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Map of St. Robert Missouri area
Rising from the hills of the Ozarks in south central Missouri, Saint Robert, a hamlet of 1,500 residents, had the appearance of a prototypical small town in rural America. But looks can be deceiving. With the Army's sprawling training center at Fort Leonard Wood nearby, Saint Robert was home to hundreds of prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, gamblers, corrupt politicians, organized crime and hit men. And it liked it that way.
Just 30 years ago, it was the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Midwest, a monument to decadence and the pleasures of the flesh rising from the hills of the Ozarks in south central Missouri.
From Interstate 44, Saint Robert, a seemingly peaceful community of 1,500, appeared to be no different than any other small town in rural America. There were businesses and a church steeple here and there. The sprawling Army training center at Fort Leonard Wood, the economic lifeblood of the region, was a short distance to the south.
But behind the veneer of serenity and virtue, beyond view from the highway, was a totally different community where the perverse prevailed. When night fell, so did moral constraints and the sin pits came alive. It was home to hundreds of hookers, pimps, drug dealers, corrupt public officials, gamblers, organized crime and hit men.
It had been an oasis of sin for a long time, but by the early 1970s, the complexion of the iniquity grasping Saint Robert and Pulaski County darkened threateningly. As the citizens began dodging bullets and bombs, they abruptly awoke from their indifference and tolerance. They realized matters had gotten dangerously out of hand, that it wasn't just about prostitution any more. It was about decency and their survival.
It was time to bring down the walls of Sodom and Gomorrah.
A Ride to Hell
"He said, 'You just got sold to me for $400'. I asked him what he meant and he said, 'Whore for me'." Kathi
Kathi was vulnerable on that late August evening in 1972.
A castaway from a broken family, she had begun smoking marijuana when she was 12, progressing to amphetamines and heroin within two years. Now, at the age of 16, drugs controlled her life. They were what she lived for. No novice junkie, she injected heroin under her tongue so as not to leave telltale track marks on her arms. Her youthful, energetic face had lost its innocence. Now it reflected the harsh, ugly realities of the streets, of life gone sour, of dreams turned into nightmares.
This day in August, Kathi, was high as usual. As she did almost every night, she took a walk in the cool evening air in her small, rural northeastern Missouri hometown. The drug-induced euphoria allowed her to think and she had much to contemplate. She had traveled far in her journey to the world of crime. Just two weeks earlier, she had been released from the Indiana Girls' School in Indianapolis after serving part of an 18-month sentence for carrying a concealed weapon and possession of narcotics.
A stranger stopped his car and politely asked her if she needed a lift. He seemed friendly enough. Without hesitating, she got in. It would be a long ride that took her to the depths of depravity, to the very edge of hell and not far from death, itself.
It was the last thing she remembered for several hours. When she "came down" from her high, the man said he was taking her to the home of a friend. They went to a trailer in Saint Robert, 200 miles from her home. Her benefactor gave her more drugs and he stayed until the next afternoon. Kathi recalled:
"We had drinks and made love, you know, the normal things."
But normal things became draconian when the owner of the trailer appeared. Kathi didn't pay much attention to the money her new friend gave him before he left. She still was high. Later, the owner asked her, "You know what happened, don't you? She replied that she didn't. "He said, 'You just got sold to me for $400'." Kathi wept as bitter realization began penetrating her stupor.
"He told me, 'You make me back my $400 and you can leave'. I asked him what he meant and he said, 'Whore for me'."
Kathi realized she had no options. No longer was she in control of her life. What she had yet to comprehend was that within hours she would become a sex slave, exiled to one of the many dingy houses of prostitution, one of the faceless, nameless 400 whores from throughout the country who worked in the area. She would come to learn painfully that her life was worth only $400, that she would be subjected to the whims and violence of a pimp, that her very life would hang in the balance.
