Dead Reckoning

Police and prosecutors say they know who brutally murdered Cassandra Kovack. But no one has answered the question: Why?

Leonardo Drisdel had drifted for a while before realizing he'd left his heart in St. Louis. Since moving back to town in the late 1980s, the 46-year-old native son had seemingly found happiness. He shared a handsome house with his second wife and three kids. He loved their South Grand neighborhood, whose racial diversity and affordable cost of living embodied everything that made St. Louis great.

It wouldn't have been a stretch to say Drisdel was a minor celebrity around town. A radio host and sometime pitchman, he hosted The Human Factor Thursday afternoons on WGNU (920 AM), holding forth on the hot-button political issues of the day. He'd overcome a childhood stuttering problem and now had a perfect voice for the task -- a quick, smooth baritone, full of inflection. ("God-given," he'd say modestly.) St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was a regular guest, and Drisdel considered him a friend. Passionate listeners looked him up in the phone book and called him at home at all hours to get his take on political issues.

As a black man with a conservative bent, Drisdel took pleasure in confounding expectations. In his teens he'd been a mohawked punk rocker, later he'd tried on the garb of a Pentecostal preacher, but now he broadcast his version of the unvarnished truth on the radio. He spoke up for the downtrodden and spoke out against the morally suspect.

Accused of the murder of Cassandra Kovack, Leonardo Drisdel spends his days on lockdown at the St. Louis City Justice Center.
Jennifer Silverberg
Accused of the murder of Cassandra Kovack, Leonardo Drisdel spends his days on lockdown at the St. Louis City Justice Center.
A Chicago transplant, Cassandra Kovack loved her friends in St. Louis' goth community.
A Chicago transplant, Cassandra Kovack loved her friends in St. Louis' goth community.
On the night of June 4th, Cassandra Kovack invited a guest into her Miami Street apartment complex. Sometime later, a downstairs neighbor heard screams.
On the night of June 4th, Cassandra Kovack invited a guest into her Miami Street apartment complex. Sometime later, a downstairs neighbor heard screams.
Cassandra Kovack's Miami Street apartment complex
Cassandra Kovack's Miami Street apartment complex

Perhaps it owed to the influence of his religious background, but no matter what the topic, Drisdel always seemed to bring the conversation around to a basic theme: the struggle of good versus evil.

"The bottom line, folks: There is spiritual wickedness that runs around in high places," he said on March 24, speaking on the subject of that week's fatal shootings at a high school on an Indian reservation in Minnesota. "And there's no higher place than in your minds.

"It's the voice that you listen to, and it's what you do with that," he continued. "You can say, 'I'm not going to let stinking thinking ruin my life.' I can talk about drug addicts that wake up every day, alcoholics that wake up every day, overeaters that wake up every day and say, 'Look, I wanna eat and eat and eat until I bust. I wanna drug it up, drink it up until I pass out -- but I choose not to, because I refuse to listen to that voice.'"

As it turned out, good and evil were going toe-to-toe not just on Leonardo Drisdel's radio show, but also in his mind. Friends and family members say he was haunted by a physical disability and psychological disorders, by the recent deaths of two close relatives, one of whom was murdered, by various addictions to a plethora of drugs, both legal and illegal.

Somehow, though, he managed to keep the demons at bay.

Until June 4 -- the night Leonardo Drisdel listened to "that voice."


In the early evening of June 4, Derrick Drisdel wished his half-brother Leonardo a happy birthday. Despite the distance between them -- Derrick lives in Los Angeles -- the brothers were close. They even share a birthday, almost: Leonardo would turn 46 on June 5, while Derrick would turn 55 the following day.

Derrick figured his kid brother would be in good spirits. The birthday celebration had begun early, with a family barbecue. But Leonardo had nothing to impart but gloom and doom.

