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Holtmeier, 59, found success as a part-owner of a nurses' staffing agency. She says Brasier encouraged her career. "He was the most unchauvinistic man I ever met." Keeping her maiden name, she adds, "seemed to bother everybody but Ernie."
The couple moved to St. Louis in the 1980s, and Brasier devoted himself to his growing family. His life revolved around St. Clement of Rome, where his children went to school.
Brasier volunteered for all the kids' school activities – Indian Princess with Kelly, Boy Scouts with Jeff and Zach. He coached soccer on the tiny field next to the church parking lot.
Brasier's professional life moved along smoothly, until he was abruptly fired from a national insurance company, The Hartford, in 2003. He'd worked in the company's downtown St. Louis office as in-house counsel for about two years. "He just couldn't believe it," Holtmeier says.
Holtmeier speculates that Brasier's boss didn't appreciate his unhurried manner. "Ernie is slow and deliberate in what he says," she explains. One coworker, Holtmeier remembers Brasier telling her, complained that he took too long to get his point across.
The termination shattered Brasier's ego. "He was so beaten down," Holtmeier says. "He was destroyed." Brasier reached out to colleagues, who pointed him toward Beth Boggs, who hired him right away. "He just took something quickly."
Working at Boggs, Boggs & Bates was a more high-pressure environment than he'd experienced before. After the firm named Brasier as a partner, Holtmeier says her husband was told he would have to increase his billing to 50 hours a week or take a pay cut.
Brasier strained to keep up. Many of his cases were based in southern Illinois. Holtmeier would sometimes ride along in his blue BMW convertible to keep him company. "He'd be dictating and driving, and trying to get all this stuff done," she says. "That billing consumed him."
The week before he was killed, Brasier brought his wife a dozen long-stemmed roses. It was to celebrate the news that the firm was putting him in charge of a new client, the Fireman's Fund. He wouldn't have to sweat the 50 hours of billable work each week, Holtmeier says. "What it really translated to was that Ernie wasn't going to have to work so hard."
Gretta Treiber reported for work shortly after 8 a.m. the day after the murder. Walking through the front doors of the Guild Building, the young secretary was surprised to find one of the law partners, Mark Bates, standing sentry.
Bates told her that Brasier was dead and that Beth Boggs wanted everyone to stop in at the first-floor conference room. "I go in there, and there are like a half a dozen cops," Treiber recalls.
Treiber sat at a desk right outside the third-floor office where Brasier was killed. "My alibi was rock-solid," she says. She was working at her second job, a Hollywood Video store.
The Guild Building in downtown Clayton is a utilitarian-looking, four-story structure, adorned with relief elements of muscled laborers. Inside, dingy tan carpet covers the narrow hallways that lead to various law offices, located behind windowless doors.
Listing 23 partners and associates, the Boggs firm takes up the fourth floor, as well as two-thirds of the third floor, where Braiser's office overlooked Bonhomme Avenue. The firm's name – now Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs – is spelled out in tall letters over double doors that lead to the office suites.
"Usually, Ernie and I were the last two to leave at night," says Jeffry Thomsen, a senior attorney who retired in 2007. Thomsen left at 5:30 that December evening. It was raining when he stepped out the back door and onto the parking lot. "If someone specifically wanted to kill Ernie," he still wonders, "why wouldn't they just wait until he went out to his car, and hide in the lot, instead of taking the chance of being seen in the building?"
Frank Anzalone, a criminal defender on the second floor, was visiting with a client in his office at around 6:30 p.m. the night of the murder. "We didn't hear anything," he remembers.
Then, shortly before 7 p.m., the janitor, an older man whom Anzalone calls "the reverend," came in to his office. He looked worried. He said a lawyer was laying on the floor upstairs. An attorney who worked in Anzalone's office grabbed his cell phone and went with the janitor to take a closer look.
Brasier lay on his belly. His head and shoulders were under the desk, and his legs stuck out in full view. He didn't breathe or move. "It was pretty silent," says the lawyer, who assumed Brasier suffered a heart attack. He immediately called 911. The lawyer asked that his name not be used for fear of drawing the killer's attention. "There's a weirdo out there."
At the Boggs firm, a fearful and suspicious atmosphere lingered for months, Thomsen says. "Everybody still thought, 'Maybe the murderer is sitting next to me, or maybe they're going to come back.'"
Brasier wasn't shot in his own office. He was one door down, using a computer in the office his colleague Dan Bennett left vacant after taking a leave of absence that September. Thomsen remembers Bennett saying he felt burned out. "He was going to go down to Central America with his son and open a bar."
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