Her first day as a hooker was a dismal failure. "I just couldn't do it," she said. When the pimp learned she was unable to make the first payment on her debt, he became enraged, beating her with his fists and a wooden club, then kicking her repeatedly. It was Kathi's first lesson in discipline and subservience. The pimp instructed that thievery was part of her job.
"He told me to rip off whatever the man had. I was supposed to steal the wallet. If I didn't do it, another girl would come in and take it."
Kathi was given drugs when she wanted them. She wanted desperately to leave, but couldn't. She was under continual observation day and night. The next night she turned a trick for $35, of which $5 went to the manager and the remainder to the pimp. She now owed him only $370. But she wondered if her indebtedness ever would be repaid.
Three nights later, one of three bodyguards at the house of prostitution beat up a customer and threatened to shoot him. When police arrived, Kathi fled, jumping into one of the police cars. She had found safety.
When this reporter interviewed her the next day, her face and arms were mottled with bruises and cuts from the beating. She was in the agony of heroin withdrawal. Her body convulsed and her breathing was irregular. Tears welled from her glassy, empty eyes. She was broken in spirit and in body.
Saint Robert Chief of Police Ben Cooper said he had been able to corroborate much of her story. He wondered if there were other girls out there under the same circumstances.
The Missing Girl
"She doesn't work here anymore." A prostitute
Kathi said she had befriended a prostitute named Janie who was not much older than she and who also a heavy drug user. She, too, feared for her life and wanted to escape, but was being forced to stay. This reporter went to the club that evening. The rescue plan was simple. Tricks were taken by the prostitutes to nearby trailers. Once outside the club, Janie would be driven to her freedom.
Inside the small, dingy smoke-filled room were at least 30 prostitutes. Raucous laughter and music were deafening. The stench of cheap perfume was everywhere. A once attractive blond woman, heavy make-up failing to mask her age and her life style, immediately offered her services. She made no effort to conceal the track marks on her arm.
When asked for Janie, the woman was puzzled momentarily, as if searching for an answer. Then she quickly replied, "Janie doesn't work here anymore. She quit last night."
The awful possibility of Janie's fate was deadening. Young prostitutes did not just walk away from their involuntary servitude. They were too valuable a commodity.
Young soldiers going through basic training were the natural targets of the prostitutes and their pimps. Twice a month – on paydays – these young, virile, lonely men sought to release their passions and the area burgeoned like Mardi Gras, a contemporary Roman orgy. Two girls and their johns often shared the same motel room or trailer bedroom. Outside some motels and trailers, as many as 25 men stood in line waiting their turns.
Prostitution was not confined to the clubs and streets around Fort Leonard Wood. Pimps and whores invaded the military reservation, itself. This reporter observed as many as 15 hookers working in a nightclub in the noncommissioned officers' mess on a weekend night. Prostitutes drove campers and trailers onto the base and set up shop. Parking lots became strolls for the ladies of the night.
Sometimes, the base seemed a war zone. Two men, pistols drawn, invaded a barracks looking for a sergeant, but he brandished a shotgun and they fled. He had taken two prostitutes to another city and their pimps had ordered him killed.
An observer of such blatant prostitution would ask, How could this occur unimpeded?
The prostitute in the club who solicited this reporter provided an answer:
"We don't have to worry about much here. About the most they can do is harass us, and they don't do much of that."
Official Fringe Benefits
"If they wouldn't pay us our kickbacks, we just wouldn't bring people there." A cab driver
Vice is about money, big, easy, irresistible, corruptible money. In Saint Robert and Pulaski County, this precept was embraced in the equation: One hand must feed the other and one must pay for the privilege of making money, particularly illegally. It was a form of redistribution of the wealth by extortion.
Taxicabs, the only means of transportation for most soldiers, were indispensable to the prostitution racket. In the small town of Saint Robert there were more per capita than probably anywhere in the world. On paydays, as many as 25 cabs waited at the base's main gate to take the troops to their favorite recreation spot. And that was just one location where they were needed.
