by Sam Levin
On May 9, 2011, Paul Reiter, the 58-year-old long-time circulation manager of the St. Louis American publication, walked out of his Dutchtown home and saw a home robbery in action. He threatened to call police on the two suspects, and one of the robbers, eighteen-year-old Rico Paul, pulled out his gun and shot over the fence at him.
Police found Reiter later lying in his back yard, cell phone in his hand, with the "911" dialed on the screen. He never pressed "send."
This is the story the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office recounts in an announcement that a jury has found Paul, now 21, guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree attempted robbery and armed criminal action -- two years after the tragic homicide case first made headlines.
Paul, with an accomplice, had "set out on a mission" to steal a flatscreen television that morning in May and located a Dutchtown house that "met their needs," prosecutors recall. A back window was broken.
Reiter apparently walked out of his home, asked them what they were doing, and then threatened to call police before he was fatally shot.
The following day, Paul apparently gave the gun to an acquaintance and asked him to hold onto it because "he had used [it] in a murder." He told the acquaintance that he shot Reiter "because he didn't want to go to jail again."
He was charged the next day with the three counts for which he was found guilty this week.
Prosecutors in court this week described Reiter as "a son, a brother and a good neighbor who, on May 9, 2011, was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
His sentencing is set for September 17.
Reiter, according to the American, was the circulation manager of the paper for more than two decades.
Shortly after his death, Ishmael-Lateef Ahmad, a former staff writer for the American, wrote a column honoring the late circulation manager, which you can read here. An excerpt:
For all of us, death is always near and often unexpected. Now, you are the story, the news. And we get to speak about you -- your life, your times, your being Paul. And while the manner of your death makes it doubly surprising, it forces us to take stock of our own lives and how we live them.
The Paul I knew lived his life to suit his soul. With more than two decades on the job you could have been long gone from The American, perhaps to a bigger and better future. You were not African-American, yet you chose to serve a newspaper and our community in the best way you could. And for that I am honored and grateful for having known you and worked side-by-side with you to make this a better world.