Guarding Angel

Week of January 16, 2002

Guarding Angel
What if Angel were a man? I've just finished your compelling account of Angela Coffel [Geri L. Dreiling, "Fallen Angel," Jan. 9]. I certainly agree that her continued imprisonment appears egregious. But as a journalist and longtime alt-weekly scribe, I wonder if you allowed yourself to be led along a bit by Ms. Coffel's legal team. After all, and I'm certain I'm not the only one who will point this out, if an 18-year-old man had been caught performing oral sex on a girl the same age as the brothers in your story, wouldn't we see this as a crime? (And who is to say that most sexual predators have not had a similar experience of abuse and molestation as Angel?)

What's more, doesn't the HIV diagnosis present complications? Again, I ask you what we might think if the gender were switched; there have been reports of men pursuing sex despite being infected, in some cases intentionally attempting to infect their partners. Not that she was trying to infect anyone, but why not view this behavior as outrageous on Angela Coffel's part as well? Finally, although her saliva may not contain the virus, certainly that does not mean that blood particles could not be transmitted during oral sex. You note that she now suffers nosebleeds and oral sores. Doesn't this present a bit of a problem?

Just a couple of thoughts on a remarkable and well-researched story that may have overreached in its conclusions.
Dan Oko
Austin, Texas

Help her: I read your article on Angela Coffel, and I've really become very saddened. Does anyone know how long she will be incarcerated? At some point, the young girl needs some help, because her unstable family history hasn't finished inflicting pain on her. In some situations, people are labeled as offenders when in actuality they have been the victims of painful emotional crimes that were allowed to continue way too long.
Judy Selvaggio
via the Internet

Lead Menace
We don't assign blame: As director of the Jefferson County Health Department, I have several comments regarding the article " Heavy-Metal Racket" [Roland Klose, Dec. 26]. JCHD has long been concerned about the effects of lead exposure in Herculaneum and as a result has participated in the periodic lead studies mentioned in the article since 1975. JCHD has also supported the activities of the agencies currently involved in the cleanup effort. For example, two screenings have been held since August in which approximately 1,000 Herculaneum residents have been tested for lead. As authorities in St. Louis city and County can attest, lead poisoning presents difficult medical, social and economic problems that are often beyond the authority of local agencies to correct. So it is encouraging to see that the consortium of agencies working with Doe Run has made progress, although it is understandable that residents would like to see more done, and more quickly.

I strongly disagree with the comment that JCHD has "understated blood-lead levels." JCHD has always encouraged parents to have their children tested by their private providers, through Doe Run (which uses a certified laboratory) or through the health department, which sends specimens to the Missouri Public Health Laboratory. Given the options that parents have and the multiple entities involved in each lead test, it would be virtually impossible to report incorrect results, and even trying to do so would accomplish nothing.

I also disagree with the statement that JCHD's environmental investigations identify all lead sources other than those from Doe Run. Some of the contamination identified, especially dirt and dust, likely originates from the smelter. Obviously that source has been difficult to eliminate. The investigations follow federal guidelines and identify all sources in the household including lead paint, contaminated miniblinds, etc. It is important to remove as many potential sources of lead as possible in order to reduce children's overall lead exposure. The process is designed to improve children's health in the most practical way, not to assign or deny blame. I believe that everyone involved in this process has the same goal, for Herculaneum to become as clean and safe an environment as possible, as quickly as possible.
Dennis M. Diehl
Jefferson County Health Department

I Don't Make Junk
And I'm not lazy: I was one of the artists who created a People Project figure [Eddie Silva, "Year-End Specials," Jan. 2]. I did not create a piece of junk. I worked extensively with the sponsor of my piece to construct a figure that satisfied everyone involved and ended with a well-crafted piece.

It was at times hot and exhausting work to build the statue to my satisfaction, but my effort paid off when the statue was finally on display and was well received by the sponsor, Firstar Bank. After the public aspect of the project was completed, [the piece] was purchased by an art collector and is now installed in Clayton. My assessment of Mr. Silva is that he is lazy.
Kim Mulkey
University City

Showing Our Age
Sgt. Pepper's Geriatric Band: Hey, C.T. McDonald ["Letters," Jan. 2], don't you know that the music critics at the Riverfront Times were in diapers or not even born yet 30 years ago? How would they remember George Harrison? You and I are showing our age. I am 60 and always was a Beatles fan. You must be over 30 to remember George. I doubt any staffers at the RFT are over 40 years of age.
Michael Casey
Pevely, Mo.

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