At 11 a.m. on July 24, 2009, a man named Mark Kitchens approached a home in the historic section of Hyde Park.
The house is made of brick, with a tile roof. Mature sycamore trees stand at the base of the steeply sloping front lawn, which ends at a sidewalk lining Harrison Parkway. The neighborhood — home to a mayor during the age of Tom Pendergast — speaks of wealth and elegance.
Kitchens delivers court papers. He went to Hyde Park to serve Brent Lambi, a midtown developer, with a lawsuit. John Hodges, the man suing Lambi, used to live in the house. Hodges and Lambi had been romantic partners and bought the home together in 2000, before they broke up. Hodges filed the suit in an effort to force Lambi to sell the house they no longer shared.
Process servers are responsible for filling out paperwork; in his, Kitchens wrote that Lambi refused to accept the lawsuit. Lambi told Kitchens that he was not the man named as the defendant.
Technically, this was true. The summons ordered Brent Lambie to appear in court. Lambi does not spell his last name with an 'e' at the end.
Kitchens left the documents on the doorstep.
The unwelcome visitor had arrived at a time when Lambi was trying to acquire the old Katz Drug store at Westport Road and Main Street. Until it was shuttered in 2006, the building's most recent tenant had been an Osco Drug store. Lambi imagined that the Art Deco building — known for its clock tower and bold stripes — would anchor a redevelopment encompassing several blocks.
His plan was put on hold.
On December 2, 2009, a man named Brian Potter filed a lawsuit accusing Lambi, 49, of lying about his HIV status. Potter says Lambi told him that he was HIV-negative before they had unprotected sex, and that he contracted the virus from Lambi.
The document handlers working on Potter's behalf have not come as close to Lambi as Kitchens did. Five months after Potter's case was filed, Lambi has yet to be served with those papers.
Word around midtown is that Lambi left Kansas City for a place far from the reach of civil suits. Argentina, some people say. Or Chile.
Before his personal problems began to mount, Lambi was regarded as a bright and driven individual. David Scott, an entrepreneur and fellow Hyde Park resident, says Lambi seemed to move at blazing speed — somewhat atypical of Kansas City's landed class. "That's kind of refreshing, actually," Scott says.
But there was a dark side. He's on probation for an incident in 2008 that left a former boyfriend with scrapes on his hands and knees. The boyfriend told police that he and Lambi had been out drinking in Westport. They went their separate ways after a misunderstanding. Later that night, Lambi allegedly showed up at the boyfriend's house, kicked in a door and threw him to the ground.
At some point, he'll likely re-emerge. But in what condition? One person who has dealt with Lambi expects him to return "in a body bag or a changed person."
March 23, a Tuesday, begins with a short hearing in Jackson County Judge Joel May's courtroom.
Two lawyers sit at a table in front of May's bench. Chad Lamer is here on behalf of Hodges, Lambi's former lover and business partner. The other lawyer is Vince O'Flaherty.
O'Flaherty rents office space in a Lambi-owned building at West 39th Street and Main. Last summer, O'Flaherty helped Lambi apply for tax credits for his midtown redevelopment. Lambi was hoping to finance about half of the project's $27.7 million cost with credits available for developers who restore historic buildings and work in low-income areas.