Pharmacist linked to fungal meningitis outbreak gets 9 years in prison

(CNN)Pharmacist Barry Cadden was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday after his facility caused at least 76 deaths in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.

The US Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts said Cadden authorized the shipping of drugs that weren’t confirmed to be sterile and used expired ingredients. It added that Cadden’s facility did not comply with cleaning, sterilization and other safety regulations — and that many who worked there, from its owners to pharmacists, actively lied about it.
More than 700 people in 20 states were diagnosed with fungal meningitis and other infections after receiving contaminated medication from Cadden’s facility in 2012. The outbreak was the largest public health crisis caused by a pharmaceutical product, according to a statement from acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb.
    In a filing on June 22, the prosecution placed the number of deaths caused by Cadden at 76, making it the deadliest meningitis outbreak in US history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had officially announced 64 deaths, but “they stopped counting a year after the outbreak,” said Christina Sterling, acting US Attorney spokeswoman.
    The deaths were allegedly caused by contaminated vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid manufactured by the compounding pharmacy.
    Though Cadden was acquitted of 25 counts of second-degree murder after a 10-week trial, federal prosecutors asked the judge for a 35-year sentence for his other convictions; his attorney recommended three years.

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    “Today, Barry Cadden was held responsible for one of the worst public health crises in this country’s history, and the lives of those impacted because of his greed will never be the same,” said Harold H. Shaw, FBI special agent in charge, Boston Field Division, in a statement. “This deadly outbreak was truly a life-changing event for hundreds of victims, and the FBI is grateful to have played a role, alongside our law enforcement partners, in bringing this man to justice.”
    Judge Richard Stearns sentenced the pharmacist to nine years behind bars and three years of supervised release.
    “The only thing I would say is our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the outbreak at this time, and I have nothing more to say,” Cadden’s attorney Bruce Singal told CNN.

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    BMA chief: NHS is ‘running on fumes’ – BBC News

    Image copyright PA

    The NHS in England is “running on fumes”, the leader of the British Medical Association is warning.

    Dr Mark Porter hit out at the government at the start of the union’s annual conference.

    He accused ministers of putting patients at risk and “picking the pockets” of NHS staff because of the squeeze on wages.

    But ministers rejected the criticisms, saying they were putting more money into the health service.

    Dr Porter launched the attack as doctors gathered in Bournemouth.

    He said: “We have a government trying to keep the health service running on nothing but fumes. A health service at breaking point.

    “Run by ministers who wilfully ignore the pleas of the profession and the impact on patients.

    “It doesn’t have to be this way. It is the result of an explicit political choice.”

    Image copyright BMA
    Image caption Dr Mark Porter said: “The government wants a world-class NHS with a third class settlement.”

    He went on to point out that compared to other developed economies, less was being spent on the NHS than other health systems.

    And he said this was having a direct impact on patients, pointing to the rise in the numbers of patients facing long waits for a bed following an emergency admission – up four-fold in five years – as proof.

    “The government wants a world-class NHS with a third class settlement,” he said.

    It comes as the BMA unveiled the results of a poll of more than 1,000 adults on the state of the NHS.

    It found:

    • 82% were worried about the future of the NHS
    • 62% expected the NHS to get worse in the coming years
    • More people were dissatisfied with the NHS – 43% – than were satisfied – 33%

    But a Department of Health spokesman said: “This does a disservice to the achievements of NHS staff.”

    He said the NHS was seeing the “highest cancer survival rates ever”, improving mental health services and better access to GPs.

    He also added independent polling showed pubic satisfaction rates were also high in contrast to the BMA poll.

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    The teenagers growing up with cancer – BBC News

    Every day in the UK seven teenagers find out they have cancer. At the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, the Teenage Cancer Trust has set up a specially-designed “teen-only” unit.

    The unit brings together young people from all over Scotland who are dealing with cancer, so they don’t have to face it alone.

    Natasha – aged 15

    Natasha has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, and comes to the unit five times a week for chemotherapy.

    She told BBC documentary Growing Up With Cancer: “When someone says to you the word ‘cancer’, you just go blank.”

    “It started sinking in when my hair started falling out. That’s when it properly sunk in.”

    For Natasha, and for all patients undergoing chemotherapy, going bald changes the way they see themselves and how other people view them.

    She says: “It is so confusing because I miss the old self.

    “Before I thought I’m never going to walk out bald, I’ll always have my wigs on every time I walk out of the house.

    “But now I don’t care if people are looking at me because it’s not their life.”

    She says the wigs are hot and heavy and sometimes hurt her ears and give her a sore head.

    Image caption Natasha says she tries to have “positive thoughts”

    But she says “positive thinking” gets her through.

    “It’s hard with something like this at the beginning when you get told but when you get into it there’s nothing else you can do,” she says.

    “You’ve got it, deal with it – and that’s it.”

    The 15-year-old says she wants to be a lawyer one day.

    She says: “After this I’d never take health for granted.

    “When I get married and have kids that’ll be my main priority – my health, because anything could happen at any point.

    “I’ll just focus on my health and my education now, that’s it.”

    Nairn – aged 14

    Image caption Nairn was worried about losing his hair

    Nairn, who is 14, says: “I started getting unwell about January time. I thought it was a chest infection.

    “Then I started to get a bit sicker, coughing and things like that. It was bringing my mood down. I lost a lot of energy and I just felt horrible.

    “I was going straight home to my bed. I was crying a lot, the emotions were building up in me so much I didn’t know what to think.”

    He allowed the cameras to film him and his parents as he got his diagnosis from consultant haematologist Dr Nick Heaney.

    He faces treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same cancer as Natasha.

    When he gets his diagnosis, he is worried about falling behind with his school work and he is also concerned about the affect on his family.

    Nairn says: “I don’t want my mum and dad to be worried and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be.

    “The smile on my face helps them to cope I feel.

    “Obviously as a teenager you’re going to get grumpy so I’ve tried to maintain a good behaviour with them and it has kind of worked but it’s difficult.

    “Sometimes I want to be a bit grumpy but I need to keep that smile on because I know it is helping them through it.”

    And as he tries to stay positive he says he does not like other people saying “I’m so sorry”.

    “It just brings down the mood,” he says. “I’d much rather everyone acts as normal.”

    Nairn says the treatment is “tough, tiring and simply quite boring”.

    He says: “I just wish I could wake up and it was just a dream but it’s not and I have to deal with it.”

    As his chemo progresses his skin breaks out and he suffers mouth ulcers and cracked lips.

    And, like Natasha, losing his hair is a major moment.

    Nairn tells Natasha he loves his hair and would spend ages getting it just right.