Most of the cabbies were practitioners of the art of subtle extortion. In addition to fares, they charged the operators of houses of prostitution and motels from $1 to $2 for each john they brought. Prostitutes also contributed from $3 to $5 a trick. One driver told this reporter he sometimes made $200 on a good night from these kickbacks alone.
The drivers had a stranglehold on prostitution. Failure to pay the tribute brought swift retaliation not unlike a wildcat strike that could put a house operator out of business. One cab driver explained to this reporter:
"The cab companies would, in effect, control the houses of prostitution. If they wouldn't pay us our kickbacks we just wouldn't bring people there. This one guy who owned a house refused to pay us and we didn't deliver to him, so he almost went out of business."
Politics of Prostitution
"The aldermen told me that the girls should vote for them and that's who I told them to vote for." The cab driver
The financial rewards from vice in Saint Robert sometimes flowed upward to high places. Two aldermen – Murl Glasscock and Clarence Palmer – and City Marshal Jack Fry owned cab companies and drove cabs, themselves. Their vehicles and their drivers, including themselves, were licensed and regulated by the city.
Mrs. Rita Smith, a longtime madam in Pulaski County and elsewhere, was a power broker in the rackets. She had the political connections and a newcomer who wanted to operate a brothel in the area had to first gain her approval. She was interviewed in an after-hours, unlicensed bar she owned. She freely admitted that she kicked back to the two aldermen. It was no big deal.
"Both Glasscock and Palmer would deliver guys to my place. They would get a fee for each customer they brought in. It was just an an arrangement we had."
Glasscock was no stranger to the world of prostitution. He, himself, had been involved in it. Ten years earlier, he had been charged with promoting prostitution, a polite description of a pimp. Specifically, it was a rarely used misdemeanor violation of "encampment for the purpose of prostitution." The charge alleged that he "made known to persons the purpose and object of certain females, which were encamped near a public highway for the purpose of prostitution." He was given a suspended 90-day jail sentence and fined $25.
Four years later, Glasscock pleaded guilty to a charge of purchasing a .25 cal. automatic pistol without obtaining a permit. He was fined $50 and costs.
Palmer also had an encounter with the law. In 1968, he was charged with felonious assault after allegedly firing a shot at another cab driver. A jury found him not guilty.
The prostitutes tended to be civic-minded and when called upon to exercise their duties to vote they eagerly responded, even though most were transients and unregistered. It was the least they could do for such a benevolent community. The cabbie who was interviewed explained the arrangement he had with two aldermen whom he wouldn't identify:
"These aldermen wanted to know if I was interested in making some money and if I would run votes for them. They gave me $1 for each woman, but I was paid by people I didn't know. The aldermen told me that the girls should vote for them and that's who I told them to vote for. That's what I was getting paid for."
In that election, in April 1972, the two aldermen easily won re-election. Their opponents received only a few votes.
The Gambling Czar
"We don't play that kind of poker. We play cheap poker." Alderman Dale Fincher
For those disinclined to seek their recreation with prostitutes, there was gambling. And St. Robert Alderman Dale Fincher was eager to provide the diversion. But his poker and craps games weren't for the poorly paid soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood. They were for the high rollers.
A frequent player who eventually testified before a federal grand jury told this reporter that Fincher had been sponsoring the poker games for about 15 years. For awhile he ran them in a motel and in the rear of a store, but then used his home on Wednesday nights and on Sundays. Numerous vehicles were observed parked in front of his house one Wednesday night.
The odds were stacked heavily against the players. In fact, there was no way the players could win unless Fincher so ordained it. The source said the games were rigged. Electronic devices were used to manipulate the dice and to signal players who were "planted" in the poker games. The source said he had repaired several of the devices.
The poker games usually had two plants, the source said. One played while the other served sandwiches and drinks, enabling him to observe other players' cards. The house player was equipped with a receiver attached to his skin and the other with a sender. Prearranged electronic impulse would let the house player know another player's hand and how to bet.
