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.

"The Post-Dispatch described Michael as a drifter," Burnham says. "If he was a drifter, he drifted around this building for years."

Davis was born in North St. Louis in 1954 to a large family with six brothers and sisters. He dropped out of high school in 1971 and joined the Job Corps, completing a carpentry apprenticeship in Nebraska in 1972. After a year in the U.S. Navy, he returned to St. Louis in 1973 and moved into his mother's apartment in the Cochran Gardens housing project. He completed another apprenticeship with a mechanical-workers' union, but family members say he had a hard time holding a job and his behavior became odd and erratic.

In 1979, after a breakup with a live-in girlfriend, Davis visited the emergency room at Malcolm Bliss Mental Health Center. He was prescribed Valium for mild depression and referred to a psychiatrist for further treatment.

The Reverend Michael Randolph knew Michael Davis as well as anyone when he served as interim dean of Christ Church Cathedral from 2000 to 2002.
Jennifer Silverberg
The Reverend Michael Randolph knew Michael Davis as well as anyone when he served as interim dean of Christ Church Cathedral from 2000 to 2002.
Margaret Mantia, executive assistant to the church's dean, stands in the hallway where Bledsoe was stabbed.
Jennifer Silverberg
Margaret Mantia, executive assistant to the church's dean, stands in the hallway where Bledsoe was stabbed.

Family members say the spiral that eventually landed Davis on the streets began with the shooting death of his older brother Jerome Davis on December 23, 1983.

That night, Jerome went to the North St. Louis apartment of a woman named Annie Jones and her 21-year-old son Eddie. According to newspaper reports, Jerome, armed with a handgun and accompanied by an unidentified man, intended to settle some "long-standing interfamily dispute." During an argument, Jerome Davis hit the woman with the gun and shot her twice, in the left arm and in the side. Eddie Jones reportedly took the gun and shot Jerome three times in the chest and abdomen. The unidentified man stabbed Jones three times in the back and fled. Jerome Davis died at the scene. Both Eddie Jones and his mother survived.

Police records on the shooting remain sealed because no charges were filed on the shooting or on the stabbing of Eddie Jones.

Davis' family, in a prepared statement read at the office of Davis' attorney, Justin Meehan, initially said Davis was traumatized by seeing his brother shot to death and having to flee for his life, implying that Davis may have been the unidentified man in the newspaper stories. Michael's older brother Art Davis, a retired high-school teacher and football coach, later denied through Meehan that Michael was involved, saying that he was outside the apartment building during the incident. Art Davis said the newspaper accounts were inaccurate.

Meehan turned down a request to interview his client, but Michael Davis' relatives say he drifted away after his brother's death. He refused their repeated efforts to bring him in off the streets but occasionally took money when it was offered. In 1987, security guards at Famous-Barr called police to remove Davis, who would not leave the store. According to the affidavit filed by the responding officer, Davis said he was God and Jimmy Hoffa and told police he wanted to die. Hospital staff reported that Davis was hostile, manipulative, aggressive and irritable. A diagnosis of acute alcohol intoxication and antisocial-personality disorder was made, but Davis was not admitted.

In 1993, while Davis was staying at his mother's apartment, his mother and sister had him admitted at Malcolm Bliss again for a 96-hour evaluation. According to medical records, Davis had been paranoid, saying his family members were not his real family, walking around the apartment without any clothes and claiming to own the apartment building where his mother lived. Despite a physical assault on his mother -- according to the reports, he hit her on the head with a teakettle, punched her and threatened to throw her out a sixth-story window -- staff members noted that his family seemed caring and supportive. On admission to the hospital, he was evasive, hostile and probably drunk; he repeatedly made the sign of the cross. After two days, staff at the hospital restrained him when he threatened a nurse and refused his medication. He was prescribed medication for his agitation and transferred to the Veterans Administration hospital, but records for his stay there are unavailable.

Randolph, who knew Davis as well as anyone when he served as interim dean at Christ Church Cathedral, says he asked Davis once whether he was taking any medication. Davis told him he wasn't, Randolph says, but then changed his mind and gave him the name of a caseworker at the VA hospital. Randolph couldn't find any trace of the caseworker. "Either the name was wrong or that person doesn't exist," Randolph says. "I tend to think he probably was [on medication]."

The day Bledsoe was murdered, McGahey was at his desk, in an interior office behind Bledsoe's desk in the main church office. He had heard a disturbance in the hallway just a few seconds before and assumed that Bledsoe would go see what was happening.

Sharon Bocklage, manager of the church bookstore, heard the disturbance, too. She recalls two voices -- one loud and "ranting," the other softer, trying to calm the first. Bocklage says she was with a customer and couldn't see what was happening, but she's certain she heard two people outside. The first person was so loud that she called 911.

"Someone was ranting and raving, and there was someone else trying to calm him down," Bocklage says. "I have no idea who the other person was."

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