffee was a priority for me as I knew most agencies that served coffee served lousy coffee and weak on top of that.) We would give away well over a hundred pounds of bagels every day.

 

I had invited other service providers to come in and do outreach. Grace Hill was sending two nurses in twice a week to do assessments and refer people into their clinics. The VA was sending outreach workers to identify veterans and connect them with services. Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and the Legal Clinic from the St Louis University Law School was sending students and social workers to address myriad issues ranging from disability cases to child support and custody to any sort of misdemeanor offences. We were providing contact information for other agencies unable to come down.

 

Aside from myself, I had two other Peter & Paul staff persons on site every day and a rotating group of volunteers from the congregation. A good part of the work of PPCS staff, including myself, was trying to establish rapport with the more profoundly mentally ill. Our goal was to reach constructive relationships and introduce people to meaningful services, get them stabilized and hopefully see them move off the streets.

 

Every now and then we receive flyers from families seeking missing relatives. One came from a family from Illinois near the Indiana border, hand delivered by an adult son searching for his father. Dad, whose name was Gary, was a mid 40’s schizophrenic who had fled home after an involuntary hospitalization. They had no idea where he might be and had been searching in ever widening circles: Indianapolis, Springfield, Chicago, St Louis and many smaller towns in between. Their flyer had his name, age, approximate weight and a black and white photo of a clean cut man who didn’t look old enough to have an adult son. We had a flyer in the Breakfast Club room and Carole had another on a bulletin board in her office. We had told the son the man in the picture didn’t look familiar but we would keep an eye out. I explained that we are governed by privacy laws akin to HIPAA. I could only contact the son if the man gave me permission. This was all stuff he had heard before. We could feel his genuine concern.

 

I wanted to limit the number of people allowed in at any one time. I had one staff person outside because the smokers were out there. Myself and another tended to work inside although we did rotate over the course of the morning. Our volunteers mostly worked inside. I was hoping some of the crowd would disperse. My gung ho volunteers were virulently opposed. They, who had considerable weight on the parish social ministries committee, wanted to serve all comers all the time. I thought we had been lucky. There had been no major incidents and most folks were very appreciative of what was being done.

 

One afternoon, after we had cleared out for the day, John confided to Carole that he, in fact, was the Gary on the handbill. Needless to say, she was floored. With all his hair he didn’t resemble the clean cut, youngish face on the flyer. He wasn’t ready to allow contact with the family. He explained his fear from the involuntary commitment.

 

 

 

After their conversation she immediately called me. For many schizophrenics any change from routine is a challenge. Their initial reaction to any suggestion is likely to be no. Getting to yes takes kindness and gentle persuasion. We strategized on getting him to allow us to contact the family. Suggesting this would be like planting a seed. Carole would regularly bring up what a polite, fine young man Gary’s son was. He must be very proud. Only every couple of days would she bring up contact. In one of our encounters, I referred to him by his real name and got no reaction. It didn’t bother him. I wouldn’t say he warmed up to me but he sensed I wasn’t a threat to him.

 

After a couple weeks he finally relented. He gave Carole permission to contact the family. He didn’t want to talk to them but Carole could let them know he was here and okay. This, of course, began a process of almost daily conversation for Carole and me with the family. How could they help him? What might he need? Winter was approaching. I suggested insulated Carhartt type coveralls, some good boots, hat and gloves. The weather was turning and those would be very helpful were he to stick it out through the winter. They made the purchases and said they, Gary’s son and parents, would deliver them. I suggested they wait a week so Carole could get him used to the idea they were coming. It probably wouldn’t go well if, in his mind, they abruptly entered his world. They agreed to wait a week till the following Friday the 13th. Carole just let Gary know they were coming, assuring him he didn’t have to see them. They were bringing gifts to drop off. She kept reminding him that it would be Friday around noon should he want to see them.

 

They arrived earlier than anticipated. They wanted to see the Breakfast Club in operation. There was no sign of Gary at this point which was hardly unusual. He typically arrived around noon for his chat with Carole. Normally, I would be gone before noon but I wanted to be there. We wrapped up our morning and I walked next door to the library, one of Gary’s regular spots. No sign. I went back to the church and sat with his family. Around one, they decided to get some lunch at the MacDonald’s on Tucker and I walked through the library again. Still nothing. I went back and was going to Carole’s office when he came in almost right behind me. I had no idea what direction he had come from. Carole immediately showed him his packages and told him his parents and son would be back very shortly. There was a moment of uncertainty on his face but only a moment. He sat down on a chair in the hall.

