St. Louis, MO – Multiple high-ranking state and city leaders have called on St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to resign after a teenage girl lost both of her legs as a result of being hit by a driver who was out on bond despite having allegedly violated his conditions 51 times.
Janae Edmondson, a 17-year-old volleyball player from Tennessee, was visiting St. Louis for a volleyball tournament when the tragic incident occurred near the Dome at America’s Center on Feb. 18, KSDK reported.
Mid-Tennessee Volleyball Club Assistant Director Jeff Wismer said Edmondson had just wrapped up her first day of playing in the tournament and was walking back to the hotel with her family at about 8:40 p.m. when a vehicle crashed into her, according to the news outlet.
St. Louis police said a driver ran through a yield sign at the intersection of St. Charles and 11th and slammed into another car with enough force that the second vehicle went airborne, KMOV reported.
The second vehicle subsequently crashed into Edmondson, pinning her between the vehicle and a nearby parked car.
Investigators said the vehicle that caused the crash was traveling 45 miles per hour at the time of impact, which is 20 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, according to KMOV.
The critically-injured teen was rushed to the hospital, where doctors were left with no choice but to amputate both of her legs, KSDK reported.
This strong girl and her family need all of the prayers and support of the community. There is a GoFundMe available through MidTN volleyball club. #playfornae #onlyoneshs pic.twitter.com/8ZspPvatZq
— Smyrna Bulldogs Volleyball (@smyrnaVB) February 21, 2023
Wismer said Edmondsdson is a three-sport athlete who just recently committed to play collegiate volleyball.
He described her as “a gifted kid with a great smile, who has toughness, perseverance and determination,” KSDK reported.
“Her life has changed, and we are going to need people to love her and support her and support that family as they evolve and we are just so thankful that she’s with us,” Wismer told KSDK.
“Words can’t describe the sadness that our community has,” he added. “I think we have words to describe our anger honestly and we think that’s healthy feelings that we have. A sense of loss for Janae and her family right now. We’re so thankful and blessed that she is alive and that may be the starting point for us is that we are thankful that she’s here.”
Edmondson will have to remain in St. Louis for at least another month before she can safely be transferred to another hospital closer to home, Mid-Tennessee Volleyball Club Director Rhonda Ross told KSDK.
If you're interested in helping @SmyrnaBulldog student Janae Edmondson and her family, a Go Fund Me page has been established. Janae was severely injured last weekend in St. Louis, where she was participating in a travel tournament. https://t.co/DMUPniXsrj
— RC Schools (@rucoschools) February 22, 2023
Police have identified the driver responsible for the crash as 21-year-old Daniel Riley, KMOV reported.
Riley and a passenger inside the vehicle he crashed into were both transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
He has since been arrested on three counts of assault, operating a vehicle without a license, and armed criminal action, KMOV reported.
He pleaded not guilty on Feb. 21 and was ordered to be held without bond.
But as details regarding Riley’s law violations and prior charges began to surface, many people began questioning why he was out on the streets in the first place.
The suspect was already out on bond and was under house arrest in connection with an armed robbery that took place in August of 2020 when he caused the horrific wreck, according to KTVI.
He was ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device while he waited for a trial on the armed robbery.
The trial, which was originally slated to take place in July of 2022, was postponed and is still pending.
In the meantime, court records indicate Riley violated the GPS monitoring conditions on more than 50 occasions, including 10 times in the past month alone, KTVI reported.
The revelations have sparked outrage and resulted in a growing call for Gardner’s ouster.
“My question to the local authorities in St. Louis is: ‘Why was this guy not in jail last spring?’” Wismer said in a statement to KTVI. “Why was he not on house arrest, wearing his cuffs? Someone needs to answer if he should have been prosecuted months or years ago. I need to know why, this family deserves to know why, and prosecution should be firm and swift, so this never happens again. This should not have occurred.”
Missouri Governor Mike Parson said more needed to be done to keep violent suspects behind bars.
“It’s a serious crime, and you see what price that young lady paid for it, she’s going to lose both her legs,” Parson said. “People will have to be held accountable. We are going to have to go back to those days when repeat offenders and violent offenders are taken off the streets of our state.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, who has historically been a staunch defender of Gardner, called the tragedy “preventable” and said she has asked the Circuit Attorney’s Office and other “judicial partners” to review the process that led up to Riley being out of jail, KMOV reported.
“This incident and others have highlighted the fact that some improvements need to be made in [Gardner’s] office,” Jones told KMOV. “She really needs to do some soul-searching as to whether she wants to continue as circuit attorney because she’s lost the trust of the people.”
The mayor said the situation can’t simply be swept under the rug.
“We have to take accountability with where things were dropped,” she told KTVI. “This individual had multiple violations. We want to make sure this accountability is taken, and that the process going forward is air-tight so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced on Wednesday that he will begin the process of removing Gardner from office if she does not resign by noon on Thursday, KMOV reported.
Bailey accused Gardner of neglecting her duty as the city’s prosecutor.
“It is time for the circuit attorney to go and for the rule of law and justice to prevail,” Bailey said.
Gardner called Riley’s behaviors “inexcusable” and said her heart “goes out the victim and her family,” KTVI reported.
“It’s unfortunate that there are those who choose to twist the facts to take advantage of this situation for their own selfish motives,” she lamented. “This is not the time for finger pointing, it’s time to support this family, and ensure that justice is served.”
Gardner’s office said Riley’s release on bond was the judge’s fault – not hers.
“This situation is a tragedy for our community and our criminal justice system. It’s important for the community to understand the prosecutor’s role in this process,” Gardner said in a statement, according to KTVI. “Judges have the sole authority to determine the bond conditions of a defendant… in this matter, prosecutors asked on several occasions for higher bonds, and those requests were denied.”
Gardner noted her office tried to have Riley’s bond revoked on Dec. 12, 2021, and again on Aug. 10, 2022.
She said the judge denied those requests.
She did not mention why no bond revocation had been requested since August of 2022 despite Riley having 10 alleged GPS violations in the past month alone.
The 22nd Circuit Court pushed back against Gardner’s placement of blame and pointed out judges have no knowledge about alleged GPS violations unless they are brought to their attention by the prosecution, KTVI reported.
Missouri State Representative Rasheen Aldridge, a Democrat, said the case is but one example of the Gardner’s failure to protect the community from dangerous criminals.
“I think there are a lot of folks that support her that have been silent, but this is one of many fumbles of the ball,” Aldridge told KTVI.
He said he believes the Circuit Attorney’s Office is in need of “a 180 turnover.”