    She is three months ahead of him in her chemo treatment and offers support, telling him to “embrace” the baldness.

    Nairn says: “Natasha was really supportive and I think it was really helpful talking to her about what kind of symptoms she had.

    “I think she helped me embrace what was wrong with me a bit more.

    “I think I’m just going to continue life as it was before and I hope everyone can do the same.”

    Declan – aged 14

    Image caption Declan was back in hospital after a relapse

    Declan was in the unit for a stem cell transplant after a relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, an aggressive form of cancer.

    For the first month or more he was placed in isolation while his immune system was shut down in preparation.

    He said: “I started my treatment almost two years ago and I was doing fine. I was on a maintenance part of treatment but then I relapsed.

    “They took me for a bone marrow and they found out the chemo hadn’t worked, which was horrible news.

    “I was just transitioning from child to teenager. I had to grow up pretty fast.”

    After seven weeks in isolation, Declan’s stem cell transplant is working and he’s back in the teenage ward.

    He says the thought of going home got him through it.

    “The thought of going home and being normal again.”

    Growing up with cancer is on BBC One on Monday 26 June at 19:30.

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    Making a difference in your community is not as difficult as it seems

    Image: Keith JJ/ Pixabay

    Even though we all have very busy lives, finding the time to make a difference is important. The biggest challenge, though, is knowing where to start. Even if we don’t always know what projects are best for us to get involved with, small efforts can make a big impact.

    So rest assured, there are a few ways for you to use your talents and interests for the greater good. Here are some of the many different avenues you can take.

    1. Volunteer at a food bank or shelter

    Contributing to the efforts of your local food banks or shelters is a meaningful way to help those in your community who are less fortunate than yourself.

    You can help out by serving and preparing meals, setting up beds, or simply just being there for someone else in need.

    This will not only allow you to contribute to a worthy cause, but it’ll also give you an opportunity to meet and connect with the people you’re assisting. You’ll be able to see the impact your work has first-hand, which you don’t get by making a simple donation of money or goods. (Thought those are vital things to do, as well.)

    Image: Photo-Mix / pixabay

    2. Help out a neighbor

    Sometimes, we can overlook those around us who are not as obviously in need of help.

    Maybe your neighbor has medical complications that prevent them from doing chores, or they are working several jobs while raising children. Perhaps you just know that they’re going through a difficult time. Whatever the case, you can offer your time and effort to those people around you who could really use a hand.

    Consider mowing a lawn or raking leaves, or just helping them to cook a meal or babysit while they take time to themselves. It could be as simple as sitting with them and listening to their problems.

    Actions like these can make a big difference to those around you, and the ripple effect can even take hold throughout your community.

    3. Coach a local sports team

    Helping to foster a love for sports in your community’s youth is a great way for you to contribute. Whatever athletic endeavor you’re into, there is probably a local volunteer coaching opportunity for you.

    Sports are said to help teach kids about teamwork and healthy competition, as well as life lessons like how to lose gracefully. Sports also keep kids active, which is good for their overall health and wellness.

    By being a good coach for these kids, you can help transform this childhood rite of passage into a positive one.

    Image: pexels/ pixabay

    4. Teach an arts course

    A lot of local recreation centers have artistic teaching opportunities.

    Whether you want to teach children how to paint, offer acting classes to high school students, or introduce ceramics to adults, you can find an avenue to share your talents.

    Being creative in any capacity can be extremely beneficial, especially for mental health and wellness. Teaching these skills to others can help them with their own expression and make your community a more beautiful place.

    5. Start a community garden

    Planting a community garden can improve the atmosphere of your town and make it a more pleasant place to be, while giving a boost to your local ecosystems.

    This can also become a wonderful meeting place for the people in your community to come together and become closer to each other.

    Perhaps most importantly, growing crops in a community garden can help to boost the town’s economy, or help out those less fortunate in the area. If some of the produce is donated to local shelters and food banks, and the rest goes to local businesses and farm stands, everyone can share in the benefits.

    These options, as well as countless others, are great ways for you to make a very real impact on the lives of those around you.

    Watch next: How to turn your kitchen into a tiny produce farm

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    Would Trump make a good royal?

    (CNN)The power of the British monarchy has been on display during recent tragedies.

    Whether comforting victims of the Grenfell tower block fire or unveiling the priorities of her government in the state opening of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated the sort of steady, dignified endurance that rises above the chaos of a divisive Brexit vote and an inconclusive general election.
    Leave it to Prince Harry to spoil it all.
      In a revealing interview with Newsweek, the Queen’s most rebellious grandson let slip the secret at the heart of his family.
      “We are involved in modernizing the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people…. Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time,” he said.
      Prince Harry’s words are extraordinary. But he should know better than anyone if his father Charles and brother William, both groomed for the job since birth, do not even want the throne.

        Prince Harry opens up about Diana’s funeral

      Who, after all, could survive the nonstop attention and demand for selfies? Who would thrive under such scrutiny, and do it all while wearing a gold crown weighing more than three pounds?
      It would take a certain type of person. The sort of person who fills his court with relatives, perhaps, who thinks the separation of powers is a foreign concept, and who would quite fancy himself as the head of a church.
      Anyone coming to mind here?
      President Donald Trump may be struggling to navigate power in the world’s greatest democracy. But how about the top job in a smaller, dustier administration?
      There may be centuries of convention about how the monarch is supposed to relate to Parliament (keep quiet and sign the bills when they arrive), but an unwritten constitution means there is nothing to stop him doing whatever he wants.
      These days, marrying a Catholic is not even a problem, so Melania is safe.
      It is, of course, a stupid idea. A poor joke deployed by a Brit in America (yours truly) trying to make sense of Prince Harry’s comments and the truth about duty.
      Harry’s point is that nobody should want the crown. Nobody should want the awesome responsibilities that come with it. The accident of birth has rather ruled him out of contention anyway. Prince Harry now stands fifth in line to the throne.

        Prince Harry hosts Obama at Kensington Palace

      But it is easy to understand how a fun-loving 30-something would balk at the idea.
      His mother died in a car accident in a French road tunnel as she was pursued by paparazzi, photographers trying to sate the massive interest in the Royals’ real-life soap opera.
      A photo of Harry walking in his mother’s funeral cortege became the public’s defining image of the young prince.
      “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he said in the Newsweek interview.
      “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen.”
      It got worse as Harry got older and became fair game for the tabloids. Now every girlfriend is scrutinized by a public that knows him only from a distance.
      When he dressed up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, photographs turned up on newspaper front pages.

