Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Violence Hit Home at the Gruenders' Gop Prosecutor Candidate Makes Issue Priority; Father Beat Mother - Then Shot Him and Sister

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Violence Hit Home at the Gruenders' Gop Prosecutor Candidate Makes Issue Priority; Father Beat Mother - Then Shot Him and Sister

Article excerpt

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE isn't just a campaign issue for Ray Gruender, the Republican nominee for St. Louis County prosecutor, but also a sad memory. He says his own father was "a classic domestic violence batterer" and his mother the victim.

"He was never violent to us kids," Gruender says - that is, until Sept. 1, 1986. On that day, Gruender's father, despondent because his wife had moved away, shot himself to death after critically wounding Gruender and Gruender's sister.

Gruender, a former assistant U.S. attorney, promises to make criminal prosecution in domestic violence cases a priority if he is elected to the county post Nov. 8. He also says he'll push for mandatory counseling for assailants and more help for victims.

Gruender, who said he hasn't mentioned his family history in his campaign, agreed to talk about it when asked by a reporter. "I've seen it," he said of the problem of spousal abuse. "It's also been a tragedy for many, many other people."

At the time of the incident, Gruender was working his way through college. He recovered from his injuries and went on to get his law degree and a master's in business administration, both from Washington University. He then joined a downtown law firm.

He did defense work in white-collar cases, also acting as a municipal prosecutor for Town and Country. In 1990, he was hired by then-U.S. Attorney Stephen Higgins.

Higgins commends Gruender for devising the idea for an insurance fraud task force of federal, state, local and private investigative agencies. "He made something talked about for years a reality," said Higgins, a fellow Republican.

Gruender, 31, was one of the prosecutors on the Second Injury Fund cases, in which lawyers and health care professionals were convicted of bilking a state workers' compensation plan. Investor fraud, mail theft and embezzlement were among his other cases.

Gruender left his federal job at the end of last year to run for county prosecutor; he also joined a law firm. In an increasingly bitter race, he and Democratic incumbent Robert P. McCulloch have been trading allegations about each other's records.

One of Gruender's main points is that violent crime in the county has increased 20 percent during McCulloch's first three years in office. He alleges that the incumbent's plea bargaining policies, trial preparation and witness notification procedures are part of the reason. He says he'll improve on them. "This race boils down to competence and professionalism," Gruender said.

McCulloch says fluctuations up and down in crime rates over the years are not a result of prosecutors. In any event, he points out that violent crime - murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault - is down this year in the county compared with 1993.

McCulloch also accuses Gruender of distorting statistics and lying about individual cases to exploit the public fear of crime. …

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