One plant, new to the game, was unfamiliar with the electric impulse. When he was signaled, he suddenly jumped up and screamed. He explained that he had a chest pain.
One regular player, a businessman who was unaware that the games were fixed, lost more than $100,000 over several years, the source said. As a result, he was forced into bankruptcy. In his petition, the businessman admitted he had lost $30,000 gambling in the previous year. He admitted to this reporter that he had gambled in Fincher's home.
Fincher conceded that he sponsored poker games among friends, but said they were low stakes. He denied that the games were rigged or that the businessman had lost that much money.
"We don't play that kind of poker. We play cheap poker. He (the businessman) used to play once in awhile, but I would not have the slightest idea how much money he has lost or won."
A New Hood in Town
"Willie was the man, the big man … He was the kingpin." An underworld source
For years, a gang of black hoodlums controlled most of the prostitution, gambling and narcotics traffic in Saint Robert and Pulaski County. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the kingpin of this crime cabal was Willie Calvin, a shrewd, ruthless hoodlum who eschewed violence, except as a final solution to a severe discipline problem or an insurrection, because of the publicity it brought. He had his own stable of a dozen girls.
A source close to Calvin told this reporter that Calvin controlled more than 90 percent of the 400 prostitutes working the area. The source explained:
"Willie was the man, the big man, in Pulaski County, no doubt about that. He got a cut out of every piece of action around. He was the kingpin …"
Calvin, a convicted felon from St. Louis, owned the club in which Kathi was forced to work. He employed at least three enforcers, the source said, to "keep the girls in line." Calvin enjoyed the accouterments of his chosen profession, living in a lavish home near the club and driving a custom-made Cadillac.
Calvin ran a tight ship and everybody was happy. He preferred to make money, not waves. Violence was kept to a minimum for there was little to fight over under Calvin's dictatorship. Peace had prevailed in the rackets of Saint Robert and Pulaski County for years until about 1970 when Bob Neal Carson appeared on the scene.
There seemed to be little threatening about Carson who was nothing more than a businessman who saw an opportunity in Pulaski County. He was just an affable good old country boy with a typical Ozark drawl, gangly with a shock of blond hair over his forehead. He opened a used-car and recreational-vehicle lot.
But the businesses were a front for his and his brother Bill's true designs of becoming the vice-lords of the area. Not long after his arrival, Carson acquired the vacant Four Corners Amusement Center. He reached an accommodation with Calvin and a number of black pimps. Their girls could use his facilities for a fee of 20 percent of the take. He later opened the plush Seven Palms Motel, which also would be used by prostitutes. Both establishments also featured gambling.
The accord seemed reasonable enough to all concerned. Carson wasn't running whores in competition with the established pimps. It was a kind of rental agreement for services provided. An associate later would say that Carson made $12,000 a month in rental fees.
An Insurance Policy
"I've never taken a bribe …" Sheriff Dorsey Rayl
It is axiomatic that widespread vice operations cannot flourish for long without at least the tacit approval of law enforcement. Carson was quick to recognize that he needed the law on his side. Not long after he came to town he bought an insurance policy – Dorsey Rayl, who had been Pulaski County sheriff for 20 years. The premium was a new 1970 Oldsmobile 98. The benefits were incalculable.
Investigation by this reporter in November 1972 disclosed that Carson, through his used car lot, purchased the new car on Oct. 31, 1970, from an area dealer for $4,578, just $120 over the dealer's cost. He paid half the cost with a check, the other with cash. Carson instructed the dealer to leave the certificate of origin, a state farm, blank.
Dave Woodward, a deputy sheriff for 24 years until he resigned in 1971, told this reporter of the events leading up to Rayl's acquisition of the vehicle. Rayl had said he was interested in purchasing a new Buick and invited Woodward to accompany him to inspect one.
