Murder in the Cathedral

Carol Bledsoe's alleged killer had a long criminal record and deep psychological problems. Church volunteers didn't know how big a threat he posed.

On June 29, 2001, Davis approached a male (records don't indicate his age) in the downtown public library. According to police records, Davis asked him to come behind a bookshelf and asked him whether he believed in love. When he didn't respond, Davis asked him to touch his "private part." The victim reported the incident to an off-duty police officer who was working security at the library. Davis, who was still in the library, was arrested, charged with third-degree sexual misconduct and sentenced to a suspended fifteen-day jail term and a year of probation. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender, banned from libraries and required to attend a counseling service for sexual offenders. His probation was suspended when he failed to show up for counseling, and Davis served his fifteen days in September 2001.

Today Michael Davis is back in jail, this time facing a first-degree murder charge for the December 19 stabbing death of Carol Bledsoe.

Bledsoe, a 64-year-old grandmother who had fought to keep the church doors open to Davis, was stabbed in the hallway just outside her office on the bottom floor of the church at 1:20 p.m.

Tom Burnham of Peter and Paul Community Services serves breakfast to as many as 100 homeless men and women at Christ Church Cathedral every morning.
Jennifer Silverberg
Tom Burnham of Peter and Paul Community Services serves breakfast to as many as 100 homeless men and women at Christ Church Cathedral every morning.
Building manager Jim McGahey held Bledsoe in his arms as she died. "I could immediately tell that this wasn't something she was going to get through easily," he says.
Jennifer Silverberg
Building manager Jim McGahey held Bledsoe in his arms as she died. "I could immediately tell that this wasn't something she was going to get through easily," he says.

Davis was picked up by police a few blocks away on the same afternoon, allegedly in possession of a bloody pocketknife.

"Obviously we made the wrong decision," McGahey says.


Carol Bledsoe started working at Christ Church Cathedral, located at the corner of 13th and Locust streets, as a secretary in 1998. She began doing secretarial work when her four children grew up and left home. A St. Louis native, Bledsoe wasn't a member of Christ Church Cathedral. She and her husband, Jack, lived in St. Louis County and attended Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves.

At Christ Church, her desk was just inside the red Dutch door to the main office on the ground floor. The top half of the door was usually open, and homeless men began lining up in the hallway to use the telephone or ask for referrals to other agencies. They called her "Miss Carol." Eventually Bledsoe convinced a local doughnut shop to donate day-old pastries, and she and McGahey, with the help of the church's custodial staff, started serving a free breakfast every morning. At times, Bledsoe's work with the homeless kept her from her work as the church's secretary.

"She had other work to do," says the Reverend Michael Randolph, who served as interim dean at Christ Church Cathedral from 2000 until 2002. "Sometimes it would back up and there would be tension in the office. I had to understand that she was doing other things." Randolph said he considered changing Bledsoe's job description, hiring another secretary and allowing her to run an outreach program for the homeless, before he was forced by health problems to resign last spring.

"It reached a point when the staff here were putting in a total of 40 hours a week -- between Carol and the maintenance staff -- dealing with this group here," says Tom Burnham, shelter-services director at Peter and Paul Community Services. Burnham runs the church's Club Cathedral program, which feeds 50 to 100 homeless men and women every morning. "We realized we had to find a better way to manage it. All the folks in that office have a job description and responsibilities, and it's taken time from their regular responsibilities to deal with this."

Bledsoe's family declined comment, but people who knew her at the church remember her tough but maternal treatment of the men and women who crowded outside her office. Even after Peter and Paul officially started coordinating Club Cathedral in October, Bledsoe was still willing to do whatever she could to help any of them. Last June, when a man came into the church from Illinois, holding a flier with a picture of his father on it and asking whether anyone there knew him, Bledsoe said she recognized him. The man on the flier had just started coming in, she told him. Eventually, after gentle, patient prodding from Bledsoe, the man agreed in December to go home with his son. It happened less than two weeks before Bledsoe was murdered.

McGahey says her willingness to throw herself into the middle of other people's problems may have put her at greater risk than anyone realized.

"She didn't do it because it was her job," McGahey says. "It wasn't. She did it because she was a wonderful lady. She was like a mother to a lot of these guys. She could be bossy, too. I'm afraid that's what happened with Mike. I'm afraid she also had a habit of getting in their faces if she had to. I was always afraid when she did that."


Davis was a regular patron of the Club Cathedral program. He had been homeless since the early 1980s, when he had cut ties with his family because of what relatives say was a pattern of increasingly bizarre behavior and inability to hold a steady job. People who knew him -- church employees, social-service workers and other homeless men -- say Davis' mental problems were obvious. He kept to himself; he was familiar to church staff, volunteers and other homeless people, but none of them knew him well.

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