        UK royals talk candidly about losing Diana

      And as his brother William will one day find out, being king rather makes showing up at a Colonials and Natives themed party a bit of a no-no. (Although his choice of outfit at that notorious 2005 party — a lion costume — shows the way he has been groomed from a young age to avoid accidentally triggering outrage by dressing up as a murderous fascist.)
      We have all watched the crown and marveled at the way Princess Elizabeth blossomed into a young queen as she grappled with her new burden and the duties she learned at her father’s side.
      How much more difficult that transition would be today, in our nonstop world of Twitter, hot takes and rolling news.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      Anyone lusting after the position of sovereign would possess not just an unhealthy masochism, but a level of narcissism at odds with the humility displayed by the Queen during this past week.
      What kind of monster would want that life?

      Read more:

      America Is Now a Second Tier Country

      America leads the world when it comes to access to higher education. But when it comes to health, environmental protection, and fighting discrimination, it trails many other developed countries, according to the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

      The results of the group’s annual survey, which ranks nations based on 50 metrics, call to mind other reviews of national well-being, such as the World Happiness Report released in March, which was led by Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, or September’s study on sustainable development. In that one, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, and the U.S. took spots 1, 2, 3, and 28—respectively. 

      The Social Progress Index released this week is compiled from social and environmental data that come as close as possible to revealing how people live. “We want to measure a country’s health and wellness achieved, not how much effort is expended, nor how much the country spends on healthcare,” the report states. Scandinavia walked away with the top four of 128 slots. Denmark scored the highest. America came in at 18. 

      The U.S. may be underperforming, but so is the rest of the world. American progress, like that of other rich nations, has stalled for four years running. Based on overall world GDP, humanity as a whole could be doing a much more efficient job taking care of itself. Tough graders, these social-progress folks.

      Of course it’s easy enough to dismiss or belittle these occasional reports, each with their unique methodologies and almost identical conclusions. Another approach, however, would be to look at them all together and conclude that they represent “mounting evidence.” In that case, Houston (and Dallas, New Orleans, Tulsa, St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York), we have a problem.

      SPI produces the report in part to help city, state, and national policymakers diagnose and (ideally) address their most pressing challenges. The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said America “is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.” 

      As a result, the U.S. is ranked as a second-tier nation within the multilevel structure of the  report, which comes complete with interactive graphics. Second-tier countries demonstrate “high social progress” on core issues, such as nutrition, water, and sanitation. However, they lag the first-tier, “very high social progress” nations when it comes to social unity and civic issues. That more or less reflects the U.S. performance. (There are six tiers in the study.)

      Its lowest marks come in the categories of “tolerance and inclusion” and “health and wellness.”

      Since 2014, as discrimination in America rises based on race, religion, sexual identity, and national origin, U.S. scores in the “tolerance and inclusion” category fell, according to the study. 

      The authors note that wealth is no guarantee to first-tier access. Even among nations with similar GDP, “countries achieve widely divergent levels of social progress.” It’s true a little bit of economic growth goes a long way toward improving lives, but those gains taper off at more mature stages of development.

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        Tropical Storm Cindy may bring ‘life-threatening’ flooding across Gulf Coast

        Tropical Storm Cindy formed Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, and may bring “life-threatening flash flooding” across the central Gulf Coast, according to forecasters.

        The National Weather Service said the storm is centered about 250 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana and has top sustained winds of 45 mph. The storm is presently stationary in the Gulf, and has tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 205 miles from the center, according to the NWS.

        Cindy, the third tropical storm of 2017, is expected to reach the Louisiana coast sometime late Wednesday and then move inland over western Louisiana and eastern Texas on Thursday.

        The storm is expected to bring 6 to 9 inches of rain in areas, and up to 12 inches in some spots across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through Thursday. The weather service said the rain “could cause
        life-threatening flash flooding in these areas” in its latest advisory

        A tropical storm warning is now in effect from High Island on the upper Texas coast all the way to the mouth of the Pearl River at the state line of Louisiana and Mississippi. A tropical storm watch is in effect elsewhere on the Texas coast, from west of High Island to San Luis Pass.


        In Louisiana, local officials are taking steps to prepare for the potential of flooding from Cindy.

        New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several city and emergency officials told residents Tuesday to be prepared, FOX 8 New Orleans reported.

        There is no system that can take more than so much rainfall in a short period of time. That is where the danger is, Landrieu said. So, if we get hit really, really hard for a prolonged period of time that’s when the streets are going to start to flood.

        Landrieu said the city’s pumps will eventually catch up with the rain, but residents know what parts of their neighborhoods will see flooding during heavy rains.

        The Louisiana National Guard dispatched high water vehicles and helicopters into flood-prone areas. The state said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was moving 125,000 meals and 200,000 liters of water into Louisiana.

        Gov. John Bel Edwards said the advance notice of the storm gave officials time to put emergency plans in place. Louisiana was slammed with major flooding last summer from an unnamed storm that heavily damaged the Baton Rouge and Lafayette regions.

        In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey declared a statewide State of Emergency in anticipation of severe weather moving through.

        Hurricane season is underway and that means the potential for increased tropical activity along the Gulf Coast, Ivey said in a statement. To ensure the state of Alabama is prepared, I have issued a State of Emergency effective today. This State of Emergency will guarantee state resources are on standby and are ready to assist impacted communities if necessary.

        The Alabama National Guard is also being activated in preparation for the potential impact of the severe weather.

        Based on the forecast and prediction of the National Weather Service Offices for Alabama, residents need to start preparing for widespread rain totals of 4 to 8 inches with isolated areas of greater than 10 inches possible through Thursday, Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner said in a press release. Being prepared for potential flood conditions is critical, because flash flooding can be a very dangerous situation.

        In Saraland, Alabama, residents near Bayou Sara spent Tuesday picking up free sandbags from the city’s public works department before Cindy moves in, FOX 10 reported.

        Public works crews told FOX 10 they served about 1,500 people in four hours. Many of those getting sandbags told FOX 10 issues they’ve had in the past.

        “Last time it rained really, really bad, me and mom were going to the movies,” Richard Metts told FOX 10. “We came back and it literally, my road was completely flooded:  like the fire truck was going up and down the road getting the cars that were stuck in the water.”

        At the Escatawpa Hollow Campground in Alabama, near the Mississippi State line, owner Larry Godfrey told the Associated Press he was prepared for flooding that would add to the woes of a rainy spring.

        “We’ve had so much rain, we haven’t done any business in about eight weeks because of the rain,” said Godfrey, whose campground typically hosts swimmers and boaters. He said the Escatawpa River, at 15 feet ), would typically be lower than 3 feet at this time of year.

        Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the State Operations Center to raise its readiness level as Cindy approached the Gulf Coast.