"I stayed outside while he went inside to talk to them. He came out about 15 minutes later and then I drove him to Carson's used-car lot and he went inside there while I waited in the car. While he was inside Carson's, I thought to myself, 'The hell with this. After all, a guy like Carson, you just don't want to get involved with' ".
"A few hours later someone called Rayl up at his office and told him the new car was ready."
Woodward said that Rayl told him he had registered the car in a town about 40 miles away. An inspection of the bill of sale retained by the dealer and of Rayl's state registration showed that both bore the same vehicle identification number.
Rayl admitted he had obtained the Buick through Carson, but he was reluctant to discuss details of the transaction, saying only that he had used a trade-in and cash to purchase it. He declined to say why he did not buy the car directly from the dealer rather than through Carson.
"It's been insinuated that I'm crooked, but I'm clean. I've never taken a bribe and none of those places (houses of prostitution) has ever contributed a cent to any of my campaigns. Carson's a car dealer and I just traded with him, that's all. It was just a business deal."
A judge wasn't so impressed with Rayl's professed incorruptibility. Special Circuit Judge Robert P. Warden, issuing a permanent injunction against the Glass Top, a well-known house of prostitution, censured the sheriff and a deputy, Herman "Big Train" Jackson, for turning a blind eye to it.
"The deputy sheriff of Pulaski County and the sheriff of Pulaski County were aware of the reputation during this period of time that the Glass Top enjoyed of being a bawdy house."
Said Woodward, who unsuccessfully opposed Rayl in that year's primary election:
"You'd tell him about gambling and dope and prostitution going on, come to him with the evidence, and he'd look at me like I was a damned fool. He'd never do anything about it. We'd never be allowed to make an arrest so these places would run wide open."
The true extent of Carson's insurance coverage became known two years later. One of his lieutenants, William G. Kelly, testified that in August 1972, acting on behalf of Carson, he had gone to Rayl. The rackets boss had wanted to reopen the Four Corners, which had been closed temporarily, and needed the sheriff's approval. He testified:
"We went to the sheriff of Pulaski County and he said, 'okay, open'. He said to keep everything inside. He told me, 'I don't want to see it outside'."
Let the War Begin
"Everybody was making money until Carson got greedy …" The Calvin associate
Honor is not always a key element of détente in the underworld. Before long, Carson began running his own hookers out of the Four Corners and Seven Palms. He recruited girls aligned with the black pimps and persuaded many of the cab drivers to bring tricks to his places. Prostitutes usually charged a fee based on the john's ability to pay. Carson set a minimum of $20 per customer. That was insult enough, but he doubled the kickbacks from those using his facilities to 40 percent of their take. His income quadrupled to $50,000 a month.
The associate of Calvin's who also was a pimp explained:
"Everybody was making money until Carson got greedy and that's when the fighting started. What was happening was that the girls wouldn't have enough left to pay Willie after Carson got done with them, or if they did have enough they wouldn't have anything left over for themselves."
"After he got the cab drivers on his side, all we'd have left was the overflow. Nobody was making any money except Carson."
Carson aggravated the situation further when he swindled Robert Glanton, an operative in Calvin's mob, out of $10,000. Later, Carson agreed to repay the money, but reneged.
The winds of war were stirring.
A Preemptive Strike
"Willie just decided he wasn't going to put up with it anymore." Calvin's associate
In late June 1972, Calvin decided to strike back, non-violently. He fired a warning shot across Carson's bow.
He called a war council of black pimps. They agreed to boycott Carson. No longer would their girls use his facilities. They would strike where it would hurt him most – his pockets. It was an indication of Calvin's underworld power. Explained the source:
"Here was Carson, deciding he wanted to run everything. Willie just decided he wasn't going to put up with it anymore. Willie had to be big to make a bunch of guys tell their women to stop operating with Carson, to challenge him. It was a smart move. Carson's got debts up to his ears and when we suddenly pulled out all our women he began hurting bad."
It's unclear who actually started the hostilities. Each side blamed the other, each claiming it acted out of retaliation.
