Community remembers father of 3 killed last Christmas Eve

By Gabriela Vidal

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SOUTH CITY, Missouri (KMOV) – Candles lit up a small stretch of sidewalk on Broadway Street in South City on Christmas Eve.

“He passed away here a year ago today,” Destiny Barnett said. “He took his last breath here a year ago today. So that bothers me a bit.

It’s a sobering reminder that Christmas will never be the same for those who knew Chris Rea.

“It was tough. it was really tough, ”said Mackenzie Phillips. “It was his favorite party. He was killed on his favorite vacation.

Rea, 21, was shot and killed on the morning of Christmas Eve 2020. Police found the father of three dead in his car off South Broadway near Davis Street.

He shared two young daughters with Phillips and a 1 year old daughter with Barnett.

“My oldest daughter, she was three when she passed away, so she asked about him, asked why she couldn’t see him or call him,” Phillips said. “It’s hard, trying to explain that to him and not having him there plays a big part.”

His death added to a record homicide rate for the city of Saint-Louis in 2020 with 87.2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. The total number of homicides for 2020 was 263.

The number of homicides has declined significantly since, with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department reporting 188 homicide cases in 2021, 75 fewer than the previous year. In 2019, 194 homicides were recorded.

“A homicide is one too many … but I think we see the benefit of St. Louis really doing what is necessary to dive much deeper,” James Clark, vice president of public safety and of community intervention with the Urban League of Metropolitan Saint-Louis, said.

Clark said the city’s focus on funding neighborhood programs such as the Urban League Gun Violence De-escalation Network, Serving our Streets and Cure Violence program have helped reduce the number of homicides by targeting communities where violence is increasing.

“Through the gun violence de-escalation model, we are able to get information from people who experience conflict and then work to defuse the conflict. Last year we have successfully defused nine conflicts so far that have a trajectory of gun violence, ”said Clark.

Now, he believes the city needs to increase its funding for these initiatives, which he says will only continue to help break the cycle of young people growing up in an environment of violence or developing violent behavior.

“We have to engage in the neighborhood, on the porch and in the living room,” Clark said.

For those close to Rea, a safer St. Louis also means ensuring justice is served in homicide cases that remain unresolved, including Rea’s death.

“We want justice done for him. it’s not fair that they go home to their families, and we’re stuck here… wondering why, who, for what, ”Barnett said. “It’s 365 days later and that person is still there and it’s not okay.”

So far, 43% of homicide cases in 2021 remain unsolved.

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