"I didn't do much talking," recalls Derrick Drisdel, who works as a personal assistant to funk legend George Clinton. "He seemed disturbed. He talked about everything that had been bothering him since he was a child." Derrick says he listened patiently but didn't think all that much of it; their family had suffered numerous tragedies in recent years, and venting was only natural.

It was a steamy Saturday night. At around nine o'clock, shortly after the conversation with his brother, Leonardo told his wife he was going to take a walk to Schnucks to pick up some beer. Janene Drisdel didn't protest, despite the fact that she wasn't feeling well and typically objected to her husband drinking beer in their home. "I was being generous because he was turning 46," she says.

He promised he'd be back in five minutes.

A few hours earlier, just around the corner from the Drisdels' south St. Louis home, Cassandra Kovack had left her apartment on Miami Street, headed to a festival in Tower Grove Park to meet some friends. The 28-year-old Chicago native had been feeling down; she was out of work and had recently broken up with her boyfriend.

Paul Hudson, the caretaker at Kovack's apartment building, saw her go out. "I said, 'How are you doing, Cassandra?'" he remembers. "She said, 'All right. I'm depressed, but I'm going out.'"

Drisdel and Kovack had been casual acquaintances for a number of years, though a more unlikely pair would have been hard to find: She was a Rubenesque white woman with long auburn hair; he was diminutive, stocky and bald.

At some point that night, they crossed paths.

Ultimately, much of what transpired will likely have to be sorted out by a jury. The description that follows has been pieced together from news accounts, interviews and a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department incident report. (A request for further documentation was denied by the police department on the grounds that the investigation has been turned over to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office. Assistant Circuit Attorney Tom Clark declined to comment for this story.)

Despite what he'd promised his wife, Drisdel didn't return home until after midnight.

"You know I've been sitting here waiting on you!" Janene Drisdel remembers telling her husband. "What's been taking so long?"

The house was dark, but even in the low light she could see something was wrong. Drisdel was unsteady; he had to lean against the fireplace mantel for balance. And his face -- it looked like he'd been punched in both eyes. Then he moved into the light and Janene saw him clearly. He was drenched in blood, from his jeans to his gray tank top.

He told her he'd met up with Cassandra Kovack and that she'd invited him into her apartment. At some point, he said, he'd smoked crack cocaine. A voice in his head told him that Kovack was the Devil, he said. The voice instructed him to kill her.

"He looked like something had taken him over," Janene says of the confession. "I just think he had some kind of psychotic break. Everything about his face was completely different -- like he totally just snapped."

Methodically, Drisdel strode into the pink-tiled bathroom, undressed and sat down in the green bathtub. He washed the blood off himself, got out and cleaned the tub. Then he put on clean clothes and left.

Janene Drisdel phoned a friend. "I said, 'Can I come over? I need to come over,'" she recalls. "She could tell by my voice it was [important]. She said, 'Just bring your kids and come on.'"

She loaded her three sleeping children into her car. Her friend called 911. Shortly thereafter, police picked up Drisdel at a bus stop at South Grand Boulevard and Chippewa Street. He directed them to Cassandra Kovack's apartment.

"If your husband tells you something like this, your mind wonders what is going on: 'Did this really happen? Is it a hoax? Is he hallucinating? Was he just hearing voices that made him believe this?'" says Janene Drisdel. "You don't know. And you start wondering. You don't even think about the fact that there was blood. You think about the words."

Kovack's ex-boyfriend Jon Jackson lived with her until last September and was the first civilian to see the apartment after the police were through. Based on what he saw, Jackson surmises that the encounter began with Kovack making dinner for her guest: There were two bowls of pasta with olive oil on the coffee table in the front room.

A trail of blood indicates that the struggle began in the bathroom. Apparently, Kovack tried to flee her attacker, only to be caught in the living room.

"Blood had pooled up like she had been beaten to the floor," says Ralph Lucas, another of Kovack's friends who saw the murder scene.

