Sealed with a Kiss

A stripper, a podiatrist and a lawyer are entangled in Maryland Heights. Ah, the many moods of love.

The stripper noticed the podiatrist at parties. He was a bodybuilder with a big ego, and soon enough a mutual friend hooked them up. On their first date, they went to the Have a Nice Day Café at Union Station. They drank and danced until closing, then continued their evening at a private party, where white lines were laid on a table. The romance had begun.

Little did they know what the affair would produce. A month later, they'd be living together. Within six months, she'd sleep with his best friend. The podiatrist would be arrested for beating her until her ribs cracked and one of her breast implants popped. She'd turn around and finger him to the cops for possessing codeine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and magic mushrooms. She'd sue him. He'd wear a wire to tape conversations, resulting in the arrest of her lawyer. Then the two would reconcile.

Ain't love grand?

Rachel Krippner called the Maryland Heights police around 6 p.m. on June 4 and told them that Ron Freilich, a podiatrist, had assaulted her at his home. The police carted the pair, bruised and ruffled, to the station and questioned them; they then charged Freilich, 42, with domestic assault. Earlier that day, the fuse had been lit: Freilich's best friend called him to confess his most recent sexual conquest: Rachel Krippner. After some coercion, she says, she admitted it to Freilich, "hoping it would end the argument." It did not. They went at it, slapping and pushing each other around the house. He had nearly 100 pounds on her, and she caught the worst of it.

According to the restraining order Krippner filed two days later, Freilich "threw me into the side of the bed frame, he tried to rub my face in broken glass ... he slapped me two times in the face, punched me in my sternum and broke my rib. [He] told me I couldn't leave his house and locked and blocked doors, pulled me by my hair back in to the house."

At the Maryland Heights police station that night, she told the police where Freilich kept his party drugs. "She wasn't in a good mood," says Det. Sgt. Joe Delia, 38. Krippner, 23, had quit her job as a stripper at the Diamond Cabaret, an East Side club, and, according to what Freilich told police, was spending her days lying around his place, doing mostly nothing. Krippner countered that Freilich was "a daily user of cocaine."

Because of Krippner's allegation, Delia says, police requested and received Freilich's consent to a search of his home on Bennington Place. Krippner's statement proved true; police found a cornucopia of recreational drugs. Freilich claimed that someone left the drugs behind during a party he'd held a month earlier. Still, he was charged with four felonies of drug possession and a Class A misdemeanor for the assault.

The next day, at St. Anthony's Medical Center, Krippner was found to have a broken rib and, she claims, a ruptured breast implant. Her breasts were her charms, a part of her livelihood, and any damage would have to be corrected. She hired Chris Hoffman to represent her. Only one year out of St. Louis University's law school, Hoffman, 32, had already made a name for himself representing East Side dancers. Hoffman contacted Freilich's attorney, Gary Siegel, and soon they entered into settlement negotiations.

The lawyers drafted an initial proposal: In exchange for a payment to compensate Krippner for her injuries, she would not press assault charges. No settlement on that charge, however, could prevent the state from prosecuting Freilich on the drug charges. But on June 25, Freilich made a play: He called Sgt. Delia and claimed he was being blackmailed by his girlfriend and her attorney, Hoffman.

According to Freilich, Hoffman had contacted his attorney, Siegel, and offered to arrange a settlement in exchange for Krippner's silence on all charges, including those involving the drugs. When Freilich said he was to meet with the attorneys at Siegel's office the next day, Delia suggested he secretly record the conversation to verify his story. Freilich did just that, and he brought the tape back to Delia: For a $55,000 settlement, Krippner would drop prosecution of the assault case and refuse to testify against Freilich in any tribunal -- criminal, civil or medical board.

At this point, Freilich's attorney, Siegel, backed out of the case. "Ron essentially had become his own investigator," says the former prosecutor. "Besides, he was cooperating directly with the police at that point, and he no longer needed me. And, frankly, I wasn't interested in bringing down someone from my profession."

Just after the meeting Freilich taped, Krippner called Delia. "You guys are not going to be very happy with me," she said, after which she told him she was dropping the assault charge against Freilich and that she needed to come pick up a "no prosecution" form right away.

Delia, who had smelled enough of a rat to tape the conversation, asked, "How much is he getting you?"

"Enough -- more than enough," replied Krippner.

Meanwhile, Hoffman began dealing directly with Freilich. Did he want the deal or not? Freilich only pretended to take the offer. Instead, he went back to Delia. On June 28, Freilich, outfitted with a wire, met with Hoffman in the parking lot of a Denny's restaurant on Dorsett Road at I-270. In his hand was a dummy cashier's check for $55,000. Delia and other police officers hid and listened in on the conversation. Hoffman walked to Freilich's car and got in.

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