Entries in St. Louis (12)


9/11 'Truthers' Adopt a Highway in Missouri

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has approved a controversial "9/11 truther" group's application to adopt a highway.

The St. Louis 9/11 Questions Meetup Group, which suggests the U.S. government may have been involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, will have a sign erected with its name on it.  In exchange, it will arrange to pick up litter on a half-mile stretch of highway four times a year.

This isn't the first time MoDOT has dealt with a controversial group wanting to adopt a highway.  After a legal battle with a Ku Klux Klan group, MoDOT had to make a change in its policies, allowing anyone to adopt a stretch of highway.

Tom Blair, assistant district engineer for MoDOT in St. Louis, told ABC News that after its battle with the KKK, the state can no longer reject a group based on its beliefs, no matter how controversial or offensive.

"MoDOT has been there," Blair said.  "After they won the right to adopt, we modified the process.  We had to make sure anyone could be approved."

The department's battle with the Klan began in early 2000, when the KKK applied to adopt a stretch of highway and was denied.  After a five-year lawsuit, a federal judge ruled the KKK had the right to adopt a stretch of highway in St. Louis, but its sponsorship signs were routinely stolen.  MoDOT appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was rejected.

The sign for the St. Louis 9/11 Questions Group will go up in January, according to Blair.

The website for the 9/11 truther group sells T-shirts that say, "The 9/11 debacle was an inside job" and other shirts that compare George W. Bush to Hitler's deputy, Hermann Goring.

"We are in the U.S. and everyone has the right to their viewpoint," Blair said.

The St. Louis group's organizer, Donald Stahl, could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Serial Hugger' Preys on Women in St. Louis Suburbs

Hemera/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Missouri prosecutors are trying to decide whether to charge an alleged serial hugger who pretends to know women and cons them into giving him a hug.

So far, at least 36 women have come forward to complain about unwanted hugs, and one woman said the man also kissed her on the lips during their embrace.

Police have not released the name of the man, but the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis weekly, dubbed him "Jack the Gripper" or "John Wayne Embracey."  One St. Louis suburb arrested him on probable cause, but released him an hour later.

Most of the women who have come forward called police in Des Peres, Mo.  According to their reports, the alleged hugger typically approaches women while they are shopping by themselves, pretends to know them as a former neighbor, and then asks for a hug under the pretense that it is his birthday, Des Peres Detective Marshall Broughton said.

"He'd say, 'Hi, remember me?  I lived down the street in the corner house.  How ya been?'" Broughton said.  "Obviously [the women] didn't remember him, but he did it so quickly and convincingly that they felt embarrassed that they didn't know him."

Des Peres police identified the man, who is 44, but did not arrest him because of uncertainty about whether his actions were criminal, Broughton said.  The alleged hugger showed up at the Des Peres police department with his attorney on June 20 after police requested that he come in for questioning. He made no statements at the meeting, Broughton said.

Before he could leave, however, he was handcuffed by police officers from nearby Warson Woods, who had conducted a photo lineup in which a witness readily identified him, Warson Woods Police Chief Robert Stanczak said.  Warson Woods police questioned him for about an hour before letting him go, Stanczak said.

Des Peres and Warson Woods police have reported the hugging incidents to St. Louis County prosecutors, who will determine whether to pursue third-degree assault charges, among others.

While county prosecutors may determine that the hugger's actions did not violate state law, Stanczak said they clearly constituted assault under Warson Woods municipal ordinances.

If prosecutors decide to pursue charges against the man, his identity will become public, and a warrant will be issued for his arrest.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Missouri Tent Collapse Raises Safety Questions

Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- Baseball fans in St. Louis have had a lot to celebrate in the past year, but on Saturday evening – after another win by the defending champion Cardinals — cheers turned to screams when a sudden storm proved deadly.

With 200 fans packed into Kilroy’s beer garden tent, a powerful gust of straight line winds tore down the tent, sending metal rods flying and injuring a hundred people.

