On the witness stand was an attractive 23-year-old woman from the Slovak Republic named Anna Kincaid, who, from September 2002 to September 2003, worked as au pair for a couple named Monica and Kelly Locke. Monica Locke filed for divorce in January, and the couple is engaged in a bitter custody battle over their four young children. Trial is set for June 29, but Kincaid, who lives in Virginia, was testifying early because she couldn't make the June date.
Kincaid had entered the courtroom with Monica Locke, and her testimony made it clear where her sympathies lay. Questioned by Monica's attorney, Tom Capps, Kincaid described a household in which she and Monica performed nearly all of the work bathing, dressing, feeding and entertaining the family's newborn triplets, while Kelly Locke pitched in only by taking the couple's first child, a toddler, to daycare. Kelly Locke was rarely home, Kincaid testified, and when he was in the house, he ignored the children and watched television.
Asked what Kelly would do when the triplets became fussy or cried while he watched television, Kincaid replied, "He would turn up the volume."
Monica, by contrast, was a compassionate, even inspirational, parent to her children. "She became my role model," Kincaid testified. She later added that her year living with the Lockes was "one of the best experiences of [her] life."
Kincaid was then cross-examined by Kelly Locke's attorney, David Sexton, who got Kincaid to admit that she spent much of her time away from the Lockes and may not have witnessed Kelly Locke doing more for the children.
Sexton also asked Kincaid if she knew about Monica's affair with Tony Peña.
"Yes, I knew," she replied.
Property records show that Tony Peña and his wife, Amaris, owned a house across the street from the Lockes in their Kansas City North neighborhood. Kelly Locke says that his wife, in a deposition, has admitted to an affair with Peña that occurred sometime early in 2004.
Sexton asked Kincaid how she knew about the affair, since she had left the Locke household by that time. "[Monica] told me ... she had an affair with Tony Peña," Kincaid answered, and indicated that a neighbor of the Lockes had also told her about the relationship.
"If you knew that Monica Locke left these triplets unattended in the home alone in the evening and she was at Tony Peña's house ... do you believe that that's a good role model?" Sexton asked. Capps rose to object, but Associate Circuit Judge K. Elizabeth Davis allowed the query. Sexton repeated his question, and Kincaid answered, "No."
When it was his turn to ask a follow-up question, Capps referred to Sexton's hypothetical question and asked Kincaid if her answer would have been different if she had known that Monica Locke had taken with her an electronic baby monitor.
The Strip looked around the room again. Was this really happening? Here was court testimony suggesting that last year, coming off a season in which he was voted the American League's Manager of the Year, Tony Peña had become involved in a clandestine relationship with a mother of four who came to his house for sex, leaving her small children alone but toting a baby monitor in case they began crying.
And the Strip was the only member of the press in the room.
We know from experience that local media outlets can react oddly when they stumble onto unsavory facts about the multimillionaire sports figures that they cover. Several years ago, this meat patty spent time in Phoenix, where it worked with an ace investigative reporter named Paul Rubin. In 1997, Rubin learned that about a year earlier, Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson, a godlike figure in Phoenix with a squeaky-clean image, had been the subject of a criminal investigation. Police in Phoenix had suspected that Johnson, 29 at the time, had developed an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Rubin found, for example, that the girl had told police that Johnson made her "pinkie promise" not to tell anyone about the time they showered together.
Police never charged Johnson with a crime. But just before Rubin went to press with his story, he told this riblet something surprising. During his investigation, he said, he'd become aware that TV sports reporters had known about the details of the police investigation for more than a year and had done nothing about it.
That's one reason the Strip figured that Jack Harry knew more than he was saying.
Harry, the throwback sports director at KSHB Channel 41, started making vague allusions to an "off-the-field" distraction for Tony Peña in nightly news broadcasts about two weeks ago. The Kansas City Star, too, made brief mention that Peña had been subpoenaed for a "personal matter" that would not interrupt his plans to accompany the team on a road trip. Harry, the Star and other sports outlets made it sound like Peña was facing nothing more unsettling than a traffic ticket.
By last Monday, however, the Strip realized that privately, reporters were telling one another something very different -- that Peña was rumored to be at the center of a divorce case -- and we began to look into the story.
The next day, allusions to Peña's "personal matter" were being made not only on Harry's broadcasts but also on sports-talk radio. One radio host announced that he knew some details of the matter but refused to share them, and he chided his listeners for wanting to know what was really going on.
