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Unspeakable Crimes: The Stacey Lannert Story


               Stacey Ann Lannert was born May 28th, 1972, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of Thomas Lannert and his wife Deborah. Tom and Deb welcomed a second daughter, Christy, two years later. The couple lived in the St. Louis suburb of Manchester before moving to small rural Alhambra, Illinois. Stacey was in third grade and had trouble adjusting to the small rural school. She struggled to make friends and fit in. Making matters worse, her mother seemed to favor her younger sister. The one person who paid attention to her, her father, became her best friend and shelter from the world’s stresses. She was daddy’s girl and loved spending time with him. Eight-year-old Stacey could never had imagined she would kill her father a decade later.



               Stacey spent a lot of her childhood with her father in the family’s lower level, whereas her mother and Christy usually hung out upstairs. Sitting on her father’s lap and watching television made Stacey happy. She adored her father and wanted to be his favorite. Her parents were fighting more and more, and Stacey couldn’t help but take her father’s side. She didn’t understand the situation well but can remember the two fighting over Deb’s avoidance of sex. The more they fought, the more the family split in these two groups: Dad and Stacey, Mom and Christy.

               One day, Stacey’s father, Tom Lannert, began to talk to her about what it meant to be a big girl. He told her big girls do certain things. He started grooming her by giving her the attention she craved and convincing her that their father-daughter relationship was special. He was not close to Christy- in fact, she knew how to push his buttons and he would get very angry and start yelling at her. Tom told Stacey to give him a kiss, afterwards he proceeded to play “touch tongues” with her.

               Tom told Stacey that this was their little secret because Mom would be jealous if she knew. Stacey was eight years old, but he told her that this is what big girls do and now she is a big girl. He convinced her to lick his “friend” and lathered himself with marshmallow cream. The little girl was happy when her father was happy. He was happy after molesting her, only the child didn’t realize what they were doing was molestation. She thought she was just playing games with her Dad.

               When Stacey turned nine years old, her father told her he was going to make her a woman. Stacey learned that day that her dad could be mean and violent. He raped her for the first time in their basement. After that, he began to rape his daughter as often as five times per week. Stacey had become afraid of her father, particularly when he was drinking. He drank a lot. Tom was an alcoholic, and he was not a very nice drunk. Stacey recalls hiding her bloodied underwear, but her mother found them. She questioned the girls about them and Stacey admitted they were hers. Her mother gave the nine-year-old a talk about menstruation.


Tom and Deb were fighting a lot and even separated a few times.  The more they fought, the more attention Tom paid to Stacey. Sometimes he was nice, sometimes he was not. The sexual abuse continued. Eventually, Tom and Deb separated for good and filed for divorce. Tom moved to St. Louis while Deb and the girls lived in Highland, Illinois. Stacey was starting to act out- shop lifting, sneaking out, stealing her mom’s car. She was using drugs and smoking although she was just thirteen years old. She had been being abused for five years at this point, so it’s not surprising she was behaving this way.

Imagine being just a child and thinking about ongoing violent abuse from the person that was supposed to protect you. Imagine trying to reconcile your body’s physiological responses to the abuse that you know is wrong. Stacey had to think these thoughts as a child under the age of ten and throughout her adolescence. Stacey knew what he was doing was wrong, but now she was afraid. Stacey tried hard to please her father so that he would be less violent. Imagine having to figure out how to mitigate your risks during parental sexual abuse. Unfathomable.

Throughout her adolescence, Stacey was shuffled between her Mom and Dad. Her mom had started dating and was usually on the phone. Stacey felt ignored. Her father paid attention to her and could be nice. He also continued to abuse her, usually violently. Stacey felt unwanted by her mother and afraid of her father. At one point, Stacey and Christy were staying with their maternal grandparents. Her grandfather had put his hands up her shirt. Stacey told her grandmother, who ignored her. Now there were two abusers. However, Stacey didn’t live with her grandparents and could avoid her grandfather, who she later learned had sexually abused all of his daughters including her mother.

Stacey was acting out and seemed depressed. Some adults, teachers and babysitters, suspected something wasn’t right. Stacey’s mother made her an appointment to seek counseling, but her father took her to her appointments and told her what to say to the doctor. Stacey denied anything was happening to the therapist. She had been ignored by her maternal grandmother when she tried to speak out about her grandfather’s abuse, so she was petrified that her father would kill her sister if she told. He often physically abused her younger sister, and Stacey tried her best to protect her sister.

