'SHE'S A GREAT PERSON'
The November TV sweeps period is now history. Kansas City's TV stations did a wide variety of sweeps pieces--some good, some not-so-good and some horrrible ones.
At least one sweeps piece by KCTV investigative reporter Dana Wright is destined to become an award-winner as she was the first KC journalist to report on the bizarre story of the arrest of 74-year-old Glenn Stevens, who has been charged with a string of robberies at Walmarts in three states. (See her explanation of the story below.) Stevens and his wife of 56 years, Irene, 72, are the parents of five children and live in a senior community in Raymore, MO. He worked most of his life at a landfill and today he and Irene operate a modest office cleaning company.
Their peaceful life was completely turned upside down on July 1 when police announced they had a warrant for his arrest. He thought it was some sort of mistake and went to the police station to clear things up.
Shortly thereafter police tossed him in jail for the first time in his life. His bail was set at an unbelievable $30,000 in cash. The stunned family had to frantically come together to raise the funds.
"We actually had to take $30,000 in cash to the jail to get dad out," says Glenn's son Tom. "We were scared to death to even go there with that kind of money."
The stunned family sent an email to local media outlets asking for help, and Wright immediately jumped on the story.
"Dana Wright is a great person,"Tom told Bottom Line. "We really don't know what we would have done without her. And she has promised us she isn't going away." Wright's superb sweeps piece (11/11) highlighted that Glenn Stevens has proof he was nowhere near at least one Walmart robbery in question.
"How can this be happening in this country?" a visibly upset Stevens asked Wright. "I can tell you it's happening to me, and I’m living the nightmare every day."
Footage taken by Stevens' lawyer of him scared and crying in jail was extremely moving.
So far, the Stevens family has been forced to mortgage one family home and spend $70,000 trying to clear his name. Irene has been hospitalized for two days because of the stress.
Veteran Kansas City Star reporter Donald Bradley did an extensive front-page story outlining the plight of the Stevens in an article titled "Theft charges create nightmare for Raymore couple" thant ran November 26.
"(Glenn) He and Irene are old school. In life, money and, especially, love," wrote Bradley. "Glenn has no bigger believer in his innocence than his wife. He didn’t do it and she’ll tell you how she knows."
WDAF-FOX reporter Monica Evans interviewed the Stevens for a piece (11/29). The Stevens, Dana Wright, their attorney Daniel Miller and family members went on the "Shanin & Parks" show (12/3) on KMBZ-980 AM). Listen to (link to Podcast) Glenn explain his story and break down over the entire incident.
In fact, Darla Jaye, who was subbing for Mike Shanin on the show, was so stunned by the story that she will have the Stevens on her show "980 Live With Darla Jaye" tonight (6- 9 p.m.).
Ironically, Glenn and Irene Stevens had never done a media interview in their lives until they sat down with Dana Wright, who calls the entire story "astounding.
WRIGHT DISCUSSES THE STEVENS STORY KCTV's sterling investigative reporter Dana Wright discussed with Bottom Line the background details that resulted in the story of the Glenn Stevens story:
"Our team spent five months following the Stevens family and we continue working every day to get to the bottom of the Walmart thefts. It's one of those stories that keeps us up at night.
"I can tell you, it appears none of the small town police departments are working together to solve the cases. Glenn has been charged in three small towns.
"I have personally spoken to authorities who tell me they have no independent information linking Glenn to crimes in their jurisdiction. Police are simply basing their case on Glenn's original arrest out of Versailles.
"One thing that didn't make it into our story?
"Glenn and Irene have owned his own office cleaning company for 20 years. He points out, if he truly wanted to steal computer equipment, he has access codes to office complexes all over the city.
"Why would he drive three hours away to steal a computer mouse from Wal-Mart? The Stevens have cleaned buildings for the same clients for two decades.
"The night he was arrested in the Versailles case? Irene left the police department with zero understanding of why they were taking Glenn away. She then drove, sobbing, to one of their clients buildings and finished cleaning for Glenn.
"She said to me, 'We have people depending on us." This is the kind of family we are talking about. Please pass on our team's story, along with the surveillance photo of the thief. I truly believe someone will eventually recognize the surveillance picture and turn in the group responsible for the Wal-Mart thefts.
"Irene summed it up best when she said to me 'We're getting too old for this kind of stuff.'
"It has been frustrating, as a reporter, to watch this story play out over so many months. Sadly, it appears this will drag on for the family for months to come. Glenn is due in court after the first of the year.
"We will be there."