According to an account published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the murderer slashed Kovack's upper right arm with a knife and bit her nose and cheek. Caretaker Paul Hudson says a downstairs neighbor reported hearing screams.

Lucas, who spoke with detectives, says the assailant bludgeoned Kovack to death with his bare hands. She died where they found her: inches from her front door. "She was fighting back and trying to get out of the apartment," Lucas says.

The crime scene was horrifying.

"It was pretty bad," says Jackson, citing a bloody outline on a white living-room wall, "like she had hit the wall and slid [down]." Kovack's furniture had been knocked around. A black samurai sword, which he says she kept in her bedroom for self-protection, was undisturbed.

Lucas says it took four hours to scrub away the blood.


By his own account, Leonardo Drisdel was not a popular kid.

"I had a bad, bad stuttering problem till I was almost ready to graduate from high school," he recalls. "I was extremely fat, except I could run fast. You had to be, with kids trying to beat me up. They would call me 'Leonardo Retardo.'"

Drisdel was born in St. Louis in 1959. His parents divorced when he was very young; he stayed with his mother, mostly, and was on the move constantly, taking up residence at various times in Illinois, Iowa, Boston and New Jersey, to name a few. He also logged time living with an uncle and with his grandmother.

According to one man who has close ties to the family, Drisdel was physically abused by his mother. "He told me a few years ago that she beat him with ironing cords," says the source, who spoke on condition that he not be named.

Janene Drisdel says her husband mentioned the beatings. "I'd heard that before," she says. "But I didn't grow up in that household, so I don't know what went on there. I think it was discipline, that's all that was."

Canzader Perkins, Drisdel's mother, lives in University City. Reached by phone, she declined to comment.

Derrick Drisdel says his younger brother was sexually molested by a male relative (not his father) but declines to provide details.

"He mentioned some things," confirms Janene, who likewise will not elaborate.

On the advice of his attorney, Drisdel would not comment on the topic of abuse.

Drisdel went to high school in Joliet, Illinois, where he says he was a precocious student. "I carried a gym bag," he says. "Where everyone else had gym clothes, mine was full of books."

After high school he embarked upon what he describes as his "starving artist" phase. He took up music, learning to play keyboard. "I was finding myself. Going to rock concerts, thinking I was going to be a rock star. I was trying to get in," Drisdel recounts. "My motive was to try to rub elbows to get there."

His taste ran from funksters like James Brown to punks like the Sex Pistols, his look featured a mohawk and foot-long fishing lures that doubled as earrings. His musical travels took him to Decatur, where he met future bandmate and friend Dan Comiskey.

"I thought it was cool because he was black and he liked more progressive [music] -- not fuckin' rap," recalls the long-haired Comiskey, who still lives in Decatur. They formed a band, Kindergarten.

As roommates the pair threw parties, hosting local high school kids and students from nearby Milliken University. The beer flowed freely, and Drisdel was a charmer. (Comiskey: "He always had more [girlfriends] than me.") When they weren't having parties, they might just kick back, smoke pot and talk politics. Still, Comiskey feels compelled to add, he sometimes felt he didn't really know his best friend. "There's been an aura of mystery around him," he says. "Even having a room across the hall from his. I can't put my finger on it."

Drisdel spent a year and a half studying communications at Richland Community College in Decatur. (A representative from the school's admissions and records department could only verify that the fall of 1978 was his last semester at the school.) He tried his hand at preaching, then moved to Washington, D.C., and got a job answering phones for a company that handled public relations for Philip Morris, dealing with customers who had complaints about cigarettes. He says he also worked for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Kraft Foods, also in D.C.

But he missed his family. Returning to St. Louis in the late 1980s, Drisdel took a warehouse job at National Supermarkets (since swallowed by Schnucks) and promptly took a spill, breaking his back. That led to surgery, and painkillers. Today Drisdel says it was a turning point in his life.

"When I broke my back, I went from being a happy, running-around, vital man to being impotent in my mind," he says.