        The center’s readiness would be raised from level four/normal conditions to level three/increased readiness as of noon Wednesday. Also, Abbott has activated four Texas Task Force 1 boat squads and two Texas Military Department vehicles squads of five vehicles each to respond to any weather-related emergencies.

        Abbott also put on standby the Emergency Medical Task Force of the Department of State health Services, as well as Texas Military Forces aircraft and shelter and feeding teams.

        A voluntary evacuation notice has been issued for those with medical and other special needs on the Bolivar Peninsula, between Galveston and High Island, Texas. The National Weather Service advises that services may be limited for those on the peninsula around high tide from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning.

        While the northern Gulf Coast braced for Cindy, the southern Caribbean region was dealing with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret, which unleashed heavy flooding, knocked out power and ripped off several roofs in some areas of Trinidad &Tobago. Bret had degenerated into a tropical wave by Tuesday afternoon.

        All airports in Trinidad & Tobago reopened later Tuesday, though public schools and many businesses remain closed.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

        Read more:

        American Airlines flights in Phoenix canceled as temperatures soar

        At least 20 American Airlines flights out of Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona have been cancelled amid a weather forecast that predicts a temperature of 120 degrees for Tuesday.

        The American Eagle regional flights in question use the Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which has a top operating temperature of 118 degrees, according to an American Airlines statement provided to The Arizona Republic.


        Extreme temperatures hamper a planes ability to get off the ground. The higher the temperatures rise, the more speed the plane needs to take off. Runways may not be long enough to accommodate the extra need.

        Jets like Airbus and Boeing have bigger engines and arent expected to be sidelined by the heat.

        Flight changes, American Airlines said, would be free of charge. Customers have been encouraged to contact the airline for rebooking options or to get their money back.

        The airline is the only one so far to have reported cancellations.

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        Goldie TaylorThe Search for My Fathers Killer

        ST. LOUISJust before daybreak, sitting at the edge of her bed in an upper bedroom, she clutched her pale blue housecoat and listened tearfully to the transistor radio on the nightstand. At the top of the hour, a familiar, melodic voice confirmed what she already knew: Her husband was dead.

        It had been a tumultuous relationship, at times beautiful and at others marred with ugliness. They were separated and had been for several years, living worlds apart and with other people now, but he was still hersstill her husband and the father of her youngest child. The news that he had been murderedfound shot in the head and pronounced dead on arrival at a city-run hospitalwas devastating.

        Shed gotten the fateful call from nightclub owner Gene Normanwho doubled as a disc jockey on KATZ-AM 1600as she closed her shift as a cocktail waitress at The Windjammer. She left the bar, situated atop the Marriott Hotel near Lambert Field, and began the 20-mile drive home east along Interstate 70. As she crossed the Mississippi River into East St. Louis, Norman took to the airwaves and dedicated a songGladys Knights Midnight Train to Georgiato Jerry.

        he couldnt make it,so hes leaving the life hes come to know

        It was still dark out when she pulled into the public housing complex in the Duck Hill neighborhood. She wailed, screaming and shaking in her car.

        Id rather live in his world,than live without him in mine

        I watched my mother descend the stairs that Sunday morning. Overcome with grief, her voice breaking and her body still trembling, she reached for me. Hes gone, she whispered, grabbing me with both hands. Your daddy was killed.

        It was 1973 and I was 5 years old. Even then, I knew what death meant. As our family gathered at Aunt Geraldines house on 10th Street that evening, my uncle held me through the night. I curled up in his lap and sobbed until I slept.

        I am 48 now, with grown children and grandchildren of my own, butin so many waysthose tears have never stopped falling. I still think about him every dayhow our lives might have been different, about who killed him and why. Some 43 years later, his murder remains unsolved.

        In the months and years following his death, relatives floated theories when they thought I wouldnt understand or was out of earshot. I quietly tallied the names and places as I listened to grown folks recount pieces of the story, some fact and some folly, over liquor and card games.

        When I was old enough to ask questions, few answers came. Each person I asked came to the same dark, dead-end alleyway and stopped. For my fathers mother, Catherine, and for my mother, Mary Alice, I know, the memories were far too painful.

        Let sleeping dogs lie, Grandmother Catherine said, repeatedly, until I stopped asking.

        When Grandma Cat died in 1994, Id started digging through old newspaper clippings and scouring court documents for clues, finding loose threads to pull on in the story that no onewhether out of fear or loyaltywould tell me. In doing so, I discovered things about the man my father had been, things that made it tough to keep going. It could not have been easy to love this dreamer with delusions of grandeur, as my mother described himcertainly not to love him as hard and as thoroughly as both she and my grandmother had.

        He kept dreaming,That someday hed be a starBut he sure found out the hard way,That dreams dont always come true

        With stops and starts, I have spent decades looking for answers, slowly and methodically stitching together the fabric of a story no one would talk about. New questions and new answers have emerged over the years as I chased down a faceless killer. But in the end, I came up shortunable to answer the driving question: Who murdered my father?

        My search ended where it had begun: with a man named Roland B. Norton Jr.


        Roland was a desperate mandesperate to survive the violent drug war brewing in north St. Louis and desperate to stay out of prison. Charged with two counts of dealing heroin, Norton was quickly released on bond and hit the street with one end in mind: find the government informant threatening his freedom and kill him.

        In the weeks leading up to his November 1973 federal drug-trafficking trial, two men were shot, in separate incidents, execution-style. The second man, Wyart Taylor, was my father. He was found, blocks from his house in north St. Louis, face down on a sidewalk in a pool of blood.

        A grand jury indictmentannounced by Donald J. Stohr, the U.S. district attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri in the fall of 1973spelled out the damning case against Norton, who was suspected of having connections to at least two notorious drug rings that kept north St. Louis awash in brown sugar and snow. On Aug. 10 of that year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that 24-year-old Nortonwho was then employed as an auditor in the city license collectors officeand another man named Bernard Pratt were allegedly part of a large-scale narcotics sales operation.

        Secured in March, the Norton indictment had been sealed for nearly six months to protect the identity of a federal witness and the integrity of other ongoing investigations. However, once Norton was arrested that August, the document became public and Norton immediately launched a city-wide manhunt for the witness.

        Eager to unmask the unnamed informant, Nortons defense attorneys filed a bill of particulars on Sept. 6, demanding that the government furnish him with the time, place, and name of the party, if there is any, who are witnesses to the transactions. They also moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the delay had prejudiced his ability to present an effective defense, thereby violating his Fifth Amendment right to due process.

        The judge in the case, John F. Nagle, denied both motions, leaving Norton to guess who was cooperating with the FBI and DEA.

