Thirty years after a white minister's son was beaten to death in the Central West End, one black man remains in prison. But there's plenty of guilt to go around.

Thirty years after a white minister's son was beaten to death in the Central West End, one black man remains in prison. But there's plenty of guilt to go around.
Jesse Lenz

There was that thing about Todd Weems. He and his friends would be partying and having a good time, and then someone would look up and Todd had disappeared.

"He was outgoing, carefree, fun, exasperating," says Earl Mulley, known to friends as Smitty, who developed a close friendship with Weems when his family joined University City's Trinity Presbyterian Church, led by Todd's father, the Reverend Don Weems. "But he really had a serious side. And the serious side didn't get seen unless you spent a lot of time with him. I just loved the guy to death."

Thirty years have passed, but Mulley will never forget August 13, 1982, the night Todd Weems, home for the summer before his junior year at Southwestern College in Memphis, celebrated his 21st birthday in Forest Park.

Eric Clemmons is serving a life term for the 1982 murder of Todd Weems. Tried for the same crime, Clemmons' half-brother Stanley Barnes was sentenced to twelve years and served six and a half.
Tony D'Souza
Eric Clemmons is serving a life term for the 1982 murder of Todd Weems. Tried for the same crime, Clemmons' half-brother Stanley Barnes was sentenced to twelve years and served six and a half.

Doubtless, the others remember that night, too.

There was Dave Durham, a U. City grad and close friend of Weems who organized the party; Gabe Katz, a U. City boy who not long afterward split for Brooklyn with his metal band Blind Idiot God. And a cohort who'd graduated from the storied John Burroughs prep in Ladue: The Taylors — twenty-year-old John and his sister Kate, twenty-two. Scott Lockwood, nineteen, son of KSDK-TV (Channel 5) anchorwoman Karen Foss. And big Dave Winkelmeyer, a rocker who eventually found a niche as lead singer for Rugburn, a long-time fixture on the local club scene.

For August, the weather was unseasonably cool. The afternoon temperature had failed to reach 80 degrees, and as midnight passed, the mercury fell through the 60s.

When Weems had a lot to drink, he would, as Earl Mulley put it, "go into his own little world." Given that the pastor's son had kicked off the day with a bottle of Champagne a well-wisher had left on his doorstep, by the time Mulley met up with everyone in Forest Park, he knew it wouldn't be long before his friend tuned out. Mulley decided to call it a night before the clock struck twelve. No big deal — he'd invited Weems and Durham over to his place the following day for a birthday dinner. He said his goodbyes at the bridge over the lily pond east of Union Boulevard.

Sometime after twelve o'clock the remains of the party adjourned to Lockwood's house on Hortense Place, an exclusive block between Euclid Avenue and Kingshighway in the Central West End, lined with turn-of-the-century mansions. Suzy Rust, a recent Burroughs grad from Webster Groves, headed home with her boyfriend, but Lockwood, Durham, Winkelmeyer, Katz and the Taylors partied on. It was still summer, plenty of Busch yet to be drunk.

And then Weems did that thing again. At about 2 a.m., the guest of honor silently walked away from the Foss residence, headed east toward Euclid.

"Todd, don't go too far," Kate Taylor, Scott Lockwood's girlfriend at the time, would remember calling after Weems. Dave Durham recalled that Todd "sort of waved us goodbye."


Just past 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 14, 1982, a janitor at Gene Lynn's Cocktail Lounge on the corner of Maryland and Whittier — about a mile and a half east of the Foss home — noticed a man sleeping in the weeds of the overgrown yard adjacent to the bar. As he approached, he saw a young white male, fully clothed, lying face up. Blood oozed from his nose and mouth.

The janitor flagged down a passing patrol car.

As police canvassed the area, a homicide detective interviewed a desk clerk at the Windsor, a transient hotel on Lindell Boulevard a block from where the body was found. The clerk pointed to a black man sitting in the lobby who had been beaten up the previous night.

Lindsey Washington, age 30, an unemployed military vet from Memphis, explained to the detective that he got drunk the night before, went looking for a prostitute with a friend whose name he couldn't remember, got lost and was robbed of $20 by three black youths. Then at the corner of Maryland and Newstead, he met "an unknown white guy" who bummed a cigarette.

"[T]hey began to walk together east on Maryland conversing," the investigative report reads, "when at about 4470 Maryland, five negro male subjects, one armed with a long shiny colored pipe, for no reason began to jump on both of them....

"He was able to get away.... [He] stated that the last time he saw the white guy, he was running east on Maryland and a couple of subjects were chasing him."

Detectives took Washington to the medical examiner's office, where he identified the body of Todd Weems. From there they drove him to the crime scene, where he insisted again that he and Weems had been jumped by unknown assailants. The officers dropped him off at the hotel "pending further investigation," and seized the bloodstained clothing he had in his room.

An officer interviewed a resident of the 4300 block of Maryland who said he and a neighbor had been outside their apartment sometime after 1:30 a.m. when they saw two men, whom they'd later identify from photos as Washington and Weems, arguing at the Newstead intersection. The witness said the argument lasted five minutes, at which time the pair walked east on Maryland and stopped in front of his house. "[Washington] ascended the steps and asked them to 'beat this guy up for me, will you beat this guy up for me?'" referring to the white man. Police also rang the doorbell of a house on the 4200 block of Maryland, where an elderly minister told them he'd looked out his window around that same time and saw a black man strike a white man with a pipe.

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