Radio, Leonardo's Drisdel's great passion, was a happy accident.

One day in the early 1990s Drisdel called in during a WGNU broadcast to challenge longtime host Lizz Brown. Though their politics were polar opposites, Drisdel says Brown wound up asking him if he was interested in selling ads for her. He demurred.

"I don't remember any of that," says Brown. "I think he's making it up. I have no idea how he made the connection to WGNU, but it certainly wasn't through me." She describes Drisdel as "just a typical right-wing reactionary that defends the right wing at the expense of everything else."

Drisdel says his flirtation with the station led to a chance encounter in the lobby with WGNU's eccentric owner, the late Chuck Norman. "I saw this old man, and I said, 'Good afternoon.' He was like, 'What are you doing here?' He kept prying and being nosy," Drisdel recalls. "He asked me, 'Do you know a little about a lot of things?' and I said, 'I think so.' He asked who the two senators were that represented Missouri at the time. Then he said, 'My name's Chuck Norman. Go in there and tell them I want you to be on the radio.'"

That was fourteen years ago. Drisdel's first show, The Breakfast Club, was followed by The Human Factor, which debuted in 2003.

Drisdel declines to divulge his income. But generally speaking, WGNU hosts don't do it to get rich. Like many who toil at the station known for its non-mainstream personalities, Drisdel used his shows as a platform to espouse his views about religious faith, city politics and race relations. "The show was a perfect way for me to give back to the community," he says.

The gig was by no means high-profile, but Drisdel snagged frequent interviews with Mayor Francis Slay. Other bold-facers turned up from time to time, including former mayor Clarence Harmon, U.S. Congressman William Lacy Clay Jr. and comedian Joe Torry. Occasionally the show made local news, most recently in May when Drisdel refereed a skirmish between fired Riverview Gardens High School principal Clem Ukaoma and Ukaoma's former boss, Natalie Thomas. He even scored the odd celebrity appearance, as in 2001, when he served as grand marshal of the Summer Millennium Festival alongside current St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Drisdel met his second wife in 1997 at a laundromat near his former home in Maplewood. He'd come to play pinball -- his regular routine when he was depressed -- but he noticed Janene out of the corner of his eye.

"He approached me," Janene Drisdel recalls. "He was pretty forward: 'I'm interested.' I said, 'No, no, no, no, no.' I looked at his height. 'You're shorter than me!' For some reason I still gave him my number, and he called that night and we talked all night long."

They were married in 2002. Drisdel had been married during the mid-1980s; Janene, a private-duty nurse, had two sons by a previous marriage. (They had a son together, who's six; Drisdel has four other children and three grandchildren.) "He was great with kids," Janene Drisdel says. "When he met my fourteen-year-old, [the boy] was extremely shy and sat there with his thumb in his mouth. Leo got him to open up. My twelve-year-old had middle-child syndrome. Leo was good about giving him plenty of attention. That's been really nice."

Says Drisdel: "I love Kyle and Marcus as much as I love any of my children. Actually, I fell in love with them before I fell in love with Janene, because since their real father had nothing to do with them I could picture and remember being 'that little boy.'"

During the late 1990s, Drisdel became involved with the New Dimensions Christian Center, a church in East St. Louis. After coming onboard as a janitor, he wound up preaching in tongues. Sermonizing ran in the family. Drisdel says both his grandfather and great-grandfather were preachers. "God would use me to bust it up," he explains. "You open your mouth and you can just say things. Sometimes it's in what we call an unknown tongue, other times it's not discernible by human standards. On the pulpit you get a thought. You stand and start bringing it forth. You may start getting louder or humming it, or however you want to bring your message across. A lot of times, though, your whole message will get twisted because the agenda that you have is not what God wants to come across."

Channeling the word of God taught him a lot about life, says Drisdel. "The thoughts that are bringing you towards what's righteous -- that's God. You've got God, you've got the Devil, you've got yourself.