 

When the family returned they stepped into the hall and their eyes locked. Gary stiffened for a moment, then relaxed. They slowly walked toward him. His mother softly said, “Hello, Gary, how are you?” The following conversation was kind. They were putting no pressure on him. They let him know, should he want, they had made arrangements for him to stay in a motel near home and for him to get his meals at a diner he was familiar with. They asked about St Louis, what he liked about it? His son asked him if there was anywhere they could buy a cigar, apparently a onetime pleasure for Gary. Gary indicated there was. Son asked ‘how far’? Gary said about 6 blocks. Son asked if Gary would like to ride over in the car and he agreed. They left, leaving the parents with Carole and me. They got their cigars and drove around smoking before returning to the cathedral. Carole and I remained with the parents and they told us of their struggle. Gary had a college degree and had even taught in a high school. He had married young and had apparently had his first episode of MI while in his early 20’s. His behavior became more and more erratic. His marriage fell apart and he couldn’t work anymore. He had good periods and bad periods which grew longer and more frequent. They were very thankful for everything we had done. Their greatest fear had been that Gary would die somewhere and be buried in a pauper’s grave and they would never know.

 

After about half an hour, Gary and son returned. Gary had agreed to go home. It was less than two weeks before Christmas.

 

This was a real accomplishment. Seeing him reunite with his family was a potent reward. It was a wonderful topic of discussion that Sunday at services, the third Sunday of Advent. It all grew out of Carole’s kind and gentle nature. It was her kindness and persistence that brought this family together again after several years apart. That it happened in the Christmas season made it resonate even more.

 

The following week was full of activities. That Tuesday, the 17th, would be the shelter Christmas party. On Wednesday the legal clinic from St Louis University Law School would bring a hot meal to the Breakfast Club along with toys, wrapping paper, ribbons, scissors and tape for anyone who wanted to wrap a gift for a child. Thursday would be a Christmas party for residents of our transitional housing programs. Already having the beard, I was slated to play Santa. After our morning at the cathedral, I changed into my Santa suit and drove to Magdalen Lanes, the bowling alley belonging to St Mary Magdalen’s parish. A fine time was being had by all when I got a page from the cathedral. I borrowed a phone and called.

 

I was answered by a volunteer in hysterics, Carole was dead and I must return. I didn’t think I heard right and started to say something when another voice came over. Who was I? Why would this man be calling me? It was a detective. I explained who I was and what my role at the cathedral was. He asked me if I would return. It wasn’t really much of an ask. I was quite in shock. I returned the phone and explained what I had just heard to my executive director and made my exit. I drove down to the cathedral not even thinking about the Santa suit I was wearing. As I was pulling into the parking lot I could see a crowd across the street of gawkers and television trucks with their telescopic antennas fully extended. The cathedral was completely surrounded with yellow crime scene tape and there were more cop cars than I could readily count. As I got out of the car I could hear someone across the street holler, “Hey! It’s Tom! Tom’s here!” as if somehow I could begin to make this right. I started walking toward the door when two cops ran up to me, “Awright, Santa, where the hell you think you’re going?” I explained who I was and that I had been asked to come down, giving them the detective’s name. They spoke with someone over the radio and started walking me toward to door. Before we got there, it opened and several cops walked Robb out of the building. He was in cuffs and they brought him around a squad car and eased him into the back seat. There were three cameramen moving like a school of fish as they backed up and curled around the car. They never looked at one another but moved in perfect unison. The image of Robb being eased into the back of a cop car was all over television screens for the next 12 hours.

 

Once inside the building I was stunned at the great splatters of blood on the floor. Everything was already surreal and now it was completely grotesque. Everyone who had been present on the ground floor was being kept apart from one another, as detectives were interviewing people one at a time There were many more people who had been upstairs. They were released once it was clear they hadn’t been on the ground floor.

 

After being interviewed and explaining who I was and what I did, I was asked to go to police headquarters and identify someone. Once again, not really a request, but I was more than willing. I was taken, still in my Santa suit, to the downtown headquarters, up a floor and into a darkened hallway with a curtain, behind which was one of those two way mirrors. They pulled the curtain back and I was surprised to see Mike sitting on the other side. I was expecting to see Robb. I confirmed his identity and told and what I knew about him, whereupon I was returned to the cathedral. They called ahead to let them know I was coming back and to what door so someone would be there to let me in. There were still crowds, including reporters clamoring outside. Once I was inside I joined the small group and for the first time got to hear what everyone had experienced.

