If I didn't know the awful truth, I'd swear Andre D. Jones was sleeping.
But I know the truth.
Jones' rest is eternal. He looks peaceful lying in his casket, sharply dressed in an argyle sweater and button-down shirt, his newsboy hat snug on his head. But his tranquil look belies the truth. Jones, 33, was the victim of one of the metro's most disturbing murders of 2009: a quadruple homicide in Raytown whose other victims were his 21-year-old girlfriend, Precious Triplett, and her nephews, 10-year-old Amir Clemons and 7-year-old Gerard Clemons.
In March, their bodies were discovered by the young boys' father in an apartment near 61st Street and Raytown Road. The only life spared was that of an 18-month-old toddler.
Jones' cousin posted a video slideshow of his visitation on YouTube. Slide after slide flashes on the screen, showing Jones' friends, family and others surrounding his coffin, holding his hand and wiping away tears. More than 1,900 people have seen the video, which also shows a poster. "Help us catch a monster," it begs.
"Somebody know something ... imagine what these families are going thru ... someone lost a ... father, brother, son, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend ... somebody know ... somebody saw ... speak up!"
The video ends with the victims' names scrolling like movie credits.
Months went by without an arrest, compelling U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and former Kansas City Councilman Alvin Brooks to plead for tips. At an April press conference, Cleaver, a minister, sounded as if the murders had shaken his faith. "I have never stood in the pulpit of a church and looked over into the casket of two young children who have been brutally murdered," Cleaver said. "I don't know if my seminary training had been sufficient to allow a detachment of that experience. We're trained that we cannot become so emotionally involved when we do funerals that it begins to alter who we are. That funeral has altered who I am. ... It is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life."
Nearly four months after the killings, Jackson County prosecutors charged 24-year-old Gevante D. Anderson with first-degree murder. Anderson was reportedly Triplett's ex-boyfriend — and the father of the toddler found alive in the apartment.
Though not posted on YouTube, similar scenes played out in funeral homes across the metro.
As this issue of The Pitch goes to press, only 48 hours remain in 2009. If no one is murdered by the time this issue hits the streets, 2009 will close with 109 homicides in Kansas City, Missouri. The number will be lower than the year before, a hollow victory in another bloody year. Meanwhile, Kansas City, Kansas, counted 39 homicides. There were five in Raytown, six in Independence and three in Overland Park.
We knew it would be like this. As 2008 came to a close and police tallied 126 people murdered in Kansas City, Missouri, my colleagues and I tried to think of a way to comprehend the yearly slaughter. At the very least, we decided that we would write something about each victim, gathering photos when we could, and post the information on our news blog, the Plog at pitch.com. We called the project Killa City.
As the paper's blog editor, I have lived in Killa City for a year now. I don't have any insights or explanations for the carnage. I've noticed a few themes, though.
First, there's the randomness.
Deanna Lieber lived in Lawrence. One Friday night in July, after watching a performance of Anything Goes at Starlight Theatre with her 13-year-old daughter and her mother-in-law, Lieber, 45, was heading home on U.S. Highway 71 when she was killed by a stray bullet near 59th Street.