Regardless, Carson rose to Calvin's challenge and prepared for the inevitable battle. Vastly outnumbered, he reinforced his front-line troops with several thugs from Memphis, including Kelly. Although they were given jobs in Carson's prostitution and gambling enterprises, their real purpose was to add firepower to his arsenal.
The first known major skirmish occurred late at night on Aug 10, 1972, at the Four Corners. Glanton and his goons, in retaliation for not being paid the $10,000 owed him by Carson, forcibly closed the club. Carson had an earlier confrontation with Glanton, but had been unsuccessful in persuading him to relinquish his siege. It was then that he sought Rayl's permission to reopen the establishment.
Near midnight, Carson, his brother and several of the Memphis Mafia stormed the Four Corners. Glanton and his crew were waiting for them. More than 25 shots were fired in the ensuing gun battle. There was only one casualty – Carson, who was injured, although not seriously. But his ego nearly was mortally wounded.
Calvin had drawn first blood. Worse, Glanton had escaped unscathed.
The next day, Carson, from his hospital bed, attempted to introduce a new, more lethal, weapon, into the conflict. He solicited the services of Louis D. Shoulders Jr., a huge man known for his brutal strength, to hit Glanton. They had served time together in prison. Shoulders was one of the most notorious, feared hoodlums in the St. Louis underworld.
Shoulders' debut into organized crime years earlier came in the shadow of the notoriety of his father, St. Louis Police Lt. Louis D. Shoulders Sr. The elder Shoulders figured prominently in the disappearance of $300,000 of the $600,000 Greenlease kidnapping ransom in the early 1950s. The younger Shoulders, authorities revealed later, took the missing money to the Detroit mob.
Within a day, an emissary came to Carson's bedside. Shoulders wanted $7,000 to kill Glanton. The price was too steep and Carson rejected the offer. Shoulders probably could not have carried out the contract. He was killed two weeks later near Branson when a bomb demolished his car, surgically severing his lower body.
The Big City Mob Makes A Move
"I want to get something going here …" Frank Shoulders
The request of Shoulders was part of a larger, more sinister, development. The St. Louis underworld apparently was poised to intercede in vice in Saint Robert and Pulaski County. Some authorities suggested that Carson merely had been laying the groundwork for the St. Louis mob's entree.
Earlier that summer, Frank "Butch" Shoulders, Louie Shoulders' brother, and an unidentified black man, stayed several days at the Seven Palms Motel. Frank was a business agent in Laborers' Local 42, then under control of organized crime. They spent considerable time meeting with Carson and made contact with Rita Smith. A source explained:
"He told her, 'I want to get something going here and I'm told you're the person to see to get it moving'."
Shoulders apparently did not meet with her because she was seriously ill. The source said she talked with him on the telephone several times.
Shoulders had another reason for being there. He needed to dispose of $40,000 in stolen travelers' checks. According to two other sources, he met with an area businessman in a tavern in downtown Saint Robert. The businessman had received a sizable fee for helping Carson arrange financing for the Seven Palms.
After he had rejected Louie Shoulders' offer, Carson looked for another hit man to satisfy his obsession with Glanton's death. His brother, Bill, located David Offutt, a small town punk, and paid him $2,500. He decided to bomb Glanton's trailer home in Saint Robert. It was more brutal, more appropriate, than a bullet.
Carson chose the night of Aug. 25, 1972, to extract the thorn in his side. He wanted the world to know that he could act decisively in a crisis and that afternoon he called a newspaper, alerting it to a major news event that night.
Offutt wasn't exactly the epitome of efficient assassination. Late that night, he crawled under Glanton's trailer and, with the bomb resting on his chest, waited for the victim to fall asleep. Bill Carson and David Fox, Bob Neal Carson's lieutenant and confidant, stood watch from their car in a shopping center nearby.
