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Byers' Beat: How 3 homicides, just hours and 10 miles apart, came together for St. Louis police

Looking into how the investigation into the murders of three people, including a mother and child, led to an 18-year-old suspect

ST. LOUIS — Every once in a while, the good guys get a win.

This week, the good guys were the St. Louis police officers who worked an untold amount of hours to find the person they believe killed a college student he may have stalked and a mother and child he barely knew.

Police sources have told me they do not believe Prinshun McClain knew his alleged victims well. And when a suspect has little to no ties to their victims, the investigation becomes all that much harder.

This time, they had cooperative communities equipped with security cameras in their favor to help catch the type of suspect who doesn't cross their paths often -- a spree killer.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a spree killer as someone involved in "killings at two or more locations with almost no time break between murders." 

The nightmare began at about 5:45 a.m. Wednesday after police discovered the body of 26-year-old Tori Manisco on her front porch in the Carondelet neighborhood in south city. In looking through surveillance footage detectives found in the neighborhood, they saw a man follow the victim to her home just before midnight Tuesday, then run away. So, they believe she was likely shot just before midnight Tuesday.

Credit: KSDK

Her friends and family told police she complained of a man acting strangely toward her on the bus – which she rode regularly mostly to participate in theater productions because she didn’t own a car.

Manisco was a student at Crossroads College Preparatory School, according to a memorial her brother, Tyler Manisco, wrote on social media.

“The sudden, senseless, absolute tragedy of her loss has struck all of us through the heart and we as a family are grieving her passing deeply,” he wrote.

Then, at about 3 p.m. Wednesday and about 10 miles to the north, Terri Ward went to check on her 27-year-old daughter and 8-year-old granddaughter at their home in the Fairgrounds neighborhood on the city’s north side and found them tied up and shot to death.

Ward told 5 On Your Side’s Robert Townsend she discovered the bodies of her daughter and granddaughter lying side-by-side in her daughter’s bed. When she pulled back the comforter, she said it sounded like a bunch of shell casings hit the floor and she realized they were dead.

READ ALSO: 'We're truly thankful they made an arrest': Family of slain St. Louis mom and daughter relieved man is in custody

Credit: Provided photo
Family members identified the shooting victims as 27-year-old Terri Bankhead and her 8-year-old daughter Da’Nilya Edwards.

Ward said she ran down the stairs in her daughter’s apartment building and saw McClain standing in the doorway to the apartment where he was living with an aunt. She screamed, “Call the police! Call the police! Somebody call the police!”

McClain looked at her and said something like, “You want me to call the police?”

She said she told him yes.

So, he did.

And, she said, he stayed at the scene and talked with detectives when they arrived telling them he had not heard anything. She thought it was strange how he said that when she knew there were multiple gunshots.

Ward told Townsend her daughter had only lived in the apartment for about six months, and had only mentioned McClain to her briefly, saying he once tried to flirt with her. She asked him his age. He said 18. And she told him she was too old for him.

But soon, similarities between the physical characteristics of McClain and the man they saw following Manisco along Dover Street on the city’s south side the night before started popping up in the minds of homicide detectives working the two scenes.

In the throes of her grief, Ward said she also noticed her daughter’s three TV sets were sitting outside the door to the apartment where McClain was living.

Then, ballistics evidence from both scenes matched, too.

Credit: Granite City Police Department
Prinshun McClain

Police tracked McClain to an address in Granite City where they found him with a 16-year-old girl and arrested him on unrelated charges as they worked to get the case together to apply for warrants against him with Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office.

Late Thursday, prosecutors issued three counts of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and one count of burglary.

RELATED: Suspect arrested, charged in murders of 3 people in St. Louis including mother and daughter

This isn’t the first time McClain has been accused of violence.

McClain pleaded guilty in June to second-degree robbery for an incident that happened in Richmond Heights in August 2020.

In that case, police said McClain pulled a woman's hair and punched her in the head before taking her cellphone outside the University Club Tower office building along Brentwood Boulevard. A security guard saw the attack and intervened, according to court documents.

The man gave the cellphone back to the victim and ran away from the scene, but officers found him and he admitted to pulling the victim's hair and taking her phone. Surveillance cameras captured the attack, according to the documents.

He was sentenced to five years of probation and sent to the aggressive offender program with eight months of shock time in the Department of Justice Services. He was released after being given credit for time served. 

The officers I spoke to about McClain are trying to see if he is connected to any other acts of violence that didn’t come together for investigators as quickly as these cases.

Sometimes it takes a while to get a win.