Win Lose Die

A former racketeer kills a Belleville beauty, then turns the gun on himself what are the odds?

"Girls [would] come into the bar with their boyfriends, and as bartenders we've got to sell our liquor," says a co-worker who asked not to be identified in this story. "It's not that we'd do anything to their boyfriends, but their boyfriends would look at us and they'd get pissed off. [Some of the girls] thought she was a whore. One night we were at a party after work, and they all tried to gang up on her. But Jennifer was never a whore or a skank. They were jealous: The girls didn't like her because she was pretty."

But Venezia did like her. Though she had no experience running a tavern, within months of signing on she was managing the Golden Eagle and living next door with the former mob boss. But she kept quiet about the relationship, and to this day friends and family are uncertain whether they were romantically involved. Occasionally she'd leave a party to help Venezia with something; she ferried him to his chemotherapy sessions and drove him around. But friends say she rarely talked about him. Her parents say that before she died she'd begun dating someone new. In the weeks before his death, neighbors report having seen Venezia out walking, riding his bike and even jogging. After the killings Milan Venezia told reporters his father's cancer was in remission.

Anderson's parents say she never told them she was living with Venezia.

Thomas Venezia: Convicted in 1995, released in 2002, 
deceased in 2005
courtesy of KDSK
Thomas Venezia: Convicted in 1995, released in 2002, deceased in 2005

"I was very concerned but constantly lied to by her," maintains Michael Anderson, Jennifer's father. "She'd tell me that she'd just leave the car [at the bar] and sleep at a friend's house."

When the Golden Eagle was shut down in the spring of this year for serving underage drinkers, Anderson got a job stripping at the Penthouse Club in Sauget, where she worked under the stage name "Raven." By all accounts she wasn't happy with the job.

"She wasn't liking all of the clientele," says longtime friend and onetime boyfriend Jared Sileven. "She was going to quit stripping and go back to the bar business."

The Andersons, who live only a few blocks away from the tavern on Mascoutah, say they hadn't known about the strip-joint job. "We didn't know she was stripping until the day she was found," says Michael Anderson, who works as a home rehabber.

Still, the Andersons suspected that their daughter, whom they describe as fearless, trusting and loyal, was mired in a bad situation. "From the moment she took a job at the Golden Eagle there was a decline," Michael Anderson says. "When it comes to these people [like Venezia], anybody's daughter is in trouble. This innocent little kid became a party animal."

Part 2: Thomas Venezia takes a new wife, as his east-side empire crumbles.

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