Tonight, East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks told me he "absolutely" has complete confidence in Police Chief Michael Baxton.
There aren't many people who seem to share the Mayor's feelings. There is strong support among many officers, and East Saint Louis city leaders to fire Baxton or, at the very least, allow him to resign.
Last Thursday News 4 Investigates broadcast a mugshot of Baxton from August 1987. The Chief refused to explain why he appeared in the mugshot at the Saint Clair County Jail. There is no public record of the case. A few years later, Baxton faced the first of two Battery charges filed against him. Both cases were dismissed.
In November 2007, Baxton told Illinois State Police that his newly created Homicide Unit "will be responsible to investigate all homicides that occur within the city of East St. Louis." In addition, Baxton told Lt. Mark Bramlett (now a Captain) of the ISP that "I am requesting that you and your staff forward all homicide or non-homicide cases back to the City of East St. Louis to be investigated by this unit immediately."
Bramlett told me the ISP called Baxton and the ESL Police repeatedly to schedule a time for pickup or delivery, but Baxton never responded.
Today, fifteen months later, the evidence in approximately 50 murder cases sits in vaults at two ISP offices, one in Collinsville, the other in Springfield.
In an interview this morning outside his office, States Attorney Bob Haida told me that it was "shameful and wrong" that the evidence in 50 unsolved murder cases apparently hasn't been seen by the same police department that assumed control of the cases.
"It needs to be addressed immediately by Mayor Parks and Chief Baxton. They need to answer to their citizens, the people that they claim to represent, how this could happen." said Haida.
The feelings are even stronger in the home of Annette Bowers. Mrs. Bowers' son Larry was murdered more than two years ago in East Saint Louis. His unsolved case is one of the ones sitting in a State Police vault.
"It's a disgrace with a capital D," she told me.
But Mayor Parks claims "it doesn't matter what happened 15 months ago." He blames KMOV, not Chief Baxton for creating the scandal that has engulfed his department.
"You guys (KMOV) already tried to throw us under the bus," Mayor Parks told me tonight.
Mayor Parks insists that he has kept promises he made to Haida in a closed door meeting after we disclosed our findings to both of them, but Haida still insists he's not satisfied and vowed to review "every open felony case" from East St. Louis to make sure it should be prosecuted. Mayor Parks said the city police department will call ISP to help investigate every murder in the city, and that ISP may be asked to take a lead role in some investigations.
The Mayor also said the department was going to appoint an Internal Affairs officer. That's right, the department didn't have one. Parks says the duties were actually handled by several officers, including Chief Baxton.
The saga is expected to generate alot of public interest when the East St. Louis City Council holds its Public Safety Committee meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m.