Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Enforcing Law Runs in Mcculloch Family County Prosecutor's Campaign Theme Revolves around Experience in Handling Violent Crime

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Enforcing Law Runs in Mcculloch Family County Prosecutor's Campaign Theme Revolves around Experience in Handling Violent Crime

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS COUNTY Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch says he isn't angling for voter sympathy with those campaign commercials that mention his father was killed in the line of duty as a St. Louis police officer.

"What it points out is the fact that this isn't a game the McCulloch family has played," he says of law enforcement. "This is our family profession."

McCulloch's brother and cousin are St. Louis police officers; so was his uncle. His mother worked 20 years as a clerk in the force's homicide department. The family connection fits with what is essentially the main theme of McCulloch's campaign for a second four-year term as prosecutor: experience.

In public appearances and statements, McCulloch, 43, often contrasts his work on violent crime in 11 years as a prosecutor and assistant prosecutor with opponent Ray Gruender's primary background in white-collar fraud cases.

"I've put people on death row, I've put people in the penitentiary for rape, robbery, sodomy. . . . I've put cop killers in prison," McCulloch said.

Since succeeding fellow Democrat George R. "Buzz" Westfall four years ago, McCulloch has overseen a wide range of cases. Among those that drew the most public attention:

Christopher Santillan, sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of his childhood friend, Vinay Singh, 18.

Jeffrey Ferguson, sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Kelli Hall, 17. An accomplice got life in prison.

Jeffrey Grice, sentenced to life without parole for murdering Che Sims, 12. Two other men got life sentences.

McCulloch also says collections of child support from delinquent fathers have increased under his administration. And he points to his lobbying work before the Legislature to urge passage this year of a new truth-in-sentencing law, requiring people convicted of violent crimes to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

Seven crimes are covered, among them second-degree murder, rape and kidnapping. "Something obviously had to be done about the wildly liberal parole policy in the state of Missouri," McCulloch said.

If re-elected, he says, he will work with other prosecutors to push for another key state law change - changes in the juvenile code to make it easier to try violent offenders as adults and to gain for prosecutors access to juvenile arrest records.

Meanwhile, McCulloch opposed the Legislature's passage in 1992 of a change in drug forfeiture laws requiring a criminal felony conviction before cash, cars or real estate can be turned over to authorities. He said the conviction requirement would turn Missouri into a haven for storing drug money, but he supported other forfeiture law changes. Gruender agrees with McCulloch on truth-in-sentencing and the juvenile code but criticizes his forfeiture stand. …

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