Who's Next?

Annette Green didn't have to die. Her death was a tragedy waiting to happen in St. Louis County's reckless war against two-bit drug dealers and addicts.

Three months after the shooting, the neighborhood still talks about Green and the way she died. "And we all hate very badly that it happened," says the neighbor, who asks that her name not be published. "Everybody just hates it real bad. You just don't know what to do. There's nothing you can do."

Friendly or not, Green wasn't happy with her life. She started using drugs in high school but managed to graduate from Halter High School. "I think she was somewhere around 18, 19 years old," her sister says. "She hid it from the family for a long time. We didn't know she was messing with the drugs for four or five years. After we heard she was doing drugs, we were in denial for almost a year. We heard it, but we kind of passed it off until we started seeing signs of her not wanting to hold a job, being put out of places where she's not paying her bills. She couldn't control it. There were times she would break down and cry to my mother, saying she didn't like the way she was living."

Green liked to style hair, and she enrolled in computer classes after high school but dropped out several months before she completed the program. About eight years ago, long before her first brush with the law, she checked herself into an inpatient drug-rehabilitation clinic. She stayed for about a month while her mother and sister watched her children. But she couldn't stay clean. Her relatives learned to not give her money--if she needed clothes or food, Betty Williams says she would buy the items herself, then give them to her sister. "Anybody that know what cocaine do for you, they know that it's very, very hard to kick that habit," she says. "A lot of people feel that it's easier to stay on than to try to kick the habit. I guess she was one of them."

Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."
Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."
Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."
Jennifer Silverberg
Bertha Williams says she is still shocked by her daughter's death: "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."

The family acknowledges that Green could have been a better mother to her six sons. "The only thing that they really had problems with is her sleeping in and them not going to school like they should," her sister says. "She didn't abuse her kids. The kids, they knew what she was about. But they loved her." Green's relatives pitched in when they could, often watching the children and buying them clothes. Today, the children are getting counseling to help them overcome the tragedy. Some are doing better than others. "There's one who's kind of having problems," Betty Williams says. "The 12-year-old that had to step over her, he's to the point where he don't like nobody to say nothing about his mother. I guess the kids at school, they bother him about his mother and stuff. They say things -- you know, 'Your mother's a crackhead' and stuff."

No one who went to Green's standing-room-only funeral called her a crackhead the day she was buried. A memorial service at the Wellston Community Center drew several hundred people. Top county officials have also expressed their sympathy. Councilwoman Edith Cunnane (R-3rd) told the crowd at the Wellston church that she made a half-dozen calls to housing programs in hopes of finding someplace where Green's children could stay. "I'm not here in judgment of whether something went wrong or didn't go wrong," Cunnane said. "I'm concerned that six kids are sleeping on the floor."

Bertha Williams, 71, is raising her daughter's children just a few blocks from where their mother died. She'd like to get out of Wellston but has no prospects for housing elsewhere. "I never thought in a million years this might happen," she says. "I didn't think she would leave the world that way."

Green's mother and sister say they have no bitterness toward Steib, whose name they don't know. Betty Williams says she prays for him and his family. "I do not have any hard feelings toward him at all," she says. "If running out there and jumping up and down in the street would bring her back, I'd do that. But it won't bring her back, hating nobody. He's got to live with this. But he knows what happened. Everybody's blessed with a conscience. If his conscience don't bother him, I most certainly won't. He'll have to deal with God on that."

Williams says she doesn't want to know the name of the man who killed her sister. But Lavon Williams, Green's 16-year-old son who was napping upstairs when police broke in, feels differently.

From the porch of the house where his mother died, Williams says he's been helping fix up the place so his grandmother can sell it. A brand-new door with a deadbolt has replaced the one broken by police. Above the doorway is a bouquet of plastic flowers, a memento of the funeral. It's midafternoon on a school day, but Lavon isn't in class. "I woke up too late," he explains.

Lavon says he sometimes comes back to the house at night to play cards or to party. He's not worried about the police returning. "They won't come back," he says. "They better not come back." And he most definitely wants to know who killed his mother.

"So I can look him in the eye and ask why," he says.

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