News 4 Investigates: Man claims CAO continuing to mishandle case, questioning when old problems will be fixed

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 8:33 PM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2023 at 11:00 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - More than a week after Kim Gardner resigned, ripple effects of her leadership in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office continue to surface as a man claims prosecutors are mishandling his case after already admitting they made mistakes locking him up before.

Levi Henning walked out of court Thursday with his head down and without saying a word.

Henning’s name might sound familiar. In court filings two months ago, the Missouri Attorney General (AG) used Henning as an example of how Gardner failed to do her job and should be removed from office.

Since Gardner resigned suddenly on May 16, 2023, Governor Mike Parson’s top lawyer and AG staff have been helping manage the Circuit Attorney’s Office. In court on Thursday, Henning’s lawyer David Mueller said there are continued failures by prosecutors, and he questioned when old problems will get fixed.

“Not much has changed since Ms. Gardner’s resignation, it appears,” Mueller said. “I’m concerned because all of the evidence I’ve seen come out of the office has been more of the same.”

Mueller is running for Circuit Attorney in 2024. He says Henning’s case prompted him to run because he realized the office needs to be fixed.

Hennings’s case starts in December 2018 when police accused him of stealing a woman’s car at gunpoint in the Central West End. At the time, Henning was 17 years old. He spent a year in the city jail and was released to a “Teen Challenge” program in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Henning is accused of absconding from the program.

Then in April 2020, Henning was accused of murdering Parkway West High School student 18-year-old Carieal Doss. Henning spent more than three years in jail, claiming he was innocent.

In March 2023, reporting by News 4 Investigates exposed how city prosecutors sat on evidence in the murder case for years that pointed to another suspect. Prosecutors dropped the murder case, citing lack of evidence.

“I’ve never seen a case this bad,” Mueller told News 4 in March. “It’s either gross negligence or willful denial of a defendant’s constitutional rights.”

Henning remained in jail since he still faced the carjacking case from 2018. It’s that case that brought him to court Thursday.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mueller argued prosecutors again failed to turn over evidence.

“Since July 1st of 2019, we’ve known the DNA has been pending and we have no idea where it is, if it’s ever been tested, or what it says,” Mueller said. “We’ve got five years of failure to hand over DNA evidence over here; it’s a disaster.”

In Thursday’s hearing, the city prosecutor said he was the latest to touch this case and told the judge outright, “I’m not that well prepared.”

“If you’re going to lock somebody up, if you’re going to put them in the cage, you have to provide the discovery and the evidence against them. That’s never been done in this case,” Mueller said.

Last week, the judge let Henning out on bond for the carjacking case, but prosecutors immediately filed to revoke bond, saying they needed time to alert the victim.

In court Thursday, the prosecutor said he was told to file the motion by AG staff who are helping run the Circuit Attorney’s Office since Gardner’s resignation.

“It’s terrible to see Mr. Henning caught in the middle of the political maneuvering between Jefferson City and the city of St. Louis,” Mueller told News 4.

Mueller pointed to how the AG used Henning as an example of Gardner’s mismanagement and questioned what’s happening now.

“They were saying Ms. Gardner’s office had violated his constitutional rights, had kept him locked up for reasons that made no sense, and yet here they are saying that once again it needs to be reconsidered, and he needs to be locked up,” Mueller said.

News 4 Investigates reached out to prosecutors for answers. Currently, the Circuit Attorney’s Office is using Governor Mike Parson’s spokeswoman as their news contact. The Governor’s spokeswoman said she would look into the case.

According to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s Office, all questions about cases at the Circuit Attorney’s Office must be directed to the Governor’s spokeswoman.

Henning will remain on bond. The judge told prosecutors he needs answers about how they’ve contacted the victim and will use that to review Henning’s bond.

Henning’s lawyer also filed a motion to dismiss the carjacking case citing continued failures by the Circuit Attorney’s Office. The judge is reviewing that motion.