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.

Speaking by phone from his home in San Angelo, Texas, where he works as a wine retailer, Earl Mulley says, "That was one of my biggest lessons of this whole experience: The fact that what I said in that police report" — that Weems "had used marijuana and other drugs" — "ended up in the defense counsel's hands. Being that I'd lost one of my best friends, I was opening up to the police, hoping to help them in any manner I can, and then all of a sudden some of the things I said were being used to try to slander him."

Mulley finds it hard to believe Weems' assailants weren't familiar with Lindsey Washington. "I lived in that area. I knew who the guy was. He was always walking. I had found out that he lived in [the Windsor Hotel], and it just made sense — it clicked to me: This is what Todd was doing; he was helping this guy find his way home. Or just walking with him going home, just talking to the guy."

RFT attempted without success to reach Dave Durham, Dave Winkelmeyer and Scott Lockwood to comment for this story.

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.

Eric Clemmons argued that he acted in self-defense. Most damaging to his case were his own friends.

Greg and Keith Fair and Antonio Hawkins testified that although the group had chased and beaten Weems, it was only Clemmons who'd swung the pipe. Clemmons, they alleged, hit Weems more than twice, couldn't be restrained and, afterward, laughed that he may have killed the young man.

Called to the stand as the sole defense witness, Clemmons insisted his friends lied to protect themselves. (Murder and assault charges had been dropped against Keith Fair and Antonio Hawkins.) He told the jury the group had found his brother struggling with Lindsey Washington and that after knocking Washington to the ground they'd spotted Weems. "'That other guy's with him — he robbed me too,'" Clemmons said Barnes told him. They chased Weems to the abandoned lot.

"Where is my brother's gold chain?" Clemmons shouted. "He swung a board at me. I scooted back on the ground. He stepped toward me. I picked up the pipe and swung it and hit him in the back part of the head. I swung at him again. By that time, this guy hit the ground."

Defense attorney Jack Walsh maintained that the eyewitness testimony was "shot full" of inconsistencies. "That's why Eric Clemmons called them liars," Walsh declared. "Because that's what they are."

Added Walsh: "Even if you believe all of the [state's] evidence, you have a bunch of people running amok under sudden provocation, under sudden passion."

Bauer countered that Clemmons was the liar, and that as he pursued Weems he'd "reflected coolly" on killing him. "When he had Weems on the ground, Eric Clemmons told the others to stand back because he knew what he wanted to do, and that was to kill Todd Weems," Bauer contended, deeming the slaying "a classic case of capital murder."

Bauer, now in private practice, declined comment for this story. Dee Joyce-Hayes, who held the elected post of St. Louis Circuit Attorney from 1992 to 2000, was an assistant in the prosecutor's office in 1982. "Had it come before me, I probably would have charged murder-second," Joyce-Hayes, now general counsel for the bistate transit agency Metro, tells RFT. "Clemmons was guilty, there's no doubt about that. It's just that the circumstances led me to believe it was second-degree murder."

Nevertheless, after deliberating for four and a half hours, the jury found Clemmons guilty.

"We have profound sympathy for the family and for the young man," Reverend Weems told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We know they are feeling deep pain." But Weems bridled at the notion that his son had participated in a robbery. "I don't believe it's the truth and nobody that knows [Todd] believes it's the truth.... He practiced what I preach."

Nancy Wagoner still recalls the moment the verdict was read. "There was no joy, we didn't clap or cheer, because there was another life lost," Wagoner says. But, she adds, "The fact that they beat him to death and then left him — we felt justified. We had hoped this was behind us, that the conviction would bring closure."

In imposing a life sentence, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Jack L. Koehr stipulated that Clemmons serve a minimum of 50 years before he'd be eligible for parole. Clemmons was sentenced to ten years, to be served concurrently, for assaulting Washington.

A year later at Stanley Barnes' trial, the Fair brothers and Antonio Hawkins reprised their roles as star witnesses for the prosecution. Unlike his half-brother, Barnes had a private attorney, Doris Black, to represent him. Black pointed out that the Fairs' father, Joseph Edward Fair, was a deputy sheriff, and that another member of the group that night, Dewayne Fair, had since become a deputy sheriff. While cross-examining the latter, she asked rhetorically, "Isn't it a fact, Mr. Fair, that none of you got arrested and charged because you all stuck together with your stories?"

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