"You learn to discern."


Leonardo Drisdel's police record in Missouri contains a single conviction: for driving without a license. Chet Pleban, Drisdel's attorney, believes Drisdel has a clean record in other states as well, though he says he hasn't performed an exhaustive search.

Drisdel's friends and family members were shocked by his arrest.

"I had no idea something like this could happen in my family," says Derrick Drisdel. "To my knowledge no one in my family had ever been to jail for anything, never abused any substances, never had a run-in with the law, never harmed anybody."

Adds Nick Kasoff, until recently a host at WGNU: "I was as probably close to him as anyone there. I talked to him on the phone a lot and thought I knew him fairly well. Leonardo Drisdel in my experience is a great guy with a good head on his shoulders."

"He seemed to be a nice, ordinary kind of a guy," says ex-Mayor Clarence Harmon, a sometime guest on Drisdel's show. "He was always cordial, pleasant. Took me to task, asked me the hard questions. It was never scripted. I respected him."

Janene Drisdel says recent family hardships caused her husband to unravel. Drisdel's half-brother Ernie Johnson died of a stroke in San Antonio last August. Also last year a stepbrother, Rodney L. Frasier, was found shot in the head, his body abandoned in the weeds by the side of an East St. Louis road. No one has been charged.

"When you lose a loved one, that's a challenge," Drisdel says.

Drugs were a way of coping with that challenge. Dan Comiskey says Drisdel spoke of his crack cocaine use in the years after he left Decatur. "He told me about the crack shit and stuff, but it seemed to be off and on," Comiskey says. "I thought -- I could be wrong -- that stuff was sporadic, not constant or compulsive."

But it was compulsive. According to Janene Drisdel, her husband checked himself into rehab centers a number of times, at Saint Louis University's in-patient psychiatric counseling program, the Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Center and Provident Counseling.

Crack wasn't the only problem. Janene Drisdel says her husband was hooked on Dilaudid, a narcotic that had been prescribed for back pain. He used the opiate constantly, she says, in the form of suckers, patches and pills, until he switched insurance providers late last year. His new plan didn't cover the drug, and he couldn't afford what would have been $600 in monthly out-of-pocket expenses. Janene says Drisdel suffered from withdrawal symptoms after ceasing the Dilaudid.

She also says he heard voices, hallucinated and suffered from manic-depressive episodes.

When Drisdel was feeling good, Janene says, it seemed as though he could overcome his disabilities and do just about anything. He'd be chipper and talkative, or head to the Casino Queen on a whim and dump money into the slot machines. When he was down, he'd spend hours upon hours in bed.

She encouraged him to see a psychiatrist, who she says diagnosed him as bipolar and schizophrenic. (Janene says she too is bipolar and has been controlling the disease with medication for fifteen years.) Drisdel was prescribed more medications, including the antidepressants Lexapro and Effexor, as well as Depakote, a drug administered for bipolar disorder. But he wouldn't always take his pills.

"He was very ashamed of it," Janene Drisdel says. "He didn't want anyone to know. He's one of those people who have no tolerance to any kind of medicine. He could take an aspirin and he just looks like he's out for the night. He didn't want to go out and act silly in front of people because he'd taken something.

"A lot of people, when they are bipolar, they'll take the medication, they'll feel fine because they'll come out of their manic or depressive episode," she goes on, noting that she's seen it happen with her nursing patients. "And they'll stop taking the medicine because they feel like they're OK. I think that's probably what helped provoke this: I think he thought he was okay."

She also says her husband had a profound fear of knives. "I don't know what happened to him when he was younger, or in his lifetime, that made him like this," she says. "But he's had a huge -- I mean, absolutely terrifying -- fear of knives. To the point where if I bring in even a plastic knife, he would almost run out of this house. We could go and cut a cake, and he would run to scoop it up with his hands or a fork rather than cut it with a knife."