They were drinking heavily and after awhile passed out. Finally, after several hours, the trailer became quiet. Offutt waited a while longer and then attached the bomb to one end of the trailer under what he assumed was the bedroom.
Now, the moment to send Glanton to oblivion had arrived. Offutt went to the car, where Carson and Fox still slept. He awoke them and they detonated the bomb with a remote device. They savored the moment as the end of the trailer where he had planted the bomb disintegrated in a shower of smoke and debris.
Only Glanton was not part of the rubble. The bedroom where he slept was at the opposite end of the trailer and he escaped without a scratch. A six-year-old girl was thrown clear of the structure and suffered a broken leg.
Glanton had cheated Carson's revenge, not once but twice within weeks. It was a charmed life he led and Carson plunged deeper into his desperate obsession.
Glanton's luck ran out a week later. He and M. C. Curtis, another of Calvin's operatives, were shot and killed in a café just outside of Saint Robert. They had come there with two other black men early in the evening. Witnesses were of little help. All they knew was that there were no arguments and no impassioned conversations. Suddenly, they said, there was gunfire. The two black men with them ran from the café and sped away in a car.
A Hasty Exodus
"Man, things just ain't right and proper any more. It just ain't worth getting killed over." Hughie, a pimp
The underworld strife accomplished what law enforcement had failed to by mid-September 1972. It caused an exodus of independent pimps and their women from Pulaski County. Life was becoming too hazardous. They didn't know who had the cross hairs on their back.
Hughie was one of those procurers. To him, blessed matrimony was a mutual endeavor for his benefit. His hooker was his wife. He was an independent and he wanted to stay that way, but he was being pressured to align himself with both sides. Now, he lived under the shadow of death.
Hughie was nobody's fool. He was interviewed by this reporter a week after Glanton and Curtis, both close friends of his, were killed. He refused to get into the reporter's car and would talk only while standing out in the open near a service station. He explained:
"Hey, I don't know who you are, do I? And you want me to get in your car?
He longed for the good old days when an independent had no fears, when the times were good and a guy could make a decent buck.
"I don't have to give nobody a piece of my action. It used to be if a man had a good woman or two he could make five hundred, a thousand dollars a week. When they tried to organize us, that's when things got bad. When I first got started in this game in St. Louis, I got hung up with one of those white syndicate boys and all I got out of it was 25 percent. There ain't no profit working like that."
Hughie's independence went much deeper than just declining to kick back part of his earnings. He had refused to participate in the shoot-out at the Four Corners. He said several of Calvin's henchmen asked him to help in the confrontation.
"I told them, man, I ain't gonna get involved in nothing like that. All I want to do is work my woman and be left alone."
That sealed his fate. His loyalty had been tested and he had failed. Not long afterwards, he was told he was marked for death and he panicked.
"See what they done to me? I'm scared even to go to any of the joints anymore. They ain't going to catch me out at night. I just sit there at night and watch television with my shotgun nearby. I ain't never been like this before in my life."
He and his wife were leaving that night. They were going anywhere, New York, perhaps Alaska, "where you don't have to worry."
The walls or Sodom and Gomorrah were beginning to crumble.
"They have apparently have taken the position that crime can be profitable to a community." John C. Danforth
The bombs and bullets had awakened the sleeping giants in the state and federal governments. If the community didn't care much about what was happening, the law soon did. And Carson and Calvin could take credit for bringing the full wrath of the angry bear down upon themselves and their vice empire. Besides, it was election year for all offices from local government up to the presidency.
Events happened in rapid succession. The Pulaski County underworld found itself in a firestorm. First to act was the military. Prodded by congressmen and senators, one of whom visited the facility, it placed a number of bawdyhouses off limits to military personnel. Pimps, madams and others were declared persona non grata and served with notices prohibiting them from entering the base on the penalty of criminal prosecution. One of them was a retired lieutenant colonel who operated a motel and liquor store. It was charged that he had solicited a waitress in the noncommissioned officers club to engage in prostitution.
