A Community in Fear: The Cassidy Senter Story
In 1993, the St. Louis areas was devastated by the disappearance of Angie Housman in November and the discovery of her deceased body nine days later. The fear in the community was compounded on December 1st, 1993, when ten-year-old Cassidy Senter disappeared from her neighborhood of Hazelwood, Missouri. The two abductions were eerily close in location and fear spread across the region. Was there a serial predator targeting children in the St. Louis metropolitan area?
Police were already in full force searching for the killer of little Angie Housman when Cassidy Senter disappeared. Even Cassidy’s mother had been alarmed enough by Angie’s disappearance that she had bought a small personal alarm for Cassidy. The alarm was connected to a lanyard and would sound a high pitch noise when the pin was pulled out of the base. These sorts of alarms were becoming popular as fear paralyzed the community.
On the afternoon of December 1st, 1993, Cassidy returned home after school. She was a fifth grader at Garrett Elementary School in Hazelwood, Missouri. She visited with her upstairs neighbor, who actually owned the apartment that Cassidy and her mother lived in. He helped her make sure her alarm was working properly before Cassidy left to visit a friend a few blocks away. When her mother Rhonda returned home after five pm, Cassidy had failed to return home. She called Cassidy’s friend, but they said Cassidy had never arrived. Rhonda and her neighbor called police and began to search for Cassidy.
Earlier that afternoon, a couple living a few blocks away had heard a high pitch noise and traced the sound to an alarm connected to a lanyard that was in their front yard. They were unaware of the significance of this alarm and were unable to get it to stop making noise. They decided to bury the alarm to silence the annoying noise. That evening, the woman was working at a local nursing home when one of her residents told her that her granddaughter was missing from that neighborhood and carried a small alarm with her. Alarm bells went off, and the neighbors came forward with the alarm they had found. It belonged to Cassidy.
An extensive ground and air search ensued to look for Cassidy. Police feared that the same man responsible for Angie Housman’s murder had struck again, and they were racing against the clock to find Cassidy before she was killed. An FBI profiler linked the cases, saying he believed they were committed by the same perpetrator. He believed it to be a white male aged 25-45 years old who did not get along well with women. He also said the perpetrator likely had recently lost a job. Police looked at over 1,000 suspects between the Angie Housman and Cassidy Senter cases.
On December 9th, 1993, two teenagers walking in St. Louis City discovered the deceased remains of a young girl in an alley near Martin Luther King Drive and Grand Boulevard. She was wrapped in two comforters and a pink curtain (Missouri V. Brooks). The body was positively identified as Cassidy Senter.
The crime scene revealed Cassidy had been wrapped in the comforters and curtain. She had her jacket and sweater pulled up over her chest and her pants were pulled down around her knees. There was a sheet tying her ankles together. There were tire tracks near the body that indicated a vehicle with dual back tires, four tires on the axle instead of two, had been present in the alley where the body was found. They also found metal and paint shavings on the body and comforters.
The autopsy revealed at least four tears to her scalp as well as multiple skull fractures (Missouri V. Brooks). There were numerous bruises found all over the little girl’s body, indicating she had been the victim of a brutal beating. Cassidy had at least five blows to the head that caused her death. It appeared Cassidy had died within an hour of receiving the fatal beating. She likely died the same day she disappeared.
Police determined that the paint flakes, metal shavings, and tire tracks were all consistent with a U-Haul truck. They decided to re-canvas Cassidy’s neighborhood, including the area where her alarm had been found. When speaking with the neighbors this time, one revealed that she remembered seeing a U-Haul in her neighbor’s driveway the day Cassidy’s body was found. Her neighbor was Cassandra Quinn.
Police had talked to Cassandra Quinn before. She lived near Cassidy’s friend and her brother, Thomas Brooks, was living with her. Brooks was on parole for a previous conviction for armed robbery (Darkmatter, 2019). Cassandra denied knowing anything about the crime and stated that neither she, her brother, nor a roommate named LaFranz Wilson were involved in the crime. LaFranz backed Cassandra’s statements.