One man in the tent was reportedly struck by lightning and died of a heart attack. The owner of Kilroy’s, Art Randall, performed CPR on the victim, but it was too late.

“My heart bleeds for every person here that bled,” Randall told ABC News Sunday morning, tears in his eyes as he stood outside a bar that has seen many a celebration, but now, also, tragedy.

As of this afternoon, nine patients from the scene remained in area hospitals: five at Barnes Jewish Hospital, their specific conditions unknown; and four at University Hospital, two in the ICU — one in critical condition, one serious — and another two in fair condition, St. Louis Fire Department spokesman Dan Sutter said.

St. Louis Public Safety Director Eddie Roth told ABC News that Saturday evening’s tragedy has left him wondering if establishments such as Kilroy’s should start using designated weather watchers to provide advice to patrons on approaching inclement weather and help them take shelter if necessary.

At the time of Saturday’s incident, St. Louis was under a severe thunderstorm warning.

“The sky went black,” Randall said. “Nobody stood a chance. It was, it was just bodies scattered everywhere. The tent just rolled clean up under the railroad tracks.”

Kilroy’s remained closed Sunday. A sign on the door read, “Cardinal Nation — We are closed today due to the tragic events that occurred here yesterday. Please keep those that were affected and their families in your thoughts and prayers. Sincerely, the Kilroy family.”

Outside the bar, a small shrine with candles and flowers was set up against one wall. On the other side of the parking lot, clean-up crews swept away the remnants of the destroyed tent.

“My family is having trouble with this,” Randall said. “There’s a lot of families having trouble with this. I’ve got customers that are going to be second guessing, ‘Did I do enough?’ Just like I’m doing.

“You don’t see this thing coming,” he said. “There is no preparation you can take for when it happens. … I’m debating right now, do I want to do this anymore?”

This is not the first time that straight line winds have wreaked havoc. They are also blamed for the horrifying stage collapse that killed seven people at the Sugarland concert in Indiana last summer. And three years ago in Canada a fan at an AC-DC concert was crushed to death after winds caused a stage collapse there.

If any positives can come out of this weekend’s tragedy, Randall said, it’s the knowledge that everyone at his bar selflessly jumped in to help when disaster struck.

“Everybody did everything,” he said. “If you ever had a cynical bone in your body about your fellow man, forget it — people are better than you think.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


St. Louis Tent Collapse Leaves 1 Dead, 20 Injured

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One person was killed and at least 20 others were injured Saturday afternoon when fierce winds lifted a tent covering an outdoor beer garden in St. Louis, Mo., sending metal poles and chairs flying before it collapsed.

At least 100 people were in a beer garden set up next to Kilroy’s Sports Bar in downtown St. Louis when the tent collapsed.  Seventeen people were taken to the hospital, including the man who died. Five of those were in critical condition.  At least 11 others arrived at the hospital as walk-ins.

“We transported seventeen people at this time. We have one confirmed fatality right now,” St. Louis Fire Department Chief  David Jenkerson said. “We have five that we’ve transported that we consider critical.”

Officials said they believe the man who died suffered a heart attack.

The collapse was caused when 50 mph wind gusts lifted up the tent, sending metal poles up in the air.

“It picked the tents up and started ripping them off their moorings,” Jenkerson said.

“I thought a train fell off the track,” Art Randall, owner of Kilroy’s, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We all ducked for cover. Everything was going sideways. I had metal chairs ripping across the beer garden.”

Kilroy’s Bar, which is popular with St. Louis Cardinals fans, is located in downtown St. Louis near Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals had just won a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boy on Heart Transplant List Found After Being Kidnapped from Hospital

Pixland/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- A boy awaiting a heart transplant was found outside of Chicago after he was taken from a St. Louis hospital by his father, who does not have custody of his son.

An Amber Alert and a SARAA missing child alert were issued for Porter Stone, 5, after he was taken from the hospital by his 33-year-old father, Jeffrey Stone, at approximately 4 p.m. Tuesday.  The father then called Tiffany Stone, the boy's mother who has sole custody of him, to inform her that he was taking their son.  Tiffany Stone was reportedly at the hospital at the time her son was taken.