 

Our morning was typical. We had cleared out by about 11:30. A little after 1, Mike started making a lot of noise in the hallway. Carole went to her Dutch door. She opened the top and saw Mike, someone she had known and spoken to practically every day for a couple years. She fully opened her door and stepped into the hallway. She approached Mike, saying his name and touching him on the shoulder. At this instant, Robb stepped around the corner to see Mike spin around, knife in hand and in one movement slash Carole’s throat. She started to stagger back toward her office. Two other cathedral staffers were in that moment also stepping into the hallway in response to the noise Mike. Robb, John and Peggy had seen Mike run, but only Robb had seen him actually slash Carole. After the cut, she instinctively turned and took a couple steps toward her office door. Realizing she wasn’t going to make it she turned and took a couple steps toward John who gathered her in his arms and carried her backwards into Peggy’s office, easing her into a chair. Each step of the way great splashes of blood streamed, in accord with her diminishing heartbeat, out of her throat onto the floor. It had only been a couple of seconds. She was already dead. He had severed her carotid artery.

 

To this day, I cannot stand in that hallway and not see that blood.

 

Robb was held because he was already in the hall when John and Peggy stepped out of their offices. He was the only person who had actually seen Mike cut Carole. He would remain a suspect until they knew for certain he wasn’t the killer. Everyone had given similar descriptions of Mike and police picked him up within minutes. He had moved barely a block away. He was sitting on a bench in Hobo (Lucas) Park across the street. He gave no struggle and appeared not to have a care in the world. He had his bloody knife in his pocket.

 

Inside the cathedral, we were all inshock. I was feeling a tremendous responsibility. I had been brought in to try and smooth things out. Instead, by every measure, things were way out of control and now, Carole was killed. I was completely dumbfounded when, at one point, the dean looked at me and asked, “What do we do now?” All I could do was look back with watery eyes. I didn’t have the breath to speak. By now, this was dominating all the local television stations and flashing on wire services, literally, all over the world. “MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL”. If it bleeds, it leads and it certainly did for the next several days. Meanwhile, we, inside the cathedral were in a vortex. We avoided all the windows and doors. All through the rest of the afternoon there was a constant metallic tattoo of coins or keys tapping on metal or glass trying to draw someone to a door to answer questions. It didn’t let up until they knew it was too late to get something for the 6 O Clock news.

 

It was determined the cathedral doors would open at 7PM for a 7:30 memorial service. Calls were made to a few pertinent individuals. I called my wife who was watching the television, horrified. I asked her to bring me a change of clothes so I could finally get out of the Santa outfit. I told her what door to come to and be prepared to spend the rest of the evening sequestered inside.

 

Slowly we were able to think through the course of the next few days. First thing was an outfit, recommended by the police to contact to come in and clean up the blood. Apparently there’s enough of this type of business that there are companies that specialize in cleaning up accident and murder scenes after the cops are through. The service at 7:30 would be open to the public and folks would be welcome to linger afterwards and talk. The Breakfast Club would be closed the next day, Friday, but volunteers would complete the assemblage of the gift bags to be given to the downtown neighbors at the Sunday morning Christmas breakfast which would take place as planned. The Breakfast Club would open for business as usual on Monday morning.

 

The rest of the afternoon/evening were like a dream. I was simply numbed, going through motions.

 

That evening when the doors opened,people came streaming in. Much of the staff that hadn’t been there earlier, a lot of members of the congregation, some of the morbidly curious and members of the media. There were four different television camera crews and several radio journalists as well as writers from the Post Dispatch, the Riverfront Times and the St Louis American. Most of us who had either been there or, like myself, who were drawn in immediately afterward, were spared having to face this onslaught. A simple statement had been printed and there were others willing to run interference and distribute them to the media. After the service, many people remained to share and grieve but most of us who had been there for hours made quiet exits. I felt completely raw and exhausted. I don’t recall eating anything. I walked the dog and went to bed for a very restless night.

 

The next morning, I was up before dawn. That was my usual routine. After I gave the dog her morning walk, I sat quietly drinking coffee. Usually I turned on the radio and listened to the news. This morning it wasn’t going to happen. I knew they would be hashing and rehashing yesterday’s bloody details over and over. I would later find the story had been picked up by the national services and flashed around the world. “Murder at the Cathedral” was just too juicy to let pass. After a while, Joann got up. It was a very quiet Friday morning. Neither of us had much to say. Around 9, I said I wanted to go down to the cathedral and asked if she was wanted to go along. I knew that many people had been uncomfortable with the program from the start and, with this, their very worst fears had been fully realized. The program had been in operation barely two and a half months. I knew a lot of good, even important work had happened. There was so much more to do. I was afraid the plug was going to get pulled and the program shut down. I wouldn’t – couldn’t blame them if they did. We, (PPCS) had been invited in to make things better. To get things under control. From the outside it was difficult to see how any of that had happened. Driving in, I half expected to hear the dean say the program was to shut down immediately. Instead, what I found was the canon, (the assistant pastor), and a couple members of the congregation had come in on their own and opened for business as usual less than 24 hours after Carole had been killed. They knew Carole was our patrons’ initial point of contact, that she was beloved by the downtown neighbors. She had been extending them kindness for years prior to opening the Breakfast Club. They recognized that many of the downtown neighbors were grieving as much as anyone and this was coupled with the fear that they would all be blamed for this tragedy. The program didn’t miss a single beat. People knew this didn’t happen during the program hours. They knew that Mike was sick and had been staying in and around the cathedral for a few years. They knew it wasn’t our fault. Once I knew this, I finally allowed myself a few tears. More volunteers had come in and were upstairs finishing assembling the gift bags to be handed out at the coming Sunday before Christmas breakfast. After this horrible incident, tragic as it was, folks were determined to not let it disrupt their plans, the congregation’s plans. The annual breakfast would take place as it had for several years with one change. Henceforth, it would be known as “Miss Carole’s Breakfast”.

