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Investigation Proves Owners Knew Elevator Was Unsafe, Illegal Before Bob Reuter's Death

chrisandbob.jpeg
David Mitchell
Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost. Reuter, in denim, sits next to Chris Baricevic, in brown.
Six months before St. Louis artist and music legend Bob Reuter fell to his death down an elevator shaft, state inspectors closed and padlocked the 95-year-old, poorly-functioning elevator in the condemned building.

A Sunday report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found a Missouri inspector closed and locked the downtown elevator in the condemned building on February 8, making it illegal to operate without permission from the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

Just weeks later, the elevator was up and running -- though not very well. Ellie Shepley told the Post-Dispatch she was trapped in the elevator in March until friends used a crowbar to pry her out.

In August, Reuter was moving into the building at 1129 St. Charles Street when he fell 18 feet down the shaft to his death. He'd stepped through the open elevator doors in a dark hallway before he realized the elevator car wasn't there.

See also: R.I.P. Bob Reuter, St. Louis Music Legend: Man Who Fell Down Elevator Shaft Identified

"Something incredibly fucked up has happened, and nobody is claiming responsibility," says Chris Baricevic, the executor of Reuter's estate and close friend and bandmate before his death. "I was just afraid that everything was going to slip through the cracks. I at least hope this [report] puts some pressure on the city to complete their own investigation."

The second through eighth floors were under a city condemnation order, according to the Post-Dispatch, and an expert told owners in January the elevator was too dangerous to operate. The car gate, emergency communication system and several safety features were all missing. In order for the derelict elevator to continue functioning after February, someone had to remove a padlock and replace fuses.

"That death was so preventable," says Cathy Strobel, who owned the building with her husband, to the Post-Dispatch.

bob.jpeg
Josh Rowan
Bob Reuter
See also: Remembering Bob Reuter: St. Louis Speaks

Baricevic is determined to seek justice against those who allowed tenants like Reuter to use the unsafe, off-limits elevator, but Missouri's wrongful death statute makes it difficult to take his case to court. Only children, parents, siblings or nieces and nephews can file wrongful death claims in Missouri without special permission from the court.

Just across the river in Illinois, Baricevic says his case would be "open and shut," but since he's not blood-related to Reuter, his options in Missouri are limited.

"Missouri said I can't do anything about this," he says. "We're looking into doing whatever we can do because we feel we are Bob's family, whether or not the law says we are."

Baricevic has two years to file a suit.

bobVV.jpeg
Jaime Lees
See also: An Official Statement From Bob Reuter's Band, Alley Ghost

For now, Baricevic is working to preserve Reuter's legacy as a musician, writer, poet and photographer whose work profoundly impacted the St. Louis arts scene.

Baricevic's label, Big Muddy Records, is releasing a DVD of the Reuter's memorial concert shot by St. Louis filmmaker Bill Streeter, a Dinosaurs LP and a new Alley Ghost album featuring new versions of Reuter's old demos and never-recorded songs he'd scribbled in notebooks.

"Obviously there are no new songs to be written, but there are songs that can be released. He had so many projects," says Baricevic.

The money goes toward the Cowboy Angel foundation, established in Reuter's memory to provide artists with practical skills, including career counseling and housing assistance.

"Bob [Reuter] said he wanted his art to contribute towards helping disadvantaged artists," says Baricevic. "Those are his words, so I'm leaving that as the loose goal."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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32 comments
Jered Christopher
Jered Christopher

St. Louis is a city of diverse neighborhoods and unfortunately many are crumbling. I just hope that Bob's Estate get permission for a wrongful death suit.

Joshua Lewis
Joshua Lewis

The comment is shit. It's not a crumbling city, it's scumlords who hope to save a penny by skirting the law and not giving two shits about the human beings who live in their buildings. The same thing that's been wrong with stl (and proudly many more cities) for years. It's time for some folks to sue the owners into oblivion.

Almas Farmhouseantiques
Almas Farmhouseantiques

Huge Loss but stop saying the city is crumbling We are rebuilding and restoring everyday. This was the slum lords fault not the city's

jennmderose
jennmderose

I've been in that building. 

That could have happened to anyone. Too bad it wasn't one of these do-nothing bums.

jennmderose
jennmderose

Man, I wish I wouldn't read these trolls... They get me all tuned up. I guess they never lost a friend in an accident. 

It would be nice to convey the pain it causes me to read such willfully hateful and ignorant crap, but I don't believe the comment board of an article, (even a well-researched neutral one by a talented reporter), is the place for it. People don't have feelings on the internet. 

Monsters.

Randall OftheFamily Dedert
Randall OftheFamily Dedert

I love how dead people can't ever be at fault. Watch were you are going. There is a reason you have a neck.

Angi-la Red Cloud
Angi-la Red Cloud

bob was a friend of ours and this whole situation has just been awful.

Sue Stepanek
Sue Stepanek

city did it's job, someone in the building has blood on their hands.

Sue Stepanek
Sue Stepanek

angi...it was sealed and the fuses were removed. Someone, according to the article I read said someone broke the seal and replaced the fuses.

Angi-la Red Cloud
Angi-la Red Cloud

if you're so thick that you can't see the 1st order of preventing an accident like this is having a dangerous illegal elevator shaft sealed off, then that's your problem. "watching where you're going" is secondary.

Brian Brown
Brian Brown

Sure thing , sorry none of you were taught to watch where your going. Then call me names over it ? lol .

Lisa Corley Davis
Lisa Corley Davis

Brian Brown, thanks for making it really clear that there are still douchebags in the world. Some of us were wondering.

Johnny Vegas Moynihan
Johnny Vegas Moynihan

Do you make snide remarks about people dying regularly or is this your first foray into this? Get another hobby dude.

Brian Brown
Brian Brown

Yes it does actually , it states this was preventable, here's how.... That sounds like it to me . Also I'm not telling anyone anything about how to Comment so . Think how you want . I made a statement . Get over it all Of you . Seriously nick . Not everyone has to think like you .

Nick Garcia
Nick Garcia

This post, in fact, does not ask how this could have been avoided. Perhaps it’s not important to you if your friends and family live in a place that doesn’t follow city ordinance? That we’ll all just be okay if we “watch where we’re going”? Your snide remarks, while they might be amusing to a neanderthal for all of about two seconds, get us nowhere. The rest of us would like to hold the responsible parties accountable if it’s alright with you.

Jason Patrylo
Jason Patrylo

That's what I thought, The city should be going after the building owner, and honestly Reuter's family/friends should be going after the city as well as the owners. The shit slumlords get away with....

Sue Stepanek
Sue Stepanek

but of course Brian...accidents never happen

Sue Stepanek
Sue Stepanek

read the article in the sunday post dispatch too

Jason Patrylo
Jason Patrylo

Sorry for my ignorance, but how is someone renting out apartments in a condemned building?

Angi-la Red Cloud
Angi-la Red Cloud

also, it's the building owners fault. that shaft should have been sealed off and completely inaccessible.

Angi-la Red Cloud
Angi-la Red Cloud

a simple, tragic mistake that anyone could have made. have some respect, please.

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