If they went out to dinner together, she says, she'd have to give their server special instructions: Don't set out so much as a butter knife.

On the day of the murder, in fact, the Drisdels had a family barbecue. "He stayed in the backyard while I cut up meat for shish kebabs," Janene says.

Janene believes that the very sight of a knife in Cassandra Kovack's apartment might have been enough to set him off, especially if he was under the influence of drugs.

(On the advice of his lawyer, Drisdel declined to discuss the phobia. "I thank God that I'm alive. That's all I'll say," he says.)

One of Kovack's nonfatal injuries was a gash in her right arm, caused by a knife. And although it was not used in the murder, Jon Jackson, Kovack's ex-boyfriend, says her samurai sword was clearly visible.

"You could see it if you walked in the bedroom," says Jackson. "It wasn't hidden."

Stephen Kovack Sr., Cassandra Kovack's father, doesn't buy the theory. "I doubt if [the murderer] saw it," Kovack counters.


Janene Drisdel visits her husband once a week at the St. Louis City Justice Center downtown, where he will remain until he stands trial, probably sometime next year. She says he professes not to recall the murder, nor his confession to her.

"He has no clue that he's done anything," she says. "He doesn't understand what's going on. He goes from one conversation to another conversation to another conversation and will literally start crying in the middle."

Chet Pleban says he met Drisdel in the mid-'90s through his radio show and considers him a friend. He took the case pro bono, the high-profile local defense lawyer says, after Drisdel made a request to the St. Louis Public Defender's Office.

"He has qualified for defense by the public defender because he has no money," says Pleban. "And I'm willing to represent him because I know him."

He says his client will plead not-guilty. "First of all, I don't know that he confessed to anything, because I don't have copies of any of the police reports," Pleban says. "Assuming that some type of statement was made, the second question is whether the statement attributed to him was accurate, and then whether or not he was competent to make the statement. With regard to any purported statements that his wife may or may not have made, there's a spousal privilege which has to be taken into consideration, too."

In exchange for expediting a jailhouse interview with the Riverfront Times, Pleban laid down ground rules: Nothing about the night of June 4, nothing about Cassandra Kovack, nothing about drug rehab. "We don't even have all the prosecution documents and police reports yet," the attorney explains. "So I don't have all the details of what their case is about. We're doing our own investigation."

Clad in a jail-issued red jumpsuit and seated on a blue plastic chair in a computer lab at the jail, Drisdel sits beside Pleban and co-counsel Talmage Newton. He is eager to talk, so much so that his lawyers must frequently remind him not to broach issues that might hurt his case. It's almost as if he's back on the radio. "You give me a fair shake, and I'll be straight with you," he says more than once.

At other times he suddenly comes up out of his chair. This is to keep his back limber, he explains. "I have to stretch, because if I didn't I would be immobile, and that's a sign of weakness," Drisdel says. "And if you show a sign of weakness in this place, believe me, in the one moment that you are able to be grabbed, you would be grabbed."

He frets about losing touch with life outside the jailhouse walls. "I have no newspapers, no contact with what's going on in the outside world," Drisdel says. "I didn't even know about the bombing in England. Me being in media -- you run to that stuff. There's a lot of crazy things going on, and it's scary when you've been doing the research, and now people are doing research on you."

Drisdel says he has been confined to his cell virtually around the clock, with only his two Bibles to keep him occupied. "Let me just say this: Where you lay your head and where you drop your turd is approximately two feet apart," he says of the accommodations.

("Leonardo is on special-needs status, and that's why he's locked down," responds Pat Schommer, assistant to the superintendent of corrections for the city. "Originally he was with the general population, but based on observations it was determined by staff psychologists and psychiatrists that that would be the best-suited place for him at this time."

A typical day? "Pretty restricted," says Schommer. "He can come out of his cell to take showers and have recreation and make phone calls, and that's about it.")

