In the fall of 2017, Jeffrey Amick bought a house in south St. Louis. Renovating it seemed at the time like an interesting, and potentially profitable, side project. But it soon came to define the last years of his life.
Then 40 years old with a shaved head and trim goatee, Amick was nearing the end of one major venture — finishing law school in Chicago — and looking for a new one. He paid $3,500 that September for 2401 Indiana Avenue, according to city property records, and immediately started making plans for a complete overhaul.
The interior was a gut job, and the exterior would need to be tuck-pointed at the least. He imagined new floors and new appliances, maybe granite for the kitchen counters. He planned to do the work himself while he studied for the bar exam.
"That house, for some damn reason, was like his dream," friend Judy Ford says.
The old brick duplex sat on a corner lot in the McKinley Heights neighborhood, an often overlooked wedge of land between Gravois and Jefferson. There was a Family Dollar to the south and a scrubby tree on the side. Amick's closest neighbor was a warehouse across the alley from his backyard. Until the 1970s, the building had been a multistory Chevrolet dealership. These days, it features shop and office space for a variety of ventures, a luxury loft apartment and a rooftop wedding venue called Jefferson Underground.
For Amick, renovating the duplex had probably seemed like an interesting diversion in the beginning. At times, he mused that he could either live there or flip it for a nice profit as he began his law career. But Amick's plans for his future collapsed for a variety of reasons in the years that followed, and even as he began to recognize the house as an albatross around his neck, it also seemed like his only hope for finding his way back to his dreams.
"The only thing he had left in life was that house," Ford says.
Just about a month ago, on June 5, Amick was rambling around behind his property. It was a few minutes before 8:30 a.m. and sunny. In surveillance footage from that morning, 39-year-old Joshua Lundak steers a black Chevy Tahoe out of the neighboring warehouse and into the alley between the two properties. Lundak, who owns the Soulard bar Henry's, was one of the warehouse tenants. On this morning, he pulls a trailer full of lumber behind the Tahoe as he drives north. Footage reviewed by the Riverfront Times shows Amick step into the alley, his arm out and thumb extended, as if hitchhiking. The Tahoe stops.
They're at a distance from the camera, but police say in a probable cause statement that the men exchange words. Amick turns and throws something against the brick wall of the warehouse.
"At this time, [Lundak] is out of his vehicle, and uses the driver side door as cover and fires multiple shots at the victim," a detective writes in the statement. "The victim is hit and falls down."
The warehouse is to Lundak's left, and a garage door opens. He ducks inside and returns with what police say is a shotgun, firing on the wounded Amick before walking back toward the open bay. For a moment, it appears it's over, but then Lundak returns.
"The defendant then walks back to the building, turns around and notices [Amick] is still not dead, so he walks back and shoots the victim again," the detective writes. "The victim was unarmed."
Lundak goes back into the warehouse briefly, apparently to drop off the gun, and then he's back in the Tahoe. He backs the trailer all the way down the alley, and then he's gone. It would take three weeks for police to take him into custody.
In the video, Amick lies still on the pavement. His house is off to the right, out of the frame.