Monday, August 09, 2010
Check Out Great VIBE Magazine Article About The Boss Man & His Victims:
By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: April 19, 1997
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill., April 15— His world knew him as Boss Man, the slender possessor of a kind of devilish charm. He cruised this bedraggled riverside slum in fancy cars, dazzled impressionable girls with roller-skating pyrotechnics, and mysteriously flitted back and forth across the Mississippi River to St. Louis.
But Boss Man, Darnell McGee, had a deadly secret, one he did not share with his dozens of casual girlfriends. He was infected with the virus that causes AIDS. And yet, despite persistent rumors about his illness, the whirl of his flashy skates and his ready money proved irresistible.
So today, officials in Missouri and Illinois are struggling to contain a small-scale but unmistakable public health disaster: 62 women, by latest count, have been exposed to the AIDS virus as a result of Mr. McGee's exploits, and 13 have tested positive for the virus so far. The St. Louis health department has been flooded with calls from anxious women. And health investigators are knocking on doors in some neighborhoods, looking hard for more.
Boss Man McGee will not be helping in the search. On the afternoon of Jan. 15, as the smooth-talking 28-year-old drove through a gritty North St. Louis neighborhood, his latest conquest by his side, a man flagged the car down, walked up to the driver's window and shot him dead. The girl fled down the boarded-up block; the man rifled Mr. McGee's pockets and disappeared.
The killing may have been connected to drug dealing, which several of Mr. McGee's friends say sustained him. Or it may, as the police suspect, have been revenge, exacted on behalf of one of his sexual partners.
Under that theory, the list of suspects would be long. What makes Mr. McGee's case so unusual, public health officials say, is that he exposed -- perhaps deliberately -- a large number of women and girls to the virus. He had been diagnosed with it in 1992, had received counseling and was being sought by health officials when he was killed.
''The amount of partners is very high,'' said Beth Meyerson, chief of the Bureau of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the Missouri Health Department. ''That's what's different. He's in a class by himself.''
The malicious spreader of AIDS is a contemporary urban nightmare, more mythic than real. In his 1987 book, ''And the Band Played On,'' Randy Shilts said that scientists had retraced the sexual activity of a Canadian airline steward, Gaetan Dugas, who died in 1984, and suspected that he had played a major role in spreading AIDS to homosexual men in the United States.
In Dallas six years ago, a young woman created panic with a letter to a magazine claiming that she was spreading the AIDS virus. But the letter turned out to be a hoax. Mr. McGee, health officials here said, may have been the real thing.
More than 96 percent of people with the AIDS virus in Missouri never expose another person to it. Only 0.3 percent in Missouri knowingly expose another to the virus, Ms. Meyerson said. ''He knew what he was doing,'' she said. ''I think this was a clear issue of gender power-practice.''
The story of Boss Man is about the power of flash, money and athletic prowess in a poverty-stricken environment where these attributes, even in limited amounts, will go far. This is a quiet town, the vice suburb of St. Louis, with vacant, derelict buildings, boarded-up storefronts and little traffic. One of the few smart-looking buildings here is a brick funeral home. And the biggest business is a riverboat casino. Two-thirds of the 40,000 residents are on some form of public assistance, and the unemployment rate of 8.7 percent is more than three percentage points higher than the state average.
Mr. McGee, the youngest of 14 children, lived with his deeply religious mother and at least one brother in a shabby house, next to a burned-out diner and a burned-out gas station, on a side street rutted with deep potholes. Mr. McGee's family refused to talk about him, except to say that he was an unemployed high school graduate, and did not share his health problems with the household -- an assertion disputed by one former girlfriend.
''Why just pick his name out?'' his brother Charles, 33, asked angrily. He was standing on the rickety plywood front porch. ''Take Magic Johnson. These things happen nationwide,'' he said, before demanding that a visitor leave.
But health officials here, as well as those who knew him, said Mr. McGee had an instinct for vulnerable targets in this depressed landscape and the financial means to snare them. Although the source of his money is unclear, he owned several cars, dressed flashily and took his girlfriends on shopping expeditions to malls both here and in St. Louis. Some of those girls were very young, barely into puberty; most were just emerging from adolescence.
''You think of the environment in which these young people must live,'' said Gracie Hutchinson, Assistant Administrator for Nursing in the East Side Health District. ''So many of these kids have nothing to feel good about. So here's someone who may give you a little attention. And these were such young girls.''
The girls who knew him feel certain he was intent on spreading the virus. ''He did it on purpose,'' said Angie, a heavyset 21-year-old, described by herself and others as a close friend of Mr. McGee. He got the virus from someone else, she said, ''so he wanted to give it to everybody else.''
''That was his attitude,'' said Angie, who refused to give her last name. She was standing at the edge of a trash-strewn driveway, on a bluff overlooking the main road out of town. ''Oh, Boss Man, Boss Man,'' she sighed. ''He was a lunatic. He knew he was going to die. He was going to take as many people with him as he could.''
At the Skate King, a long cinder-block shed by the railroad tracks, all the teen-age girls knew Boss Man. Inside the darkened roller skating rink, watched over by armed security guards, the attendants spoke of seeing him drive off with young girls, after a night of twirling and pirouetting. ''He was always skating in here, looking for all the women,'' said Erica Frison, 20. ''It was the weak ones he took advantage of.''
And they couldn't help noticing him. ''He was like magic on wheels,'' said Dan Williams, a security guard.
When Denise, 19, first saw him at a rink in St. Louis, her mother had just died of AIDS. Mr. McGee seemed to share her grief, crying sympathetically. With indulgent grandparents providing for her, she did not need his money, she said, like some of the other girls he took on shopping trips.
To her, Boss Man had other attractions. At the skating rink, he put everyone else in the shade, she said.
''It's like, he got out there on the floor, and he was in another world,'' she said, so brilliant she begged him for instruction. And his car stereo was powerful and new. '' 'When I come, I'm gonna be playing this song,' '' he would say, '' 'so when you hear this song, come outside.' ''
Last week, Denise tested positive for the AIDS virus.
In an interview at a Washington University clinic for female AIDS patients, Denise recalled why she decided to break up with Mr. McGee. She took his pager home one day last fall and found the telephone numbers of 25 different women in it. She had already confronted him about rumors that he was infected, but he always denied it, she said.
Wednesday was support-group day at the clinic, and as Denise spoke several other uneasy-looking young women, former girlfriends of Mr. McGee, dropped by.
For some weeks last fall, Denise lived at the small house here with Mr. McGee and his mother. When health workers came by looking for him, Denise said, Mr. McGee would hide in the basement, and his mother would tell them she did not know where he was.
'' 'If I did have it, would you still go with me?' '' Denise said he would ask plaintively. ''I think he was angry with himself. He wanted everybody else to feel the pain he knew he was going to feel sooner or later.''
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