With one cuffed hand, Drisdel peels off a white sock to reveal the physical toll of his stress: a left foot swollen to the size of a garden squash. "It's because of high blood pressure," he says. "First time in my life I've had high blood pressure. I feel like I'm on a boat. You know, waves? That's how I feel inside my body, physically. What's going on in my body is a trip." Later he'll remind a guard that a doctor has stipulated that his hands must not be cuffed behind him.

Now, however, he directs the conversation to a higher plane. "I'm in God's hands, man," he says. "What was I created to do? Serve God. If God has ordained for me to be in prison, I'll be in prison, raising my hands, praising God.

"We have to realize that no matter how we try to be, quote, 'good' on our own, we still need to connect to the true living God to make us right," he says, a vehement hand gesture stifled by his shackles. "Because we'll fail each time on our own."


"I always referred to her as my first birthday present, because she was born the day before my first birthday," Stephen Kovack Jr., known to friends and family as Yabo, says of his younger sister. "She would always call me on her birthday and say, 'Hey, I'm the same age as you. You're not my big brother anymore.'"

A Chicago native, Kovack cherished her adopted hometown of St. Louis and the vast array of friends she'd made here. She loved to play pool at a favorite hangout, Coffee on Grand, and go to clubs like Magnolia's or Velvet. Friends describe her as generous in the extreme.

"She's been known to have $2 in her pocket, and someone needed something to eat so she'd give them the whole two bucks," says Ralph Lucas. Christi Finnell, Lucas' wife, says Kovack was known to adopt stray kittens off the street.

"The age range of her friends was all over the place," adds Joel Lovins, a.k.a. DJ Skeletal, who runs an online goth group in which Kovack participated. "She had a roommate for years that had to be approaching her seventies."

After growing up in the Chicago suburbs, bouncing between the homes of her mother and father, who were divorced, Kovack moved to St. Louis ten years ago. Her father says she came to St. Louis with plans to attend college but "just never got around to it." Instead she held a series of administrative and temporary jobs, all the while suffering from Crohn's disease, which afflicted her with debilitating intestinal pain. She was unemployed at the time of her death.

Kovack's family and friends were angered by media coverage of the murder when several news outlets made it seem as though Cassandra had used drugs with her assailant. (An autopsy reportedly found no traces of illegal substances.) Most of them were unaware that she knew Leonardo Drisdel at all.

Janene Drisdel says that when he returned home late on the night of the murder her husband had to explain who Kovack was, reminding her that they'd met Cassandra and a friend at a bookstore about four years back. "I remember meeting the friend, but I don't remember Cassandra," she says.

Kovack's ex-boyfriend Jon Jackson says Cassandra and Drisdel maintained a casual friendship, falling out of touch for months at a time, only to catch up at length whenever they ran into each other. "We had him over for dinner once," Jackson remembers. "It was primarily Cassandra and Leo doing the talking -- about politics, music, pretty much anything and everything -- and me just kinda sitting there being quiet."

Of Drisdel, Jackson says: "He seemed all right. Nothing really struck me as odd about him. The first time I met him was when he was collecting donations for the St. Louis public school systems, at Grand and Gravois. He seemed like a pretty cool guy, a radio talk-show host out doing some charity work."

He and Kovack would occasionally bump into Drisdel in the neighborhood. "Cassandra would be like 'Hey, it's Leo!' and we'd go over and talk to him," Jackson says.

After Kovack's death, Joel Lovins helped to organize a memorial service and schedule events at local clubs to raise money for a memorial fund. He reports that the Cassandra Kovack Trust Fund continues to accept contributions, which can be made in care of Stephen Kovack at any US Bank branch. The money will go toward reimbursing the family for funeral expenses.

"Everyone always commented on her blue eyes, high cheekbones," says Lovins, who posted a photo of Kovack on a local message board. "She carried herself almost aristocratically in her speech and words. She was the type to listen to you and talk to you, have conversations for hours."

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