Illinois State Police issued a statement Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. ET that they had located the boy along with Jeffrey Stone and the man's mother, 59-year-old Rhonda Marie Matthews.

Three felony warrants were issued for kidnapping, interfering with custody and endangering the welfare of a child against Jeffery Stone and Matthews.  Both Jeffrey Stone and Matthews are now in custody, and the boy has been taken to an area hospital for evaluation.

The boy's parents are currently separated and, according to the boy's uncle, a custody battle has been waged between the two.

Porter Stone is next in line for a heart transplant at St. Louis Children's Hospital, according to ABC News affiliate KSDK.  He was reportedly discharged Tuesday afternoon after several days in the hospital, according to officials, so he could be monitored by doctors closer to home in the Kansas City area.

Officials said that Porter, who has been treated over the past several months at St. Louis Children's Hospital for cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle, left the hospital wearing an IV bag, which continuously infuses medicine into his vein.  He was thought to have enough of that for approximately the next 24 hours. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Atlanta, St. Louis Cops Eye Similarities for Missing Women Cases

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Similarities in the disappearances of two women in St. Louis and Atlanta have police in the two cities comparing notes to see whether the cases might be related.

Stacey Nicole English, 36, of the affluent Atlanta suburb of Buckhead, and Phoenix Coldon, 23, of St. Louis, both went missing in December and the cars were later found with the engines running.

The apparent similarities in the case have some people questioning whether the same person could be responsible for both disappearances.

English was reported missing by her parents on Dec. 27, after they called her for several days and failed to get a response. They went to her home and inside found her phone, iPad and the key fob to gain entry to her apartment complex. She never left home without her phone or iPad, they said.

English was apparently last seen by Robert Kirk, a St. Louis resident who was a guest in her home from Christmas Eve until Dec. 26.

Coldon was last seen outside her St. Louis home on Dec. 18. The woman's mother told police she saw Coldon in her car outside the family home, but when she checked later, the young woman's car was gone. The young woman failed to return home that night, and Coldon's mother called police the next morning.

Neither Coldon nor English have been seen since.

English's car, a white 2006 Volvo S60, and Coldon's vehicle, a 1998 black Chevy Blazer, were both impounded by police on the day the women apparently went missing. According to several reports, police initially didn't realize the cars that had been impounded belonged to the missing women for whom they were searching.

The women's parents have been critical of both departments' handling of the investigations, particularly the initial failure to connect the impounded cars to the cases.

Carlos Campos, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, told ABC News Monday evening that his department had communicated with investigators in St. Louis.

No one at the St. Louis Police Department's media office could be reached Monday evening, but the apparent similarities of the case reportedly have caught their investigators' attention as well.

Coldon's mother, Goldia, told the Huffington Post that St. Louis police Capt. Troy Doyle, who is working on her daughter's case, said he has seen similarities in both cases.

Campos told ABC News that Kirk was not considered a suspect or a person of interest, denying previous media reports that claimed police had named Kirk a person of interest in English's disappearance.

"As of right now there is no crime so there is no suspect to develop. This is a missing person's case," he said.

He said the department was working hard to solve the case.

English is about 5'3" tall and weighs about 120 pounds. She reportedly worked as an instructional designer at SunTrust Bank. A reward of $5,000 has been offered for any information that aids in locating her.

Police have also mounted a search for Coldon, who was last seen wearing grey sweatpants, a dark-colored hooded top and sneakers. She is 5'6" tall and weighs about 125 pounds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Continental Flight Diverted After Passenger Tries to Open Door Mid-Air

John Foxx/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- A Continental Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in St. Louis Sunday afternoon after a passenger on board tried to open a door while the plane was in mid-air.

According to officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, the disruptive passenger, a 34-year-old male from Burbank, Illinois, made his way to the front of the aircraft, saying he had to get off the plane.  Two passengers and a crew member restrained him while the flight landed and authorities boarded the aircraft.

The passenger was taken into custody and is being questioned.