        According to court records, there were two transactions on or about Feb. 26 of that yearone for $350, the other for $500, together weighing 3.9 gramsand, based on that information, Norton figured out who set him up. Just over a month after the indictment was unsealed and the defendant was released on bond from federal custody, Michael Big Mike Jones was tracked down and killed on Sept. 17. Although he was not among the listed witnesses and had no known drug involvement, the second manmy father, Wyartwas murdered on Nov. 5 as he walked home from an illicit card game.

        Nortonthe son of a disgraced St. Louis police officerwas never charged in the murders, nor is there any evidence that he was an official suspect in either shooting. According to Grandma Cat, local authorities quickly wrote off both as robberies gone bad and she said the investigations were summarily closed. When she went downtown to police headquarters to offer a cash reward for information about her sons murder, the desk sergeant allegedly told her, Go home, lady. Nobody cares who killed your boy.

        But the streets were whispering about the likelihood that Norton, also a reputed pimp who was said to be fond of fine clothes, flashy jewelry, and beautiful women, was involved. Before his arrest on federal drug-trafficking charges, Norton enjoyed the high lifereplete with full-length fur coats, silk-ribboned wide-brimmed hats, and scantily clad, cooing cocktail waitresses who answered at his beckoning. Despite those trappings, and a well-paying city job secured with his fathers connections, he frequently borrowed money from a local loan shark named Papa Joe Henry.

        The younger Norton also relied heavily on his father, with whom he still lived in the 4500 block of McMillan Avenue at the time of his indictment.

        From the first time I overheard his name in the early 1980s, I was told Norton was the son of a Korean War veteran and dirty cop said to have taken bribes to protect area drug dealers and underground nightclubs, and to have fed police information to Italian mobsters. How much of what my older cousins said was fact or folly I did not know. However, some of that information was confirmed recently when I learned that Norton Sr. had been brought up on decidedly thin charges of public corruption and demoted by the St. Louis Police Department in 1959, after just three years on the force. He resigned five years after that, amid a second investigation into allegations of wrongdoing and after hed allegedly been seen frequenting a tavern of ill-repute as an off-duty officer.

        The formal charge cited specific instances that he was alleged to have collected admittance fees, removed objectionable customers and closed the doors at closing hours. He had also associated with a woman wanted for burglary. Two years later, in 1966, Norton Sr. was shot in the leg during an altercation over a strip tease dancer. Tragically, his wife, Ellyn, was killed along with two others in a 1970 car accident on Illinois Route 127, just north of Greenville, Illinois, after another vehicle crossed the centerline and struck them head-on.

        By 1973, Norton Sr. was a widower living on his military pension who did not have the means to make his sons five-figure bail. A few months ago, I tracked down a woman, a family acquaintance who had been the live-in girlfriend of a rival drug lord. She hesitantly told me that a pair of Norton Jr.s midlevel drug captains posted the $50,000 cash bond. I was unable to find a trace of either man in public records, but she said they were looking after their own interests. The drug-runners needed Norton out of jail, away from federal agents and potential jailhouse informants. They need Norton to handle that business, the ex-girlfriend told me.

        The government witness needed to be found and silenced.

        When Norton was first taken into custody, investigators reportedly pressured him about his ties to drug gangs operating in St. Louisincluding the notorious Petty Brothersand offered him a deal that included immunity but no federal protection. Norton refused to tell FBI and DEA agents who he was working for. Roland aint wanna die, the rivals ex-girlfriend said, and he damn sure aint wanna to go to jail.

        Norton had few real options and, the way he saw it, there was just one way out. He knew who made the buys from him based on the dates and amounts listed in the indictment. Prosecutors believed by sealing the indictment against Norton they were buying time to make headway in breaking up a suspected ring of high-end dealers and put an end to the bloodshed. The document, unsealed by federal law upon Nortons arrest, might as well have been a death warrant.

        Big Mike was a dead man walking, an older female cousin told me.

        Described by my cousin as a large flamboyant gay man, Big Mike was making a decent living setting up dealers for the federal investigators. He was a small-time hustler, she said, and court records confirm that Jones was actively helping in several cases.

        Bodies were dropping every other day, my cousin, who was once engaged to one of St. Louiss most notorious crime bosses, told me.

        Feweven my cousinwould talk with me on the record without anonymity about the drug war that was touched off in the early 1970s and lasted into the early 80s. Almost no one wanted to talk about the violencewhich included car bombings and movie-theater shootingsthat littered the nightly newscasts.

        But Dennis Haymon, a former drug kingpin himself who led one of the areas deadliest gangs, knew both Norton and Jones well. My cousin told me about Haymon, and I quickly found him still living in St. Louis.

        Haymon remembers that Big Mike was a drug addict who knew how to get money. Jones, he said, was also a well-known booster and a money-getter who peddled stolen goods around the corner of Pendleton and Finney avenues.

        Despite Nortons legal predicament, he wasnt a real killer, Haymon, who was once one of the most feared men to walk the streets of St. Louis, told me over a series of phone calls spanning hours in recent months. Now an ordained minister and an anti-gang activist writing his memoirs, Haymon served 25 years of a life sentence after he was convicted on murder charges in 1979.

        Haymon confirmed what Id read in old newspaper clips, that he had been locked in a bloody war with the Petty BrothersSamuel, Lorenzo, and Josephfor nearly a decade. In one incident, he said the Pettys climbed atop a nightclub and sprayed a crowd with bullets in a failed attempt to kill him. Five club-goers were shot and a woman standing five feet from Haymon was killed in the incident, but Haymon got away.

        My family had been close to the Pettys when I was growing up. As a child, I had been fond of Joewho was engaged to my cousin and fathered two of her now grown daughters. He was a good-looking man with wide, nickel-sized eyes and a full beard. I remember how he had always been especially kind to me, even helping me land my first job at 14 as a dining-room attendant in a downtown St. Louis restaurant that was reputedly run by the mob.

        I knew nothing of about his life as a drug dealer or about the string of gangland shootings in which he had allegedly been involved. Joe had been shot once, I knew, while sitting outside a convenience store that he owned. He refused to talk to the responding police officers about the incident, saying only that he would take care of it.

        When I asked him about my father back in 1983, Joe kissed my forehead and said, You cant bring him back.

        Joe, who died after a suspicious motorcycle accident the following year, used to tell me how much I looked like my father. If he knew what happened to him, he never said, and that secret was buried with him. But in so many ways, Joe had been my protector. A once stern music teacher in junior high school suddenly treated me more gently after she learned that I had family ties to Joe. I never met his brother Sam, an ex-convict who was sent away on federal drug-trafficking charges and died of bone cancer in the 1990s.

