Imagine living in a city that has had one of the highest murder rates in the country for many years.
Now imagine that your Police Chief told the State Police he no longer wanted, or needed their help on homicide investigations.
It sounds hard to believe, but 15 months ago East St. Louis Chief Michael Baxton told the Illinois State Police that he was creating a homicide unit and no longer needed the help of the ISP.
In fact, Baxton put it in writing. His letter, dated November 7, 2007, Baxton wrote that "a few months ago I requested to have a meeting with your agents to review the pending homicide cases that they are currently working on and that has not come to path (sic). I am very disappointed in the lack of cooperation that I am receiving with this request."
The letter stunned Lt. Mark Bramlett (shown below), who told me he was unaware of any problems with the East St. Louis police department.
Baxton wrote that he was creating a homicide unit that will "help decrease the crime and the homicide rate that has be (sic) plaguing the city for many years."
It's true that there was a significant drop in murders last year in East St. Louis, although it's unclear how many of those cases were solved by Baxton's homicide unit.
In his letter, Baxton wrote that the combined forces of ISP and East St. Louis during the last two years "we have had 53 homicides and only 17 have been solved." Bramlett thought the number of solved cases was higher, but I couldn't confirm that.
In closing, the Chief added "as a result to (sic) the uncooperation that has been displayed since I have been in office by your Homicide Unit, I feel this is the best action to take."
The Chief requested that the ISP "forward all homicide cases or non-homicide cases back to the City of East Saint Louis to be investigated by this unit immediately."
Bramlett, now a Captain, told me that neither Baxton, nor any other East St. Louis officer picked up the evidence, which includes critical pieces of still unsolved murders. Bramlett says the ISP called Baxton and left messages asking for a time and date to deliver the evidence, but the Chief never responded.
So, the evidence, which apparently hasn't been seen by East St. Louis police for at least 15 months is still sitting in vaults in Collinsville and Springlfield far from the officers who are supposed to be doing the investigations.