However, U-Haul rental records showed that Thomas Brooks had rented a U-Haul on December 8th. He had even driven it to his fast-food job that day and returned the truck the following day. A search warrant was obtained for the home Brooks, Wilson, and Quinn shared. Fibers from the home matched those found on Cassidy’s body, the comforters and sheet, and Cassidy’s underwear and clothing. Blood stains were found that matched Cassidy’s blood type. A bed frame slat from the basement of the home was consistent with the weapon used to cause Cassidy’s head injuries. Paint scrapings from the U-Haul dolly and U-Haul were a match to those found on the body. The basement of the house had strong ammonia odors, indicating someone had tried to clean up recently.
Given the evidence, police arrested Thomas Brooks in early February of 1994 and charged him with first-degree murder in Cassidy’s case. Cassandra Quinn and LaFranz Wilson were also charged with obstruction of justice when police learned they lied to authorities. At first, Brooks denied any involvement in Cassidy’s murder. However, he eventually gave a confession.
Thomas Brooks confessed that on December 1st, 1993, Cassidy had come to his house looking for his nephews. He invited her inside and led her down to the basement. He said he attempted to sexually assault her, but she fought him off and would not stop screaming. He picked up the bed slat and beat her over the head with it until she was dead. He said he covered the body and left it in the basement while he went to work (Darkmatter, 2019).
Brooks said that his sister told him “She did not want to know anything about the body in her basement. She just wanted him to get rid of it” (Darkmatter, 2019). On December 8th, Brooks rented a U-Haul truck. After returning from work, he wrapped Cassidy’s body in the comforters and sheet and used the dolly to put her in the truck. He took her to downtown St. Louis and dumped her body in the alley.
Contrary to the FBI profile, Thomas Brooks was a black man and after intense investigation, was determined not to be connected to the Angie Housman murder. Angie’s murder would not be solved for twenty-five more years. However, Thomas Brooks was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. His defense attorney argued that the abduction and rape were pre-meditated, but the murder was not. Thomas Brooks was sentenced to death in 1995. He died in 2000 related to complications of AIDS (Associated Press, 2000).
Cassidy Senter was an innocent ten-year-old girl who was tragically kidnapped, sexually victimized, and murdered by an evil man. Almost as disturbing as this crime is the lack of concern shown by Thomas Brook’s sister and roommate, who chose to ignore the dead little girl in their basement. Cassidy and Angie’s murders are just two of many child murders in the early 1990’s that spread fear across the Midwest and led to increased parental supervision, child safety education, and legislation aimed at keeping our kids safe.
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FindAGrave (2021) Cassidy Jacquelyn Senter; Retrieved at: Cassidy Jacquelyn Senter (1983-1993) - Find A Grave Memorial
Associated Press (2000) Autopsy shows child’s killer had aids- Death row inmate murdered Cassidy Senter; Columbia Daily Tribune; 28 Jul 2000
Murderpedia (2021) Thomas Brooks Jr.; Retrieved at: Thomas Brooks | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
ABC News (1993) Child murders rattle St. Louis suburbs in 1993; Retrieved at: Video Child murders rattle St. Louis suburbs in 1993 - ABC News (go.com)
Holleman, J. (1995) Prosecutors want death for Brooks; St. Louis Post Dispatch; 09 Aug 1995
Missouri V. Brooks (1997) State of Missouri V. Thomas Brooks; Retrieved at: State of Missouri v. Thomas Brooks | Missouri Death Row
Farrow, C. (1994) Police arrest three in girl’s killing; Retrieved at: Police Arrest Three in Girl's Killing | AP News
Bryan, B. & Bell, K. (1993) Hunt for girl ends in heartache; St. Louis Post Dispatch; 10 Dec 1993
Darkmatter (2019) Cassidy Senter’s abduction and murder was solved, but what about Angie Housman’s?; Retrieved at: https://darkmatter69.blogspot.com/2019/12/cassidy-senters-abduction-and-murder.html