        But recently, I contacted Lorenzothe only surviving brotherafter cajoling a mutual acquaintance for his cell number. Though I had never actually met Lorenzo, I had always been told that he was an evil man. His first arrest came in 1964, at just 15 years old, when he stabbed 21-year-old Leroy Chappel over 25 cents.

        Lorenzo is one mean dude, and just about everybody is scared to death of him, a detective said after he was arrested in 1978. Maybe, just maybe with him being locked up, things will cool down. A search warrant for his Northwoods house turned up sticks of dynamite, assault rifles, ammunition, and a bullet-proof vest.

        My fingers twitched as I dialed the number. I stammered, at first, then told him why I was calling.

        I cant help you with that, Lorenzo said, repeatedly, as I peppered him with questions about Roland Norton Jr. and Big Mike Jones. He hung up at the mere mention of my fathers name.

        If the Petty Brothers knew what happened to Big Mike or my father, those secrets will almost certainly die with the last of them. I phoned Haymon again, pressing him for more details.

        Roland was soft, Haymonthe only person willing to talk on the record with his name attachedsaid of Big Mikes murder. He had problems pulling the trigger.

        A second, unidentified man supposedly took the pistol from Norton and finished the job.

        But even with Big Mike dead, there remained at least one potential witness to testify against Nortonone of his closest associates, in whom he confided nearly everything and to whom, a source said, Norton purportedly owed a piece of money.

        Seven weeks after Big Mike was killed, minutes after a resident on Kossuth Avenue called police to report shouting and gunshots, a 30-year-old man was discovered face down on the sidewalk. The victim had been shot four times in the head, at close range, with a .22 caliber pistol. Three rounds were still lodged in his brain. The last blast entered his left temple and exited the right side of his face.

        Die nigger. Nigger, die quick, the gunman reportedly said, according to the St. Louis Daily Whirl, a notorious local crime tabloid.

        Given the circumstances and the coroners report, I thought it had to be more than a robbery gone bad, as my grandmother had been told. Everything I knew about my fathers killingfour bullets to the head at close range and the words allegedly said as he lay dyingsuggested it was personal. The shooting reeked of vengeance and malice. And the more I learned about Norton and his connections to St. Louiss underworld, the more convinced I became that my fathers association with Norton had cost him his life.

        How much did my father actually know about Roland Nortons dealings? Was he one of the governments witnesses in the federal drug case? Was he in league with the drug gangs that ruled the streets of St. Louis? And perhaps more critically, was my father the trigger man in the murder of Big Mike Jones?

        Candidly, there were moments when I did not want to know the truth. Over four decades later, I know that most of those questions will go unanswered. To find some of them, I had to search the annals of my own family history.


        Florence Blackard (ne Carroll) was a drug-addled prostitute. In the mid-1930s, my great-grandmother was penniless and estranged from her husband, Murray, when she was forced to give up her two daughters after child services intervened. The timid, malnourished girlsmarked with old scars, mended bone fractures, and fresh bruiseswere led from the rodent-infested apartment on Pine Street that had no running water or electricity.

        A busted radiator, situated near a sheet-covered window overlooking the avenue below, emitted no heat. The bone-cold, three-room unit was festooned with cockroaches, rotting garbage, and empty bottles of cheap liquor still in their brown carry-out sacks. A well-used douche bag, stained with a deep red Betadine solution, hung on a hanger in the moldy bathroom.

        The beatings, Florences youngest daughter, Catherine, would later tell child welfare workers, came almost daily, and they rarely attended school. She and her older sister, Juanita, had been whipped by their mother, she said, with electrical cords and flogged with the buckle end of a leather belt. Social workers also deemed their father, an alcoholic who worked as a janitor and lived in a rooming house, unfit to care for his daughters, who were sent to the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home (now known as Annie Malone Children and Family Services).

        In the late 1930s, Catherine and Juanita were adopted by a former chicken picker turned cement mixer from Middle Fork, a tiny settlement in northeast Missouri near Macon, and his college-educated wife, who hailed from the same town. Raised in The Ville section of St. Louisonce home to tennis star Arthur Ashe, boxer Sonny Liston, comedian Dick Gregory, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Chuck Berry and Tina Turnerthe girls flourished under the watchful eyes of Thomas Angell Hubbard and his wife, Nina Grant.

        Catherine and Juanita, who took their adopted fathers name, spent holidays and summers in Macon enjoying hayrides along with a bevy of new cousins. In old photographs, they appear healthy and well-fed, beaming at the camera and wearing new clothes for the first time.

        However, when 15-year-old Catherine became pregnant in 1942, she was sent to live with Hubbards family in northern Illinois. She gave birth to her first and only child the following summer.

        Born on July 17, 1943, in Galesburg, Wyart Taylor Jr. was a slight boy with an apple-shaped cleft chin and serious eyes. With the his biological father largely absent, Catherine married an Army private the following year and moved to Minneapolis, where he was stationed at Fort Snelling.

        Catherine, my paternal grandmother, spoke little about her early life and said almost nothing about her life in Minnesota. She did tell me that my father had a son with his girlfriend. In 1963, my oldest brother, Terrence, was born in Minneapolis. I tracked him down in 1993, the year before our grandmother died, when I was 25. At the time, he was a 30-year old Navy officer, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. Terry, who looks strikingly like our father, never really knew him. It had been my grandmothers dying wish to see Terrynow retired from military serviceand me together. We missed that chance, but he was with me at her small memorial service and, in the years since, Ive tried to give him the family he missed.

        As I came of age, my grandmother enjoyed telling and retelling stories about my father and their exploits, and Ive shared many of them with my brother. Over breakfast in her Miami kitchen, the retired housekeeper would launch into soaring tales.

        There was the time, in 1965, when my father was holed up in a motel room. Four or five armed men, to whom he owed a sizable gambling debt, had the building surrounded. Every exit was covered. According to Grandma Cat, they were careful about who they allowed in or out, and my father didnt have his pistol.

        Cat hatched a plan. At nightfall, she stuffed an overnight bag with three handguns, a box of ammunition, and some old rags. She slipped on an old tattered dress, a floppy hat, and a pair of house slippers. Pretending to be drunk, she stumbled past the men and into the lobby. Once upstairs, grandmother handed over the suitcase of weapons. Cat claimed that she and my father shot their way out of the lobby.

        A week later, the same men drove up on my father as he walked to work. Someone sitting in the back seat opened fire. Shot in the upper shoulder, he rolled under a parked car and played dead. He stayed there until his brother-in-law, my Uncle Ross, had the vehicle moved and took him to the hospital.