 

Sunday morning, the cathedral was packed. Of course, it was the Sunday before Christmas and that might have had something to do with it. The cathedral always has a high service that begins with the berobed choir entering from the east end followed by the celebrant. They, stopping and singing a Latin introit before processing upstairs into the loft while the bishop and his co celebrants turn to approach the altar. The sonorous and mysterious Latin psalm with the grandiose pageantry, complete with bishop’s mitre and crosier, exactly fitting what you would expect in a cathedral three days before Christmas. As you looked around the room, you could see many folks in their Sunday best and Christmas finery intermingled with thoses, who by their clothes were obviously from the streets. After the service, everyone was invited to the breakfast upstairs on the fourth floor. Older folks entered the hallway and waited patiently their turn on the elevator while others took to the stairs. On reaching the fourth floor, gift bags were handed to any and all who wanted one. Each bag contained a hat, scarves and gloves, a couple pair of socks, toiletries, a book, a Christmas card and some candies. People went into the dining room and picked a place to sit. There was a buffet line with eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage, French toast, fresh fruit salad coffee and juices. The most outstanding thing to me was, looking around the room, how blended the seating was. Virtually every table was a mix of congregants and downtown neighbors. People actually came to be together. At one end of the room there is a proscenium stage. The dean stood up to open with a prayer and make some brief announcements. Then, he introduced Linda Geffin who sang the old gospel hymn, Beulah Land, acapella. In a room with a few hundred people, you could hear a pin drop when she finished.. [WU1] 

 

There was no talk of curtailing, much less terminating the program. Within weeks a plan was drawn up to renovate a much larger, more accommodating space one floor down. It entailed installing bathrooms and filling in an old unused swimming pool, no small expenses. The congregation, in many ways, doubled down in their commitment to the program.

 

Mike was deemed incapable of aiding in his defense. Today he resides in a forensic hospital and is evaluated at least every 6 months to determine his ability to assist in his defense. All these years later it hasn’t happened.

 

In the aftermath of the killing I became acquainted with Mike’s siblings. He was the youngest of six. All his brothers and sisters had gone to college and were raising families. After high school, Mike chose to enlist in the navy. Apparently during his hitch he had his first psychotic episode. He was discharged and never got his balance back. He would blow into his parent’s home or the homes of his siblings like a tornado and throw everything into turmoil. His parents had been exhausted and were gone now. His siblings were raising their own families. They would extend themselves to him in whatever ways they could. But their priorities were stability within their immediate families. He was simply more than they could cope with. Still, they never anticipated anything like this.

 

With much effort, we were finally able to wheedle enough information from Leonard to reconnect him with family back east. He had long ago qualified for disability but had simply wandered off. We were finally able to clean him up and facilitate transportation back to New York where he would have a place to stay with a modicum of care and oversight.

 

Vickie was arrested for assaulting a cop. She was attacking a post office box on a downtown street corner. The cop tried to stop her, and in the process, drew her ire. She went through the mental health court one more time and landed in a residential care facility. AS far as I know that is where she resides to this day.

 

I never saw Robb again and never heard what became of him. He was so averse to stress and confrontation, I wouldn’t be surprised if the trauma of the killing and his handling by the police was enough to make him pack up, never to return to the scene of the crime.

 

Today, Miss Carole’s Breakfast takes place every Saturday morning as volunteers gather to serve at 8:30.

 

 

 

Tom Burnham was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Cut his teeth on the north Texas plain and came of age causing trouble in River City, St Louis, Missouri. He has done volunteer work and been a foot soldier in social activism since he was a child. Aside from spending 35 years working among the denizens of city streets, particularly those living with mental illness and HIV, he has collected and honed his stories in an oral tradition. Committing them to paper and posterity is a relatively recent endeavor. He sometimes lectures at some of the universities he dropped out of. His motto was, ‘avoid the authorities’ and then he became one.