It was another deadly year in and around St. Louis despite overall crime in the city (and region) trending down slightly in 2013. Still, no amount of policing can prevent depraved individuals from committing callous and sadistic acts of violence. The ten cases below, listed from bad to worst, attest to that. As one of the victims noted, "The world is full of heartless people."
Brothers Mirza and Haris Gogic were making the most of it in America. As boys they had arrived with their parents to St. Louis from war-torn Bosnia. As adults they'd entered business together, running a convenience store in south St. Louis. The brothers were in a back room of that shop last May when they heard Mirza's girlfriend screaming for help inside the store. The brothers opened the door to see an armed robber with one hand around the girl's neck and the other pointing a gun to her head as she was made to empty the cash register. On seeing the brothers enter the store, the thief fatally shot 19-year-old Hirza in the head. Mirza, 23, took a bullet to the arm. Days later Mirza identified Joseph Fox in a police lineup. "He walked into the lineup just as cool and calm as he did right after he killed my brother," said Gogic. "My whole body was shaking." And what did Fox get in exchange for turning the Gogics' lives into a nightmare? Thirty dollars from the cash register.
Calvin Campbell arrived at Sophia Moore's house in Jennings the day before Valentine's Day. A week earlier 28-year-old Sophia Moore had kicked him out of the home for good. Apparently Campbell was still stewing over the matter. Police say that once inside the home Campbell began punching Moore. When she tried to escape through a kitchen window he dragged her back inside and then stabbed her to death with a long kitchen knife. But it only gets worse. Police say Moore's two sons -- ages eight and nine -- witnessed the killing. Moore turned himself in a few hours after the murder. The boys were turned over to their biological father.
Adrienne Martin's status updates last July were shocking: "I'm on killa mode .....#killdogs.com.....today," she wrote. The following day Martin commented "#alldogsdontgoheaven.com," and a few days later she wrote "#laughingeveryday" apparently referencing news reports about a severely burned dog discovered in north St. Louis. Brownie, a pit bull mix, would soon die from its injuries. And Martin would face felony charges for animal abuse. Who's laughing now?
John Paulsen, the popular and charismatic catering director at the Chase Park Plaza, was driving home from work early in the morning of July 21 when he pulled over in south St. Louis to put the roof up on his convertible. That's when prosecutors say 22-year-old Lorenzo Earl Milton came up to Paulsen and demanded his personal property before fatally shooting him in the chest and arm. Milton wouldn't be caught for another three months. Milton's older brother is also wrapped up in the crime. According to police Ronald Milton, 29, tried to stop a witness from "snitching" on his brother by pulling out a gun and wondering aloud if he should kill the informant.
When Michelle Rowling heard her abusive on-again-off-again boyfriend was being released from jail, she posted to Facebook a terrifyingly accurate warning: "So if anything happens to me tonight, just let my kids know I loved them dearly and tell my momma I love her," she wrote online. Five days later police found the 25-year-old mother stabbed to death in her East St. Louis, Illinois, apartment, adding a new level of horror to her final Facebook premonition: "The police....LOL I'm [going to be] gone 'bout the time they come." Her boyfriend, Montrell Cooper, turned himself in a few days later. Police say Cooper slit Rowling's throat and beat her up on a previous occasion, but the Illinois attorney's office couldn't lock him up when Rowling testified on his behalf and chose not to cooperate with law enforcement.
Cue the banjo-picking tune from Deliverance. A float trip on the Meramec River took a tragic turn in July when a property owner -- allegedly angry about a man urinating on his shoreline -- pulled out a gun and shot the alleged trespasser in the head. The suspect, 59-year-old Steelville resident James Crocker, told cops, "It's my property, and I was going to protect it." But Loretta Dart, the widow of victim Paul Dart, told media that her husband was just trying to defuse the situation. "My husband tried to calm the guy down," she told reporters. "He went to the guy's arm to try to stop him, but the guy jerked back and popped him in the face." She added: "I hope he rots in Hell. I hope the man that did this to my husband rots in Hell."
Willow Long disappeared from her Matson, Illinois, home on September 7. Days later the seven-year-old's body was found wrapped in plastic under a bridge, her throat slashed and her hands covered in defensive wounds. Her uncle, Justin DeRyke, had acted strangely from the moment the girl went missing. Ultimately the 22-year-old DeRyke gave police a bizarre and disturbing confession in which he admitted to stabbing the little girl while claiming it began as an accident. DeRyke told authorities that he chased Willow outside their house after she had scratched him, drawing blood. During the chase the girl tripped and fell, causing a stick to impale her neck. He said that "he had to end her suffering," according to a probable-cause report. DeRyke then allegedly got a knife, slashed her throat and stabbed her in the heart about five times.
Mon Rai, a 29-year-old Bhutanese national, arrived to St. Louis in the fall of 2012 from a refuge camp. In his short time here he'd found work at a 7-Eleven in south city, was mastering his English classes, and was expecting his second child. Then, while he worked the overnight shift in June, a gunman entered Rai's 7-Eleven and shot him in the back. Police are still searching for the suspect. A week after his murder, Rai's wife gave birth to their daughter -- a child who will grow up never knowing her father.
Ebony Jackson was in town from Oklahoma last January when she stopped by her ex's apartment with her baby. While in the bathroom police say her former boyfriend, Dyanthany Proudie, shot her in the head. Proudie then removed Jackson's body from the apartment and placed her in the trunk of her vehicle as he and a buddy cleaned up the crime scene. Two days later the baby was found safe inside the entryway of a nearby apartment complex and Jackson's car -- with her decomposing body locked inside -- was found a few blocks away.
What started out as an investigation into a child homicide became ever more despicable when St. Charles County investigators uncovered what they say were incriminating text messages suggesting that Jessica Howell knew her boyfriend planned to sexually assault her four-month-old baby. An autopsy showed that the baby died due to strangulation but also suffered injuries from blunt-force trauma to its head and bleeding caused by sodomy. Howell's boyfriend, Jordan Prince, allegedly told police that he'd become upset when the baby wouldn't stop crying. See also: Missouri Couple Accused Of Plotting Infant's Rape: Inside The Bizarre Public Facebook Posts