Once, a babysitter pulled Stacey aside and asked her if anyone was hurting her. She reluctantly told the babysitter that her father was. Specifics were not discussed. The babysitter told Deb in front of Stacey that Tom was abusing her. Deb said she would take care of it and make sure it didn’t happen again. However, Stacey says she never paid enough attention to her to protect her from anything. Deb later stated that she did not know that her daughter was talking about sexual abuse. Stacey was skeptical of this claim. Another time, Stacey disclosed to a nun at her private school in St. Louis. Again, nothing was done, and she was largely ignored.

In her early teenaged years, Stacey’s mother remarried and moved to Arkansas and eventually Guam with another husband. At that point, she and Christy went to live with their father in Soulard, a rough neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri. At first, things went well. Eventually, however, Tom’s alcoholism took control of him. He continued sexually abusing one daughter and physically abusing the other. He emotionally and verbally abused them both.

Stacey tried hard to please her father and keep her sister safe in his presence. She didn’t burden her sister with knowledge of her abuse. Stacey was protective and nurturing to her sister, but Christy had started drinking and was an alcoholic by the time she was a teenager. As her father’s alcoholism worsened, Stacey became accustomed to running the household and being treated like crap. She would buy the groceries and pay the bills with her father’s checkbook. She would go shopping with his credit cards for her and Christy’s essentials. Her father was an actuary, so made fairly good money.

Stacey wanted to get out of that house and away from the abuse. As she neared her late teens, she was rebelling against her father. She was ready to get away from the man who called her vulgar and vile names on a daily basis. She thought about joining the military, but her father warned that if she left, he would kill her sister in order to make Stacey come back. Apparently, his older brother had died in Vietnam, at which time Tom was discharged due to being the only living heir to his family.

Stacey felt trapped. Her mother wasn’t around and didn’t care to be in Stacey’s eyes. Her father was usually drunk and mean. Not to mention the violent rapes and medical issues she developed as a result. As a young teenager, Stacey was diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease, which can be a direct result of ongoing sexual abuse. She had to stay to protect her sister, so the military wasn’t an option. Suddenly, she had an idea. She told her father that drug dealers were trying to harm her, so she had to go to Guam to stay with her mother awhile. Her father bought her the plane ticket before realizing she was lying. She snuck away from home and went to live with her mother and her third husband.

Things were going decently well in Guam, but Stacey was lonely. She was away from the abuse, but her mother and stepfather did not pay much attention to her in Guam. At seventeen, she dropped out of high school in Guam despite having good grades. She took her GED test, passing it on the first try without preparation. Her father called her at times, telling her she needed to come home. When Christy called crying and begging her sister to come back to St. Louis, she complied. She was always going to be her sister’s protector.

Back in St. Louis, Stacey had her eighteenth birthday on May 28th, 1990. Although she was now an adult and could run for the hills, she stayed around to protect her sister. At this point, her paternal grandmother, whom she was very close with, had died and her father had continued to spiral downhill. He was a drunk who always slept on the couch and called his daughters the most awful things. Stacey was Christy were continually assaulted. By this time, her father had killed one of her pets, one of her sister’s pets, beat them both, raped Stacey repeatedly, and gave the girls revolting verbal and emotional abuse.

It all came to a head on July 4th, 1990. That day was supposed to be a celebration and backyard barbecue. Instead, Thomas Lannert got drunk and violent. For the first time, Thomas Lannert raped Christy. That was a breaking point for Stacey. The girls left the house to go to the fair after Tom passed out on the couch. Later that evening, Stacey and her sister went back to the house in St. John, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. They snuck in the basement window as they had many times before. They were there to get some of their things and then planned to run away together.

Stacey had hidden her father’s .22 magnum in her basement room when he passed out. He had threatened her several times and once even raped her with that gun. He tormented her with it. Now she was using it for protection as the girls had to go upstairs to get out of the house. If her father woke up, Stacey was sure he would hurt the two of them. As they walked past their father, asleep on the couch, he said something to Stacey. She had to have felt like she was being trapped again. She had to get out.

