Robert Boettcher, Homeless Man Once Accused of Murder, Wins University City Photo Award



Robert Boettcher, a 53-year-old homeless man in St. Louis, was recently released from prison after spending nearly two years behind bars on murder charges. He was arrested on May 3, 2011, and after many months in jail, his case was dismissed on February 11, 2013.

And now, he has won a University City photography contest.

"I was stunned. I was not expecting this at all," Boettcher, who won a local competition over the weekend, tells Daily RFT. "I was ecstatic, so happy about it."

It was a meaningful recognition for Boettcher -- who is still homeless today.

Here's his winning photo, which he took in the Delmar Loop about a month ago.


And here are two others he submitted as part of the U. City Photo Show competition:

"I take reflections," he explains. "Somehow it all comes together."

Boettcher was once a resident of Hopeville, the homeless encampment located on the banks of the Mississippi River, but he was arrested after allegedly stabbing to death one of his neighbors in 2011.

As we reported at the time, he argued it was self-defense, and the case has since been dismissed altogether, says Carol Corey, who does community outreach for University City nonprofit Inside Dharma. Corey -- whose organization works with prison inmates and ex-offenders -- says that since officials dropped the case, Boettcher has been working to find a place to live and secure a job.

In the meantime, he's been working on his photography.

In 2011 he missed his first-ever art exhibit because of the charges he was facing.

Boettcher did not want to discuss the case, but he says he's very interested in doing more photography work.

"It's an outlet," he explains. "I do a lot of experimenting."

He says he enjoys the medium "because it's a solitary thing. I don't have to listen to people. I'm in my own little world."

He says that soon he hopes to get better equipment so he can do more professional work. His website has a nice sampling of some of his previous photography.

Corey tells us that Boettcher is doing very well since he was released from prison.

"He's pretty involved...doing what he can to help other people," she says. "He's trying to stay optimistic."

Boettcher is applying for housing assistance and looking for employment, she says. "I hope he doesn't have to go back to a tent, and I don't think he wants to."

Here are some photos via his website of the former encampment site.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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