Monday, February 9, 2015

Shawn Gray: Death of Man Found in River Des Peres Remains a Mystery

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 10:24 AM

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Gray was known for his ability to ride a skateboard for blocks at a time while maintaining a handstand. - FACEBOOK
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  • Gray was known for his ability to ride a skateboard for blocks at a time while maintaining a handstand.

Gray was known for his ability to ride a skateboard for blocks at a time while maintaining a handstand.
"For the first couple of days, I thought he ran away because I didn't want to believe anything else happened to him," says Gray's older brother, Dale. "But as the days just kept going on, I started to think: Something's really wrong with my bro now."

Battile notified St. Louis police of her son's disappearance on November 29. A friend created a Facebook page to help find him shortly after that.

Dale Gray was working at the Shop 'n Save at Watson Road and River Des Peres Boulevard when a coworker told him that a body had apparently just been found in the river. Dale's heart began pounding. He walked straight toward the site, still wearing his work apron. When he arrived, his family and friends were already there. Seeing his brother lying dead in that creek bed is an image Dale says he'll never shake. Dale and his uncle lived with Gray in an apartment building just across the street from where the body was found.

Police labeled Gray's death "suspicious" and assigned the case to homicide detectives. An autopsy could not determine Gray's cause of death. Gray's mother says a medical examiner told her there were no signs of strangulation, drowning, or knife or gun shot wounds.

The family still awaits results from a toxicology test to determine if alcohol or drugs may have factored into his death. A police spokesperson told Daily RFT last week that the toxicology results are now complete but could not be released because they are under review.

In the meantime, Dale has a hard time believing that his brother could have overdosed on drugs. "He smoked a lot of weed and maybe 'shrooms here and there," he says, but, "heroin and all that stuff? No. He loved his life. He loved to live, so I don't think he would do heroin. He had too many good people around to do that."

Banta, who says he spoke to Gray nearly every day and whose family considered Gray one of its own, agreed. Gray was never interested in pills or any heavy drugs, he says. "I'm just super confused about it. Nothing adds up," says Banta. "He was missing for a week. Somebody put him there. He didn't just decide to die in the river."

Now Gray's mother and brother are holding out hope that that the toxicology results will at least provide some kind of explanation or even closure.

"Because right now, we just don't know nothing," says Dale.

Regardless of the outcome of that toxicology report, Banta doubts that he -- nor anyone -- will ever know the full story of what became of his friend.

"I feel like in all reality, it's just another black man who died in St. Louis, and it's just going to stay a mystery," he says. "I mean, I don't want to believe that, but I think it's the cold hard truth." Contact the author at or on Twitter at @brianheff.

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