Thursday, December 29, 2016

$140K Rewards Beg for Clues in Bob Cassilly's Death, Cementland Fire

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 7:33 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF GIOVANNA CASSILLY
  • Photo courtesy of Giovanna Cassilly
Two big monetary rewards seek critical information in two high-profile incidents at Cementland, the late Bob Cassilly's 56-acre project on the Mississippi River north of downtown St. Louis.

The rewards are being advertised by Cassilly's widow, Giovanna, who is begging for information about both a December 9 warehouse fire on the site, as well as her husband's 2011 death.

Giovanna Cassilly believes that her husband was murdered, and she is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his assailant's identification and conviction. Another $40,000 reward seeks info about the more recent fire, which appeared to have no obvious ignition source, yet burned intensely for hours.

Information about both rewards is below.

"I'm hoping that this amount of money will be inspiring to people who have an interest in solving this," she says, "or who know something about it." That might be someone who knows something directly, she says, or just an amateur sleuth willing to put the time into unraveling some key pieces.

The founder of City Museum, Bob Cassilly's body was found slumped in the seat of his bulldozer at Cementland on September 26, 2011. The St. Louis Medical Examiner quickly labeled his death an accident, positing that the bulldozer had tumbled down the hillside, fracturing Cassilly's skull, before landing upright at the base.

But Giovanna Cassilly has recently sought to get police to reopen the case, noting some facts that don't fit the idea of an accident, as well as a police investigation that failed to determine who'd seen Cassilly last or explored other alternatives. A medical expert hired by her attorney, Albert Watkins, says he believes the noted sculptor was beaten to death. And in light of that theory, older pieces of evidence are gaining new attention. A rock at the crime scene — photographed and catalogued by the Medical Examiner's Office — appears to show blood. Now city officials are admitting they failed to preserve any evidence from it.

Interestingly, a newly uncovered deposition suggests that at least one expert on the scene soon after Cassilly's body was found also had questions about the medical examiner's theory.

The St. Louis police have, in part, defended their investigation by saying that OSHA also investigated the death scene. But as the RFT has previously reported, the OSHA investigation appeared as cursory as the police one. "A sole proprietor was killed during construction of a private property," its inspection notes.

And as a member of Cassilly's "crew" would later testify under oath in a related lawsuit, the OSHA inspector was befuddled by the medical examiner's theory of the case.

The attorney asked crew member Richard Fortner if he'd talked to the inspector. "I kind of remember that guy," Fortner replied, according to a transcript of his deposition. "He was kind of funny."

The attorney asked if he was funny odd, or "just funny."

"Funny odd, because he wasn't sure how the accident happened, is what was funny about it," Fortner said. "He wasn't sure how the accident happened ... how he ended up dead on the tractor. He couldn't see any signs of it rolling or what had happened."

Giovanna Cassilly still has the bulldozer in which her husband was found; she believes that analysis will show that the bulldozer never rolled over, much less tumbled down the hillside.

The bulldozer is no longer on site at Cementland and is instead in a secure location, Watkin says.

A bomb and arson unit jointly managed by St. Louis County and the city fire department is investigating the December 9 Cementland fire. Watkins tells the RFT that all signs point to arson.

Giovanna Cassilly notes that a previous fire in 2014 was found to be intentionally set — and that fire followed a major theft at the warehouse. More recently, the warehouse was robbed, with again a fire following — a pattern she finds troubling.

"I hope someone will be inspired to come forward," she says. "This is not going away."

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We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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