That afternoon, the Strip reached Kelly Locke for the first time. Locke confirmed that the rumors were true. Peña had been ordered by Kelly Locke's subpoena to show up in court the next morning, Wednesday, May 11, to testify and to turn over phone records and other documents. On May 4, Peña's attorney had filed a motion to quash the subpoena, saying that it was unreasonable to ask the baseball manager to be in town when his team was on a road trip.
But before Peña's motion could be heard, he surprised everyone by quitting his job Tuesday night in Toronto.
Wednesday morning, Kansas City's sports media appeared stunned by the news. Sure, the Royals had the worst record in baseball, with 8 wins and 25 losses. But just two weeks earlier, Royals owner David Glass had expressed confidence in Peña, and no one expected Peña to win many games in a rebuilding year when the team had dedicated itself to a "youth movement" with inexperienced players. Peña had endured losing seasons as a player -- even a 104-loss year with the Pirates in 1985 -- and last year's record 104-loss season as Royals manager didn't seem to dim the man's famous optimism.
Joe Posnanski, in Wednesday's Star, wrote that quitting simply wasn't characteristic of the Peña he knew. And on the radio, speculation about what the mysterious "personal matter" might have been -- and whether it had something to do with Peña's surprise resignation -- was getting more pointed.
At 1:30 that afternoon, the Pitch ended the speculation about Peña's subpoena. On our Web site, Pitch.com, we posted a brief story outlining the basics of the Locke case and Peña's involvement in it. Kelly Locke, we reported, blamed Peña in part for the breakup of his marriage and suspected that Peña had quit his high-profile job before details of the affair became public.
Within minutes, radio stations were directing their listeners to the story. By that evening, three television outlets -- KCTV Channel 5, WDAF Fox 4, and Jack Harry's KSHB Channel 41 -- had confirmed the story on their own and described it in brief reports. Old-school KMBC Channel 9, however, didn't mention the news at all. (Jack Harry, meanwhile, began accepting congratulations from his on-air colleagues that he'd broken the story -- a story whose details he has yet to actually report.)
The next morning, the Star made two brief mentions of an alleged affair without naming the Lockes. By that afternoon, last Thursday, sports radio had turned its attention to debates over who should next lead the Royals.
The story, as far as Kansas City media were concerned, was over.
Friday afternoon, as Anna Kincaid began her testimony, the Strip sat alone taking notes.
In another city, we figured, a press less protective of its sports stars might consider it newsworthy that its baseball manager had abandoned his team just as his role in a messy divorce was coming to light.
Kelly Locke tells the Strip that at one time he considered Tony Peña a friend. After his wife broke the news of the affair to him, he says, he confronted the Royals manager on the telephone. "He denied everything," Locke says. "Shortly after that, he moved away."
Peña's wife, Amaris, spent most of her time in the Dominican Republic and would visit from time to time. But during that period, the first half of 2004, she was staying with her husband, Locke says. The Peñas bought a new house about two miles away in June and sold the house near the Lockes in November.
In January, Monica filed for divorce. The couple lived together for a few more months -- an uncomfortable time, Kelly says. Then Monica filed a motion with the court that forced Kelly to leave their house. Seeking protection from the court, she accused Kelly of physically abusing her and threatening to kill her.
"That's absolutely 100 percent not true," Kelly says.
Monica didn't respond to our attempt to ask her about the allegations at the hearing on Friday.
It was only after Monica made her allegations about his supposed abuse that Kelly, in late April, subpoenaed Peña.
Kelly says he's living in Parkville but still works as a realtor in Gladstone. The four Locke children are going back and forth between the two parents, spending about half the time with one or the other.
"I want to share custody," Kelly says. "She just wants them to see her. I'm fighting for half custody of my kids."
Kelly also denies that he's the cold father described in Anna Kincaid's testimony. "That was unbelievable," he says. "If I'd heard my kids crying, absolutely I'd go up to see them."
But if he claims to be more compassionate than he was portrayed by Kincaid, he's playing hardball in his court filings. On Friday, he filed a motion asking the court to require Monica Locke to submit to a mental examination. Kelly claims that Monica has attempted suicide at least four times since last June. Twice, Kelly claims, Monica attempted to throw herself out of a moving car and he had to "take evasive action" to prevent it. The document also claims that Monica "disclosed that one of her counselors ... had advised that her affair with Tony Peña was 'gross.'"
On Saturday, the Strip went to Peña's home, which is in an upscale development that is still so new that most of the houses appeared unoccupied. No one came to the door to answer our knock.
Peña is still under subpoena and will be required to appear at the June 29 Locke divorce trial.
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.