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Two gravesites, one mother's pain

Kim Bell, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Mom's Advice

BEL-NOR, Mo. — Tekesha Calmese, fresh off a plane from her home state of Texas, wandered the Lake Charles Cemetery on a Saturday last month in search of the grave markers of her two children.

They were slain as adults in St. Louis shootings, three years apart. A man is awaiting trial for killing her son last year. No one has been charged in the 2017 killing of Calmese's daughter, adding to the growing number of unsolved homicides in St. Louis.

Calmese makes the trek to the cemetery off St. Charles Rock Road once a year. She used to come on the anniversary of her daughter's death. With her son also dead now, Calmese is thinking of trying to time future visits in the spring, on a date between the anniversaries of their deaths.

She was lost at first on her recent visit, not recognizing the landscape, glancing at the names on row after row of gravestones. Once she and her father, Tryan Calmese, and the children's father, Johnnie Booze, found the right spot, they held hands in a semicircle and bowed their heads to pray for 19-year-old Telisha Booze.

"Miss you, girl," the grandfather said. "You feisty."

On the night Telisha died in May 2017, men circled an apartment complex three times near Neosho Avenue in a Bevo neighborhood alley before firing shots, a witness said.

Telisha, who was visiting a friend for his birthday, sat in a car with her brother and four others. One friend in the car, Cornelius Shields, saw the men put on masks and carry guns, then order them out of the car.

But instead, the car's driver, Telisha's older brother Davion, threw the car in reverse to escape and struck a curb. Telisha was hit by gunfire.

"The only thing I could feel was all the plastic pieces from the car hitting me, it was stinging," said Shields, the witness.

As Shields visited the cemetery in August with Calmese's family, he told the Post-Dispatch that he hasn't been fully cooperative with police, something detectives say is a reality in too many homicide investigations. However, Shields claims that he made sure detectives were aware of photos from social media of the men who put on masks. He remembered the street name of one man.

Calmese warned her son and his friends not to confront the people they suspect of killing Telisha. "No, no," Calmese told them. "No retaliation. It comes back on the family, and we don't want that. We want police to handle this situation."

Nearly three years after his sister died, Davion Booze, 24, was shot to death inside a car in April 2020. He had been shot near the home he shared with his father, in the 4900 block of Fyler Avenue. Demond Hurt is charged in that murder. Police allege that Hurt, who has four drug convictions dating to 2007, fired shots at Booze from a minivan, killing Booze and critically injuring his girlfriend.

Police haven't disclosed a motive in the either killing.

For the past year, Calmese has been growing more restless, convinced her daughter's case had gone cold. She hounded police for updates. She exchanged texts with a detective early on but last summer Calmese stopped getting replies, she said.

A counselor with a St. Louis crime-victims group tried to find a support group for Calmese in Texas. The closest one was in Austin, an hour's drive, and Calmese couldn't attend because of her work schedule.

"I don't know which way to turn," Calmese said.

 

Calmese goes to a psychiatrist for help with post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. "If it weren't for God, I couldn't handle this," she said. "I talk to God every day to keep from going crazy."

Calmese, 45, was the mother of three. "I have one left," she said. "I'm scared. I'm nervous for him. I tell him I love him all the time."

She wishes he didn't live in St. Louis, but it's his decision, she reasons. "He's a 28-year-old grown man."

Calmese is a data entry clerk for an Army ammunitions supply point in Texas. She handles paperwork for issuing ammo and monitors its return.

When Telisha was in elementary school and her two older brothers were in middle school, Calmese moved them to Killeen, Texas, to live with her. But they were bored in what felt to them like a small town. They returned to St. Louis to live with their father.

Even while living in separate states, Calmese tried to keep a close relationship with her children.

"Davion was like a mama's boy. He loved his mama," she said. "We had conversations about just random things."

"Same thing with my daughter," Calmese said. "We would talk at six o'clock in the morning on our way to work, I made sure she's in the building and safe, and once I'd get off work we'd call and talk."

Telisha Booze graduated from Roosevelt High School. She was working two jobs, at Target and Macy's, and had gotten approved for her first apartment just days before she died.

"She was on the right path," said her grandfather. "Gone too soon."

Although Calmese worried her daughter's murder investigation had fallen cold, St. Louis police Maj. Shawn Dace said he considers it active. Dace said there are still leads for detectives to chase, and Dace told as much to Calmese last month when he talked to her by phone and reassured her she wasn't forgotten.

In 2017, the year Telisha was killed, 205 people were victims of homicide in St. Louis. Of those slayings, 77 cases have been solved — a clearance rate of 37%.

Calmese called a St. Louis juvenile court official who said the teenager picked up in Telisha's death was not charged with the crime. Dace wouldn't talk specifics about how the investigation is going, but he confirmed to a reporter that no one has been charged.

It's maddening to Calmese, she said, when police tell her they can't force witnesses to come forward, that they have evidence but it's not enough to get charges.

"I don't want my daughter's case just sitting on a shelf collecting dust," Calmese said. "It's not right."

 

 

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