Stacey took the gun and shot her father. She said she didn’t aim, she just shot. It hit him in the shoulder. He was cursing her and telling her to call 911. Earlier that day, Tom had pulled the phone cords out of the wall to keep his daughters from seeking help. Now karma was biting him in the ass. He was very angry with Stacey and threatened her. She shot him again. This time she put the bullet through his skull. Thomas Lannert was dead.



Stacey and Christy fled to a friend’s house, but they couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. They told their friends, and eventually the police were called. Stacey was hysterical as she told the police what she had done. She didn’t try to deny it. She did a video re-enactment in the house for detectives. She tried to accept full responsibility for the murder as Christy did not plan or participate in the murder. The murder wasn’t even planned.

The prosecutor did not believe Stacey. He believed that since Stacey had been forging her father’s checks and using his credit card. It’s true, she had. He was usually drunk and passed out and she was responsible for the household and groceries. Her father knew what she did and was fine with it, Stacey explained. She wasn’t forthcoming at first about abuse. When she did disclose during pretrial motions, the prosecution claimed she was lying and that she killed her father for money.



Christy was given a deal and lesser charge. She served two of five years of her sentence in a Missouri prison. She was eighteen and free to live her life. After years of abuse, however, Christy struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. She had a series of boyfriends and worked at Hooters. Eventually, she stopped partying and settled down. She got married and had a daughter, Stacey’s niece.

Stacey watched all this from prison. She didn’t go to trial until 1992, spending two and half years in jail awaiting trial. A friend testified that Stacey had tried to pay him to kill her father. She denies this, but states that she had said on more than one occasion that she wishes her father was dead. She said this friend offered to arrange it, but she said no. She insists the murder was not planned but admitted that she had fantasized about killing her abuser many times. The jury was not allowed to consider the alleged abuse Stacey and Christy suffered. She was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole.




Stacey served the first eight years of her sentence trying to appeal the case to no avail. She then started working on asking for clemency. She believed that Governor Mel Carnahan would grant her clemency so that she would, finally, have a chance to be really free. Unfortunately, the governor died before he left office in a tragic plane crash. His replacement did not support Stacey’s case and failed to grant her clemency. She continued to work with her lawyers to pursue clemency from the next governor. It seemed like she was always given a no, or even worse, wouldn’t get a response at all.

During her eighteen years in prison Stacey worked hard to mentally breakthrough the prison she had lived in for over half of her life when she killed her father. She was a model prisoner and worked her way up to honor block. She was still not eligible for parole. She participated in the C.H.A.M.P. program, training dogs for people with disabilities. She was finding purpose and meaning in her life from behind bars, uncertain if she would spend the rest of her days there. If she was stuck there, she’d make the most of it.

At the end of 2008, Governor Matt Blunt was leaving office. By this time, Stacey had participated in multiple television shows about her case and had been in the media. She was even interviewed by Nancy Grace. There were petitions to set her free- she killed her abuser to protect herself. The media attention was to assist in getting her clemency request in front of the governor. The holidays came and went in Missouri, and Governor Blunt did not respond to Stacey’s petition.

In January of 2009, assuming she would never get out of prison, Stacey became depressed. That changed quickly, however, when she learned that not only was Governor Matt Blunt granting her clemency, but he was reducing her and another woman’s sentence. They had both killed their abuser and Matt Blunt wanted them to serve only twenty years in prison with the possibility of parole. She had served nineteen years at this point and was eligible for immediate release. Stacey was going home after spending more than half her life in prison.

Once free, Stacey worked hard to repair her relationship with her mother and stepfather. She learned to use a cell phone and automatic sink. She dated and fell in love. She knew her life had purpose. She finally went to college and earned a degree in psychology. She now works for the public defender’s office, trying to help victims of abuse who committed crimes against their abusers. She also found Healing Sisters.org which is a non-profit dedicated to helping children and women who have suffered abuse. Stacey wrote a book, with her co-author Kristen Kemp, about her experiences and overcoming abuse. The book is wonderfully written, I read it in less than 24 hours. I highly recommend “Redemption” by Stacey Lannert and Kristen Kemp.




 

Resources

Women Behind Bars (Season 1 Episode 1) Stacey Lannert & Charity White

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