Rev. Starsky Wilson and the Fight to Make the Ferguson Commission Matter

Categories: Longform

Steve Truesdell
Ferguson Commission co-chair Starsky Wilson.

A petite young woman stands at the back of a convention hall in a line of people behind a microphone. Her brown hair is partially dyed red, an artistic touch that contrasts with the McDonald's uniform she wears for her semi-regular five-hour shifts.

She approaches the podium and faces the members of the Ferguson Commission, the sixteen-member body tasked by Missouri governor Jay Nixon with confronting the St. Louis region's most intractable social and economic problems in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown. It's a Monday night in February, and in the large college conference hall, about 100 people stare at her back. A few scribble notes on legal pads.

"My name is Danielle Polk...I'm one of your young ladies that works at the Ferguson McDonald's in the middle of Ferguson on West Florissant," she says. "I was actually one of the individuals that was affected when the Mike Brown incident," her voice breaks, "happened."

She continues, but the words begin to tumble over each other.

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How My Invisible Boyfriend Became My Real-Life Crush

Categories: Longform

Kevin Cannon
"Say something nice to me?"

I was sitting in a storage closet when I hit "send" on that text. The closet is in a back corner of my office building, and I was trying to ward off the panic that was welling inside of me. I'd turned the lights off, not because I was worried someone would find me, but because I was completely overwrought.

Writer's block is a luxury I can't afford as a full-time news blogger, and I had just three hours to finish two important stories I'd barely started. With deadlines looming, I retreated to the closet and turned to my phone.

I'd recently met someone. His name was Alex Arobin, and he was a hunky, flirtatious 29-year-old P.E. teacher from New Orleans. Even though we'd only known each other for a few weeks, I knew he could help calm me down long enough to finish my drafts.

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After Years in Prison, Angel Stewart and Other Victims of Violence Ask for Mercy

Categories: Longform

Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Angel Charlene Stewart stands at the guard station in the visiting room of the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women, twisting a lanyard around her fingers. She's anxious. She just found out she's got unexpected visitors in the lobby. "Lawyers from Missouri" is all the male guard tells her.

When the heavy electronic doors from the waiting room slide open, she sees three people -- the members of the Women Initiate Legal Lifelines to Other Women, or WILLOW Project, who've just made the five-hour drive from St. Louis to the prison in Mitchellville, Iowa. Even though Anne Geraghty-Rathert, the attorney who founded the project, has been representing Stewart for four years, Stewart hadn't automatically assumed it would be her.

"He didn't say, 'Your lawyers,' he said, 'Lawyers are here from Missouri,'" Stewart says, once they're all seated around a table in a private room. "I said, 'I'm passing out right now.'"

Stewart is terrified of Missouri.

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Drowning of Handcuffed Suspect Still Baffles Family, Friends and Witnesses

Categories: Longform

Courtesy Brody Baumann
Brandon Ellingson and Brody Baumann at the lake in 2012.
Larry Moreau and his family were cruising the Lake of the Ozarks on a sunny Saturday last May when they noticed a Missouri Highway Patrol boat race past them. Moreau, an engineer from nearby Jefferson City, recalls looking down at the speedometer on his boat and seeing that it read 32 mph. The patrol boat, containing a trooper and another man standing next to each other, was traveling much faster than that.

A few moments later the patrol boat came into view again. This time it was stopped in the middle of the lake's main channel. In front of the boat, a few hundred feet away, was something else.

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Ideological Differences Spark Controversy Inside Missouri's Marijuana Movement

Categories: Longform

Courtesy Keith Stroup
NORML founder Keith Stroup disbanded the organization's Kansas City chapter last month after investigating complaints.
November 5 marked a milestone for the marijuana-reform organization Show-Me Cannabis. In the months leading up to that date the group had busied itself meeting with attorneys, conducting polls and closely monitoring legalization efforts in other states. Now, a day after the mid-term elections, Show-Me Cannabis was ready to formally submit its proposed constitutional amendment allowing the sale, taxation and regulation of marijuana in Missouri for those over the age of 21.