John C. Danforth, then Missouri's attorney general who later became U. S. Senator, sent state troopers undercover into the whorehouses. A month after Glanton and Curtis were assassinated, state police swooped down on three bawdy houses, arresting 37 persons, including 21 women, and confiscating 16 weapons, one of which was a military rifle. It was a payday weekend. Thirty servicemen were detained. Legal proceedings were begun almost immediately to close the bordellos permanently. Said an irate Danforth:
"The people of the county have not desired good law enforcement. They have not wanted wide-open vice to be curtailed. They apparently have taken the position that crime can be profitable to a community."
Others echoed his sentiments. A citizens watchdog group was formed. The Rev. Bill Dudley, a member, was no less caustic in his assessment:
"The city of Saint Robert was incorporated solely for the purpose of protecting vice. There are very few aldermen who are not involved in some shady operation. Vice has existed because of its active encouragement."
Assistant U. S. Atty. Paul A. White of Kansas City made a preliminary inquiry and announced a federal grand jury would begin an investigation. The Organized Crime Strike Force would coordinate the probe. In desperation, the underworld put out a murder contract on White and he armed himself. No attempt was made on his life.
Dozens of persons were subpoenaed, including Calvin, Carson, pimps, madams, prostitutes, gamblers and others. This reporter's disclosures about the activities of Aldermen Glasscock, Palmer and Fincher and Marshal Fry and Sheriff Rayl's new Buick got the grand jury's attention and they, too, came under close scrutiny, but they never were charged.
In the end, 17 persons were indicted on charges ranging from income-tax evasion to interstate conspiracies to commit murder and to violate prostitution and gambling laws.
Willie Calvin – He was indicted for failing to file income-tax returns for the years 1967 through 1971. The government contended he had income totaling $80,955 for those years. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. He blamed Carson for informing on him to eliminate him from the rackets.
Bob Neal Carson – After deliberating two days, a U. S. District Court jury in July 1974 acquitted him of conspiracy charges. He accepted the verdict stoically and said nothing to reporters.
With his clubs closed, Carson fell upon hard times financially. The Seven Palms, the showcase of vice in Saint Robert, was placed in trusteeship after lenders foreclosed on his $1 million mortgage. He was $30,000 in arrears on payments.
William Carson – Like his brother, Carson, a restaurant owner, also was acquitted of conspiracy in the Glanton bombing. He, too, remained expressionless as the verdict was read, later telling reporters, "I just got faith in the people."
David Offutt – He also was charged with the Carsons for conspiracy in the Glanton bombing and was acquitted.
The government's case against the Carsons and Offutt was severely damaged with the loss of two key witnesses. One, Mrs. Eleanor Jett Sides, an unindicted co-conspirator, was to have testified that she participated in numerous meetings during which the Carsons and others plotted the murder attempts on Glanton. She also would have told of driving Offutt while he placed Glanton's trailer under surveillance five days before the bombing.
Shortly before the trial, sources said, a Pulaski County underworld figure appeared at her home in Kansas City, threatened her and told her not to testify. She then disappeared.
Offutt's ex-wife, also named as an unindicted coconspirator, was another crucial witness. She was expected to testify about her husband telling her of the murder plans. The day after the jury was selected, Offutt appealed the no-fault divorce, precluding her testimony. She could not testify against her husband while the divorce was being contested.
David Fox – As another unindicted coconspirator, he also was granted immunity when he agreed to testify against the defendants about being a part owner of the Seven Palms and participating in the murder plots. But his credibility suffered during cross-examination when he admitted he had lied in his first appearance before the grand jury about those matters.
Dorsey Rayl – He was defeated for re-election to his seventh term as sheriff in the general election in November 1972. He died of a heart attack a few days after
Kelly testified during the trial that he had given Carson permission to reopen the Four Corners.
Information for this article was obtained from stories by this reporter that were published in the St. Louis Post- Dispatch.
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