ST. LOUIS -- A murder victim in a home invasion had just gotten out of the hospital when she was dragged by her hair, at gunpoint, through the house to wake up family members and show the robbers where the family's treasures were hidden, her uncle told the Post-Dispatch today.
One of the friends in the home was an off-duty policewoman, who didn't have her gun. But when the two gunmen tried to herd the entire family into the basement of the home on Hickory Street, the policewoman fought back. In that struggle, the gunmen started firing. That's when Gina Stallis, 34, was shot and killed. The cop and firefighter were seriously hurt by gunfire, and a teenage robber was shot in the hand.
While the struggle continued, Stallis' mother, Rose Whitrock, ran out of the house and tried to get a neighbor to help but no one would, said Mark Whitrock, 50, of Wentzville, Stallis' uncle. A neighbor woman came to her door, but refused to let Stallis' mother use a phone to call police, Whitrock said.
"I think the police officer is a hero," Whitrock said. "Had she had her gun with her, those suspects would have never gotten into that house."
The police officer, 27, who is not being identified by police, is in critical condition at a local hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. Her boyfriend, a 29-year-old firefighter, is in stable condition at a hospital from a gunshot wound to the neck.
Because the family members were able to give police such a vivid description of the men, police quickly arrested the two suspects. The 16-year-old boy was arrested after being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his hand. His alleged accomplice was arrested in a car minutes later. Inside the car police found loot from the home where Stallis was killed, in the 900 block of Hickory Street.
The older suspect -- Mario Coleman, 22, of the 5300 block of Cabanne Avenue -- was charged Monday night with 12 felonies, including the murder of Stallis. He's being held in jail on a $1 million, cash-only bail. The 16-year-old boy is in juvenile custody. Police won't release his name unless he is charged as an adult.
Court records indicate that Coleman pleaded guilty to felony burglary and felony theft in 2007, but got a suspended imposition of sentence and placed on probation for three years. In 2008, court records indicate, Coleman pleaded guilty to a felony unlawful use of a weapon charge and, again, got a suspended execution of sentence and was placed on supervised probation. He got out of a "shock incarceration" ordered by a judge on April 11.
The crime spree began about 1 a.m. Monday when the police officer and her boyfriend, Stallis' cousin, were leaving the home on Hickory. They had come to visit Stallis, a registered nurse who had just been released from the hospital for the flu, the uncle said.
"Gina was staying with her mother and grandmother who told her to stay with them so they could help watch her two boys while she recouperated," Whitrock said today. "We are a real tight family. When one person is sick, the others all come together to help."
When Stallis opened the door, two gunmen were standing there pointing a gun at the three, Whitrock said.
"I think these guys saw the police officer and her boyfriend come to the home and waited for them to leave," Whitrock said.
Whitrock was not in the home, but he provided this account to the Post-Dispatch based on what relatives who were there told him.
The gunmen forced the three back into the house and two female suspects followed the gunmen in, Whitrock said. The older gunman grabbed Stallis by the hair, put a gun to her head and started dragging her through the house, he said. The gunman was trying to find everyone in the house, Whitrock said.
His accomplice, meanwhile, held a gun on the police officer and the firefighter.
Stallis and the gunman entered the bedroom of Stallis' mother, Rose Whitrock, who was sleeping in bed with Stallis' younger son, Benjamin, 7, Whitrock said. Rose was sound asleep. Stallis tried to wake her.
"Rose said, 'What do you want?' Gina said, 'Mom, you don't understand. You have to get up!' " Whitrock said. "Then Rose saw the shiny gun."
Benjamin sat up in bed. "Rose said, 'Honey, you have to lay back down.' She wanted to protect her grandson," Whitrock said.
The gunman then dragged Stallis by her hair into Stallis' grandmother's room. The grandmother was sleeping next to Stallis' 9-year-old son, Samuel, Whitrock said. Stallis woke up the grandmother and the gunman directed them all into a room. One gunmen held those six -- the police officer, her boyfriend, Stallis' mother, Stallis grandmother and Stallis' two sons -- at gunpoint.
The other gunman then dragged Stallis into every room to gather up jewelry and other valuable items, Whitrock said. He demanded money. Stallis had only $9 in her purse. Then, the gunmen decided to steal a big-screen television, Whitrock said, and they forced Stallis to carry it downstairs by herself, he said.
"It took two men to carry it up there but these two gunmen made Gina carry the television by her self down those steps," Whitrock said. "She was so weak from just getting out of the hospital, but she did everything they asked her to do."
After gathering the loot, Whitrock said that the two gunmen then ordered the family into the basement.
"The police officer feared that if they put everyone in the basement, they would kill them, that's what I think," Whitrock said. "The officer said, 'Oh, no. You're not getting us in the basement.' That's when the older suspect shoved the officer against the wall because it made him mad."
Whitrock said the officer came out fighting and "she was flat kicking his butt. Then everybody started fighting and the shooting started."
Rose Whitrock was able to sneak out a kitchen door outside to run for help from her neighbors.
"No one would come out to help her," Whitrock said. "Finally, I think one lady came to the door but wouldn't let her use the phone. At that point, Rose heard sirens. Police were on their way. When Rose got back in the house, she found her daughter bleeding to death."
The suspects had taken off with the loot.
Whitrock said that the family had lived for "years and years" in the three-story house because they were very involved in the St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral across the street.
"Rose's mother is the treasurer at St. Raymond's," Whitrock said. "Their church is their life."
Whitrock says he thinks he knows why the family was targeted. "They have a very nice home and I think they are one of the only white families on that block," he said.
Whitrock said there had been other problems with criminals at the Hickory Street family home. He said his brother, Stallis' father, had parked a brand-new car out front a few years ago and someone lit a rag that had been put into the gas tank to try to blow it up. Stallis' father died about two years ago.
Whitrock said his family is shaken by Monday's deadly attack.
"It's pretty bad when you aren't safe in your own home," Whitrock said. "Then you have these two animals -- with no regard for human life and no ambition to go out and earn an honest living like Rose's kids did -- come in and take it all from you."
Stallis' was a registered nurse in the oncology department at the John Cochran VA Medical Center. Her uncle said that she battled stomach cancer as a child and won.
"It was then that she decided that she wanted to grow up to help people," Whitrock said. "She would help anybody, no matter who you were. Those two animals who did this to her didn't have to kill anyone. Gina did everything they told her to do."
Stallis funeral is being handled by Kutis Funeral home. Stallis has two brothers -- Joseph, a St. Louis firefighter, and Christopher, a construction worker.
Police declined to comment on what role the two female suspects who entered the house with the gunmen played in the crime.
Click to view image: 'Coleman'
Click to view image: 'Stallis'
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