John Robinson Homes | St. Louis Public Radio

John Robinson Homes

Alexis Winston was found shot to death in her apartment in the John Robinson Homes in East St. Louis.
Florince Harlan

Editor’s note: There were 341 unsolved murders in East St. Louis between 2000 and 2018. In many of these cases, police had evidence and suspects, but no charges were filed. Here is one of those cases. This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.

An early morning phone call with a frantic woman’s voice is countered by the dispatcher’s measured, calm tone.

“He’s breaking in my house now. Please hurry! Please hurry! Hello?” the woman cries.

East St. Louis Public Housing Residents Are Terrified They’ll Be Murder Victims Next

Apr 25, 2019
A body is removed from the John DeShields Housing Project after a murder there.
Derik Holtmann | BND

This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.

The courtyard at the Roosevelt Homes public housing complex on North 44th Street is filled with the sounds of children playing, the thump of a basketball on the court, neighbors laughing and talking.

Sometimes those everyday sounds are overtaken by the sounds that come at night: a pounding at the door. Gunshots. Screams. A child’s whispered prayer asking for it all to stop.

“I would ask for God to stop the shooting,” one little girl wrote in a children’s newsletter for an after-school program in the city.

This is part of living in the most dangerous areas of East St. Louis, which statistically has the highest murder rate in the country.

The John Robinson Homes opened in 1943 as a segregated apartment complex for black families in East St. Louis.
William Widmer | Special to ProPublica

The door is off its hinges in Farlon Wilson’s bathroom. Wilson said that’s an improvement from when she first moved in, when there was no bathroom door at all. She said she’s putting in work orders to fix the problems nearly every week.

“The tub won’t stop leaking and the floor is about to fall,” Wilson said while demonstrating how the floor bends under the pressure of her foot. “I have no access to my bathroom water, period. I’ve had to turn it off because it’s leaking in my kitchen.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, she motioned to a patch in the ceiling where water once leaked through and later talked about how she and her family’s breathing has been affected by mold. She pays less than $100 a month in rent.