Ledell Brothers' last conscious hour had to be terrifying.
According to St. Louis police records from July, 2005, three men chased Brothers through the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood in North St. Louis. Every time they caught up with him, Brothers got a beating.
After evading his attackers for a short while, Brothers was cornered on the 6100 block of Martin Luther King Drive in Wellston. This is where police say the beating intensified. One of the three men began pounding away at Brothers head with a tree limb.
Alice Payne says she still remembers seeing her beaten brother in a bed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital that night. She says the beating was so bad, his face was unrecognizable.
"By us knowing it was him, we knew it was him," she said in an interview in her North Side home. "But it was like... it really didn't look like him."
The next evening, Brothers died.
But according to crime records maintained by the Missouri Highway Patrol, this never happened.
According to crime statistics complied by the Missouri Highway Patrol, no one was murdered in Wellston in 2005. Or 2006. Or 2007.
As we discovered, those statistics are dead wrong -- and Wellston Police are to blame.
State law requires local police departments to file detailed crime reports with the Highway Patrol every month. This allows police managers to accurately track crime and helps lawmakers allocate money to police forces that need it most.
Wellston Police have failed to submit those reports since at least 2005. As a result, Brothers' murder -- and at least six more from those three years -- were never counted.
According to Wellston's mayor, this failure to comply with state law is the result of a pile of problems.
Mayor Frank McNeil said a police chief was terminated in 2006 for failing to file reports with the Highway Patrol. In 2007, a new chief was appointed and ordered to fix Wellston's crime reporting problem. Yet the backlog of unreported crimes continued to snowball. Later that year, a civilian employee in charge of crime reporting was terminated for failing to do her job.
Not until March, 2008 did Wellston begin to address its crime reporting problems. According to Mayor McNeil, an assistant chief is now managing the city's crime reporting program. He expects the department to be in full compliance with the law by the end of July.
In the meantime, Wellston's failure to file crime statistics is holding back police efforts to crack down on crime in the north county community. Until the city is in compliance, Wellston is ineligible for state and federal funds that could be used to hire more officers or purchase better equipment.