Continental Flight 546 was heading to Chicago from Houston.  It was later cleared to continue its flight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tornado Touches Down as Dallas Faces Fierce Weather

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Tornadoes were forming over Dallas late Monday afternoon as the weather there turned ominous, threatened by a storm system that has brought 200 reports of severe weather across the country over the last 24 hours.

The threatening skies over Dallas prompted authorities to warn people to take cover just before a tornado touched down near the town of Cleburne, Texas. The same system that brought those twisters is also bringing torrential rain that has prompted flood warnings in 17 states.

The storms around Texas are part of a system expected to sweep across a broad part of the country including the southern Great Plains, the lower Mississippi Valley and into the Gulf Coast and the Tennessee Valley.

With all that activity and the storms that have already hit, Storm Prediction Center lead forecaster John Hart said we could see a record month.

So far, 292 tornadoes have touched down this April, killing 39 people.

"It may very well end up being more tornado reports in April than we've seen before," Hart said. "We do seem to be on track for a record in that respect."

Meanwhile, in the St. Louis area, people are recovering in the wake of a monster tornado -- the worst in nearly a half-century -- that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and ripped through the area's major airport over the weekend.

In Missouri, new damage totals show some 2,700 buildings damaged and 100 homes destroyed around St. Louis.

Power was knocked out for as many as 47,000 customers in the St. Louis area after the tornado. On Sunday, some 26,000 customers remained without power and officials said many could remain in the dark until Monday. No one was killed and a handful of injuries were reported.

At Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, surveillance video captured the exact moment a 135-mile-an-hour tornado struck, ripping off the roof and sending metal flying. Officials are fixing hundreds of panes of broken glass. It could take months and millions of dollars to complete the cleanup.

Flights were getting back to normal Monday after the airport reopened late Saturday.

Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said the continuing repairs to the airport shouldn't affect travelers.

Yet despite all this, victims are counting their blessings. There were no reported deaths as a result of the tornado.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Apparent Tornado Rips Through St. Louis Airport

ABC News/File(ST. LOUIS) -- Lambert-St. Louis International Airport remained closed Saturday morning after an apparent tornado swept through parts of St. Louis and severely damaged the airport Friday.

Officials say a total of four people had to be taken to a local hospital for treatment to minor injuries after storms pummeled the airport and surrounding areas on Friday evening. While the injuries to individuals were said to be minor, the damage to the airport was major.

Airport officials say Terminal 1 and Concourse C suffered the majority of the damage, with 50 percent of the windows and parts of the roof being wrecked by the storm. Vehicles and other equipment at the airport were reportedly tossed around as the storm hit the area, leaving behind damaged roadways and considerable ruin to airport entrances. However, officials say it appears that planes were spared the wrath of the storms.

“We are working with all the airlines to assess damage, at this time we do not believe any aircraft was damaged,” Lambert- St. Louis Int’l Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said in a statement.

Officials say the airport remained closed indefinitely as crews worked to clean up the mess left by the severe weather conditions.

Thousands of residents in the surrounding areas and in other parts of Missouri were also left in the dark Friday, after storms knocked out power. Several homes and other structures sustained damage, while trees and power lines came tumbling down as a result of high winds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Two US Marshals, Officer Shot in St. Louis

Thinkstock Images/Comstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Two U.S. Marshals and a St. Louis city officer were shot Tuesday morning while attempting to serve a warrant in the Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis.

The suspect with whom the officers exchanged fire was shot and killed at the scene.

Officers approached the residence just before 7 a.m., when they were confronted by the suspect, who, according to witnesses, told the marshals "I’m only going out in a body bag."

Shots were fired, with one U.S. Marshal struck in the head and critically injured. The second marshal was also hit, but his condition was not immediately known. All three men were rushed to area hospitals. The police officer who was hit was struck in his bulletproof vest and suffered a graze wound to the shoulder, as well as injuries from a fall.

Three children -- reportedly the suspect's niece and two nephews -- were safely taken out of the home before any shots were fired.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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