        Years after my biological grandfatherWyart Taylor Sr.was crushed to death in an elevator shaft, allegedly by his stepfather, Richard, my father ran into Richard tossing back whiskey shots at a local tavern. Wyart Sr.s death was ruled an accident but, when my father saw Richard, he promptly introduced himself and, according to my grandmother, he beat the old man to within an inch of his life.

        My father was the hero in every story my grandmother ever told.

        Cat didnt talk about the time my father broke a long-neck beer bottle over a bar and sliced a mans throat for calling my mother a black bitch. I overheard my late Aunt Doris Jean saying the manknown on the streets as Redsurvived, but only because my dad had him dropped off at a nearby emergency room. It was Doris Jean, my Uncle Willie Byrds wife who was prone to gossip, who revealed another incident in 1967.

        After a neighbor told my father that it was my mothers nephew who had robbed our house in broad daylight, my father beat him so badly that his jaw had to be wired shut. Because he was family, Daddy then drove my cousin to the hospital himself and paid the bill in cash.

        But the year before he succumbed to HIV/AIDS in 1995, my brother Donniemy mothers son from a previous marriageopened up about the beatings he suffered as a child. I will never forget how he broke down that Thanksgiving, sobbing as he told me what my father had done to him.

        There were few mentions about my fathers life in the newspapers of the day. I do not know if he was arrested in any of the incidents my grandmother described or others that she would not talk about. But recently, while tracing through the archives of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I learned that he had in fact been arrested once and charged with aggravated battery related to a fight on March 5, 1967. The charge was upgraded to involuntary manslaughter when the victim, a foreign exchange student, died after languishing on life support at Barnes Hospital.

        Bog Soo Byun, a third-degree black belt from Seoul, South Korea, studying engineering at Washington University, suffered a skull fracture after being repeatedly stomped and kicked. His brother Ho Soo escaped with cuts and bruises. They had come to my godmothers bar, the Gold Room, on the corner of Delmar and Euclid, to take Polaroid photographs and sell them to customers. My father ordered them out. The fight allegedly started when Bog Soo karate-kicked my father, according to defense attorneys.

        They told the jury that my father had acted in self-defense.

        The trial, held in September 1968, ended in a hung jury, and the charge against my father was abandoned.

        Learning of moments like these, I wanted to forget that I was his child. The more I looked, the less he looked like the loving son and devoted husband and father I had been told about. I wondered how a man could truly love his children if he lived that life.

        Even though my mother relayed side-splitting stories about her high school classmate, Anna Mae Bullockwho would later become known the world over as Tina Turnerit wasnt until two years ago, sipping salted margaritas on my sisters back porch in Tampa, that my mother told me how she met my father. Those were good times, she said, as she giddily recalled spotting the man with movie-star looks walking up the street. Riding in the car with my Aunt Geraldine, she begged her sister to turn around and follow him. She watched as he went into a nearby nightspot.

        My mother went home, quickly dressed up in her finest clothes, and went back to the tavern. She sat at the far end of the bar, night after night, watching woman after woman make his acquaintance. He was a hairdresser, she learned, who specialized in bouffants, roller-sets, up-dos, and the women who wore them.

        She decided to send him a drink, and that was enough to get his attention. A few weeks later, when he took sick with the flu, she nursed him back to health while his then girlfriend was watching television in the living room.

        After a brief courtship, they married in my Grandmother Alices living room in a small house on Cabanne Avenue in 1966 and settled in University City. If my math is right, he was 23 and she was 25. My brother Christopher and I were born two years later.

        In the summer of 68, hed been out on a bender to celebrate his birthday when my mother went into labor. When he stumbled into St. Lukes Hospital the next day, the nurse said we were gone. Thinking his wife and children were dead, he went back to the Gold Room and continued drinking until somebody saw fit to carry him home, where he discovered us happy and healthy. He proudly hoisted his babies onto the bar. I was named after its owner, my godmother, Goldie Holly.

        During their time together, he adorned my mother with fur coats and expensive clothes, including Chanel nightgowns, and diamond rings. A sought-after hairstylist who worked nights and weekends at the Gold Room, he frequented social balls and some of the citys most notable nightclubs with my mother.

        Until a few weeks ago, I never knew the details of why she left him, though I had my suspicions. The drinking and the women were likely too much. Until two years ago, when my mother finally began to crack the door on her life with my father, no one ever talked about that snowy night in January 1969. In a drunken jealous rage, hed slammed my mothers face through a plate-glass window. That story rests in a keloid scar still visible above her eyebrow. If there were other incidents of violence in our house, my mother never spoke of them.

        Your daddy was the love of my life, she told me, time and time again. But that night would be the straw that broke the camels back, she said.

        She hid her two older children from a previous marriage with her sister, Geraldine, and her husband, Albert Ross, separated her babies, and went to stay with a friend at Fort Leonard Wood until she could figure out where to go. Within weeks, she was living a new life five hours away in Chicago. On April 1, 1969, she started a job as a waitress in a family restaurant at the Marriott Hotel next to OHare Airport. She saved her money, got a place of her own, and sent for her children.

        One afternoon, my father showed up unannounced at the restaurant, sat in her station, and ordered coffee. He begged for forgiveness. She told me she was too afraid to go back to work the next day.

        Youre a damn fool if you go back to him, her mother, Alice, scolded. He soon moved to Chicago, took a job at the post office, and continued his entreaties.

        Though they never reconciled, in time things cooled and in 1971 they returned separately to St. Louis, where she continued working for a Marriott Hotel near Lambert Field. He later moved in with a woman named Sylvia, and my mother began dating Tony, a diminutive Italian man with his own checkered past who was easy on the eyes. Despite their newfound relationships, my father never gave up on my mother. He cajoled her with sweet talk and gifts, but my mother never took him back. He never stopped being hers.

        My father was killed less than two years later.

        I sometimes remember more than I want to about him. Sometimes I want to forget the haunting stories and hold on to Christmas mornings and the buckets of pennies he would deliver on my birthday. I still have fond memories of the yellow kite he bought for me from Miss Cherrys store and how I felt like the luckiest little girl in the world. Hed come to Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Rosss house in East St. Louis for a family cookout. It was Memorial Day 1973, and he was still trying to find his way back into my mothers heart.

        We never could get that kite to fly.


        By all accounts, my father was a cautious man who kept few friends and allowed almost no one into his personal space. Fatefully, the night he was killed, hed decided at the last minute to go to a late night poker game.

        He was worried, hed told my motherabout what and who he did not saybut couldnt resist the temptation of easy money. He never played back his winnings and knew, if he was sober, when to walk away. Besides, the address in the 4700 block of Kossuth Avenue was less than a half-mile from his job and mere blocks from his house on the corner of Margaretta and Euclid avenues.

