I took a little time to read A Rip in Heaven, by Jeanine Cummins. Jeanine did a wonderful job relating the story of her family as they dealt with the assault and murder of her two cousins, Julie and Robin Kerry. This was of enormous significance to me. Julie, Robin, and I were all students in high school together. Julie was the only junior in my trigonometry and pre-Calculus classes. Robin was in my French class. They were really good young ladies, and I think about them often, even though I had neither seen nor spoken with them after I left high school.
One of the reasons I’ll always remember Julie (and I’m pretty certain she never knew this) was because she was the first girl who ever asked me for a date.
Julie, Robin, and their cousin Tom were out on the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St Louis on Thursday, 4 April 1991. They encountered four men, Marlin Gray, Antonio Richardson, Reginald Clemmons, and Daniel Winfrey; these boys attacked the girls and eventually pushed them into the river and forced Tom to jump. Tom survived, and after a brief debacle during which the St Louis Police accused Tom himself of the murders, they eventually were brought to their collective senses and found the felons responsible. The trial results: Antonio Richardson received the death sentence (later commuted to life without parole). Marlin Gray was sentenced to death (sentence was executed on 26 Oct 2005). Reginald Clemmons was sentenced to death and still appears to be on death row. Daniel Winfrey was sentenced to 30 years in prison as a result of a plea deal, and has apparently apologized and will be released in 2007.
After the murder, I went through a little period of private rage. I remember hearing the story on TV in the middle of the day. I leapt into my car and sped down to the Mississippi, stopping probably less than a mile upriver from where Jeanine’s cousin Tom climbed out of the river about fourteen hours prior. I don’t really know what I’d hoped to accomplish, I suppose I meant to search the riverbank and scout out the shore of Mosenthien Island as best I could. It was useless. All I got for my trouble was some jeering by some 25-somethings who laughed as they shouted at me "What are you doing, trying to find a body?" I let it pass, and just left the area.
I left the area, yes, but I didn’t stop quite yet. I started doing some flight planning. My mission the next day was going to be to fly my own search-and-rescue. My Dad, who absolutely hates flying, offered to come along and bring some binoculars and a camera. I was actually pretty moved by that gesture. In any case, the next day it was too cloudy for me to fly legally. Despite the fact the aircraft owners knew what I meant to do, they wouldn’t give me the keys to the airplane. In retrospect, they were probably right. All I would have done would have been to violate a lot of flight laws, which would have cost me my license and them their airplane.
I was left wishing for the next several years "If only I’d happened to be out there on the bridge with an assault rifle. . . ." I’d been to the Chain of Rocks Bridge one time, so there was little imperative for me to go, it just wasn’t something I felt like I ever had to do, especially since I’d done it once. Also, I didn’t own a gun, so wishing I’d been out there with one was just that–wishful thinking.
Although I already knew most of the details of the case, it was really good to learn what Jeanine and her family went through. I wish I could have helped them in some way. All I can think to do is recommend you buy her book. (Click here for a link to Amazon.com. Click here for a link to Barnes & Noble.com).