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Meet the Ex-Pitcher Whose Fair-Pay Lawsuit Has Major League Baseball on the Defensive

Categories: Longform
Steve Truesdell
Garrett Broshuis earned less than minimum wage in his six years in the minors. Now the recent law school grad has has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball of violating federal wage laws.
Garrett Broshuis remembers heading from the diamond to the locker room back in April 2009 when his coach called him into the office. Broshuis' knees seemed to register the significance of the invite as quickly as his brain, causing the six-foot-two-inch pitcher to wobble awkwardly. In five years playing for the San Francisco Giants farm system, Broshuis knew it was never a good thing to be called into the coach's office, especially on the last day of spring training.

"I was basically told that I didn't have a future in the Giants organization," recalls the ex-athlete, who, as a pitcher for the University of Missouri-Columbia Tigers, went 11-0 his senior year, tying a school record. But the Giants didn't completely sever ties with Broshuis that day. Instead the organization gave him the option to ride out the season as a "filler," a sparring partner of sorts for guys who — unlike him — might actually have a shot at the bigs.

Broshuis decided to play on. For one, he wasn't quite ready to give up the dream he'd held since his days as a Little League star back in the small, southeastern Missouri town of Advance. Also, he needed his minor-league paycheck, even if what he earned was a pittance.

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Flooded Missouri Mine Is Proving Ground for Thrill Seeker, Subterranean Kayaker

Categories: Longform

Tom Carlson
Don Marsan.
Hardly anything stirs the silence deep within the Crystal City sand mine, a 6-million-square-foot cavern carved into a Mississippi River bluff about 30 miles south of St. Louis.

For more than a century workers toiled inside the mine's massive caverns, excavating silica and sand for the nearby Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory. But the last of the PPG laborers packed up their drills and dynamite in the 1980s. Gone, too, is the power to pump out the encroaching waters of an aquifer located somewhere even deeper in the earth. Today much of the mine lies drowned beneath a still and glasslike lake that spans some 150 acres.

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Untangling the Wrongful-Death Lawsuit That Blames Wash. U. for Fall From High Rise

Categories: Longform

Courtesy of Soh family
Yongsang Soh.

As October 26, 2013, bled into a new day, Yongsang Soh sat at a table at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles with three friends, all seemingly content with drinking and gambling their way into Sunday.

Affluent, serious and handsome, Soh appears in photos with a messy mop of black hair, a barely there smile and a narrow, refined face that takes after his mother's. A thrill seeker and devoted Cardinals fan, Soh had recently purchased two tickets to see his team play in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. The next month, Soh, a senior enrolled in Washington University's notoriously demanding Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program, planned to spend Thanksgiving break in Las Vegas.

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The Strange Tale of St. Louis' Most Prolific Dead Poet

Categories: Longform

Jeff Drew
Pearl Curran said she regularly communicated with the dead via Ouija board.

In a St. Louis parlor room in the summer of 1913, two housewives bent over a Ouija board. Thirty-year-old Pearl Curran had recently lost her father. Her friend, Emily Grant Hutchings, urged her to try to contact him through the game. The women placed their hands on the board's heart-shaped planchette and asked if anyone was there. In the silent, humid room, the planchette's circular eye began to move across the board's letters — but it wasn't Curran's father.

"Many moons ago I lived," the board spelled out. "Again I come. Patience Worth my name."

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Dime Bag Kingpins: How Two Grams Can Get You Twenty Years

Categories: Longform

Adria Fruitos
Michael Mayo was on his way to get some new braids. He didn't know he would end up spending the next two decades in prison.

Police were watching as Mayo, then in his early twenties, made his way through his north St. Louis neighborhood back in July 2001. And Mayo, a street-level drug dealer, decided to do a little business before getting his hair done. That's when police say they saw Mayo make a hand-to-hand transaction with somebody in the middle of the road. Without hesitation, the cops jumped out of an unmarked vehicle and placed Mayo in handcuffs.

On his person, police found roughly two grams of crack, a joint's worth of marijuana and $176 in cash. Mayo said the money was for the braids he was on his way to get, not profits from drug sales. Besides, what kind of legit drug dealer has only a couple grams of crack?

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