        Aunt Doris Jean said the invitation came from someone he trusted: Roland Norton.

        At closing time on Nov. 5, 1973 just before Norton was set to stand trial in the federal drug casemy father left his part-time job at the Polynesian Room, a Tiki-style local haunt situated on the ground floor of the Carousel Motel on North Kingshighway, and walked to the address hed been given.

        Except there was no game that night.

        As he knocked on the door of a dark house on Kossuth Avenuea narrow, tree-lined street two blocks from his own househe was hit with a baseball bat and then shot four times in the head with a small-caliber handgun.

        Two gold and diamond rings were stripped from his fingers. His gold necklace and the watch his mother had given him for his birthday that summer were also taken, and his empty pockets left turned inside out. The nearest emergency room was less than a mile away, but according to the death certificate, the victim was pronounced dead on arrival at Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

        Live by the sword, die by the sword, Aunt Doris Jean said of his murder.

        Though they never said as much, my conversations with Haymon and others led me to believe that my father might have been targeted because he had been the trigger man in the killing of Big Mike. My grandmother would have strongly disputed that notion, saying my father never shot anyone who didnt point a gun at him first. However, everything I know about this caseabout the trail of violence that seemed to follow my fathersays it is possible.

        After Big Mike was murdered, prosecutors in the federal drug case against Norton were forced to rely on written statements that detailed his alleged participation in a heroin ring being operated out of the Hi-Note Lounge located in the 4800 block of Delmar Avenue. With Jones dead, on Nov. 26, Nortons defense attorneys saw another opportunity. They appealed to the court again in an attempt to get the case against him tossed out before a verdict could be rendered.

        This time, the defense filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for failure to produce a material witness for the defendant to interview, claiming that by not arresting Norton when the indictment was initially handed down and denied the ability to question potential witnesses that he had been irreparably harmed. The irony, of course, was that Big Mike Jones was dead and Norton had likely planned and helped carry out his murder. And, with my father now lying in the city morgue, I found it reasonable to think that Nortons tracks had been sufficiently covered.

        The motion was denied. Norton was convicted on Nov. 28, 1973. He was sentenced to a federal prison camp on Dec. 21, 1973. He lost a subsequent appeal, but would be released within 10 years.

        In 1973, Bernard Pratt and former state representative John F. Conley were also found guilty after being charged with selling heroin from the same lounge.

        I believe the three men are dead now; Im certain that Conley and Norton are dead. My older cousin told me Norton was destitute when he died getting high in 2002. Few of his surviving associates will talk about him. Some wont even admit that they knew him, and others, like Lorenzo Petty, simply hang up the phone at the mention of his name.

        When I first went looking for Norton, as an 18-year-old, first-semester college freshman in 1986, he was back in federal custody. This time on credit card and mail fraud charges, after he and a live-in girlfriend filled out hundreds of department store applications and made purchases under fake identities. In June 1986, I wrote him a letter in hopes that he could tell me something, anything, about my father. The envelope had been opened but was re-sealed when it arrived in my student mailbox, marked return to sender.

        Court records show Norton was arrested again in 1988 and convicted the following year for possession of cocaine and heroin with the intent to distribute. U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh sentenced the 38-year-old to 41 months at a federal prison camp.

        Haymon says Norton didnt work directly for the Pettys in the early 70s. But multiple sources confirmed that Norton had a close relationship with the brothers and that they reconnected shortly after his second release from a federal prison.

        But if Haymon is right about Norton, he did not have the stomach to kill a man. Over the course of three decades, Ive had doors slammed in my face, been hung up on, and had mail returned. That silence, and a lengthy conversation with others who knew Norton, left me convinced of two things: Norton was indeed involved in the murders. And at least one of the co-conspiratorsmaybe even the man who killed my fathermay still be alive.

        The answers, I have now come to believe, are unknowable. As my father had been when he was alive, they feel just out of reach.


        I remember the funeral. I remember the throng of mourners, the hundreds of people who filed into the pews at Mercy Seat Missionary Baptist Church on Washington Streetwhere my maternal grandmother, Alice, had been a member since 1941. Her pastor, Pastor Roosevelt Brown, gave the eulogy.

        I remember the baptismal pool, situated high above the pulpit and the choir stand, and the four chandeliers that dangled over the altar. I remember the beautiful brown suit mother chose for him, his jet-black, shoulder-length hair and receding hairline. I remember the white flowers draped over the bronze and gold casket. The smell of lilies never left me. The wailing started when a soloist began singing His Eye Is on the Sparrow.

        I sing because Im happy, I sing because Im free,His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me

        One by one, each of ushis wife, his mother, and his childrenwere escorted to the altar to say goodbye. My mother, brother Christopher, and I were the last to stand, the last to touch him before the funeral director closed and locked the coffin. But Ive never forgotten the stillness of his face, his perfectly etched mustache and silky smooth skin. And then, the next day, being scooped up by my godmother, carried over the gravel driveway and across the lawn at Greenwood Cemetery off Lucas and Hunt Road on St. Louis Avenue.

        Of the boys and men present at the memorial service, almost none have survived. Nearly 20 years after we laid my father to rest, my brother Christopher was shot dead in a remarkably similar ambush, and my brother Donnie succumbed to HIV/AIDS in 1995. The oldest living man in my immediate family, excluding my long-lost brother Terry, was born in 1986. For me, there are no fathers, no uncles, no grandfathers, and no brothers left whom I was raised with. We are a family of women. My mother, who retired after nearly 40 years with Marriott, raised us on her own.

        Curiously, a pallbearer discovered a folded two-dollar bill tucked into my fathers suit pocketan omen, my decidedly superstitious Aunt Doris Jean said, of bad luck. My fathers killer was said to have been among the mourners.

        EDITORS NOTE: This story is an excerpt from Taylors forthcoming memoir, Let Me Still Be Singing When Evening Comes.

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        Google Doodle honors Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American to earn a medical degree

        Google honored a deserving figure in American history on Saturday: Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American to earn a medical degree.

        Picotte was illustrated as the Google homepage’s Google Doodle on Saturday in honor of what would have been her 152nd birthday.

        Image: screenshot/google

        Picotte was a doctor and an activist. The Omaha Native American physician advocated for land, and money for the sale of land to be paid to members of the Omaha tribe. As a reformer for public health, she was a leader in the temperance movement and fought tuberculosis on the reservation where she worked as a physician.

        She also advocated for the elimination of communal drinking cups and the installation of screen doors to keep out disease-carrying insects, Google said in their description.

        The Google Doodle features the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where Picotte earned her medical degree, and the hospital she built on her hometown reservation in 1913.

        Happy birthday, Dr. Sue!

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