On that day, after a lunch recess, Representative John "JJ" Rizzo
(D-Kansas City) returned to his seat in the chamber. Desks in the House are arranged in pairs; last session, Rizzo's seatmate was Genise Montecillo
, a fellow Dem from the 66th district in St. Louis.
Despite the age gap -- she was 49, and Rizzo, 31 -- they'd both been elected as freshmen in 2010, and had become friends. Montecillo was a former special-ed teacher who'd already cemented a reputation in the caucus as a professional, hard-working member of the budget committee. But on that spring afternoon, Rizzo could see something was wrong with her.
"I can tell you she was visibly shaken and concerned for her safety," Rizzo recalls. "I'd never seen her react like that."
Montecillo had just received word that a man was spotted in downtown Jeff City: Her estranged husband Joseph Montecillo
, a one-time assistant city counselor in St. Louis and Brown & Crouppen
lawyer who currently practices at the Klar, Iszak and Stenger
firm in Richmond Heights. The couple was separated with only sporadic contact. But on that day, Joe was present in the capital, and -- thanks to the quirks of redistricting -- was filing to run for state rep in the district adjacent to hers.
Genise grew so upset, Rizzo remembers, she excused herself. "On the House floor, you're in front of cameras," he explains. She headed to a break room to collect herself.
Within hours, records show, Genise was in the Cole County Sheriff's Office filing a petition for an order of protection against Joe.
"I believe he has tracked me through my car and phone as he's known my whereabouts," she wrote in longhand. "I believe he had my bedroom bugged....as he later revealed phone conversations in detail."
She sketched out more background in her petition: Once she was elected in 2010, she wrote, Joe wanted a government job and "became very agitated" when she failed to deliver one, frequently screaming at her and berating her.
Genise moved out of their Affton home in December 2011 and into an apartment (Joe kept the house). After that, she said, "things settled for a while," then he sent her "multiple e-mails." She alleged that one night, when she declined to respond to several of his texts, he called the Missouri State Highway Patrol to report that a state rep was missing -- even though he knew she was safe.
"While he has never physically harmed or threatened to physically harm me," she wrote, "his behavior has become increasingly erratic and unpredictable as our relationship has deteriorated....now I fear for my safety."
Joe Montecillo tells Daily RFT that soon thereafter, he was served papers of a restraining order at six in the morning, which "frustrated" him. However, he believes that their separation had been civil. He repeatedly insists that his ex-wife (they're now officially divorced) is "a wonderful state rep and a very good person," not to mention someone of high integrity.
So does that mean we should believe what's in her petition?
The strange drama that's unfolded in the Democratic primary of Missouri's 93rd House district has stayed behind-the-scenes, but almost became public on Wednesday, March 21.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.