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Examiner
  • Independence police again oppose Merola parole

  • Throughout his career working in law enforcement, Larry Porter has seen his share of cold-blooded killers.



    But he said, however, that none of them compare to Lawrence Merola.



    “He was just a cold-blooded SOB,” Porter said. “That’s what he was.”

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  • Throughout his career working in law enforcement, Larry Porter has seen his share of cold-blooded killers.
    But he said, however, that none of them compare to Lawrence Merola.
    “He was just a cold-blooded SOB,” Porter said. “That’s what he was.”
    Merola, 70, and behind bars now for 45 years in a St. Louis area prison, will face yet another parole hearing on Dec. 21. He was sentenced to life in prison, plus 39 years, for the killing of Independence police officer Lt. David Kraxner on Oct. 31, 1966.
    Porter, who had transferred to the Independence Police Department from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, knew Kraxner well. At the time of his death, Kraxner was Porter’s acting lieutenant.
    The memory remains fresh in Porter’s mind and his telling of it comes quickly. He remembers getting the call on Halloween 1966 shortly after midnight. Unlike today, there was no 24-hour police protection; officers were on call. Porter was told only that an officer had been shot at U.S. 40 and Crysler Avenue.
    Two captains and other officers were at the scene. Kraxner was there, dead, the victim of gunshots. Kraxner had pulled over Merola on a felony traffic stop. He had escaped from St. Louis police and was on the run after shooting a prison guard while being transported for trial. He then murdered another citizen and stole his car. When Kraxner saw the license plates that night, he pulled him over.
    “He had a photographic memory, could remember license plates like you couldn’t believe,” Porter said.
    The two exchanged gunfire almost immediately. Both men were wounded, but Merola was able to walk to Kraxner’s vehicle, where he then shot Kraxner in the chest. When police arrived, Merola had fled in Kraxner’s vehicle, pulling behind a house at 36th Street and Crysler. He waited there through the night, listening to the police radio.
    When morning came, Merola drove past the crime scene. Police recognized the vehicle and gave chase. They eventually located him hiding under a trailer home in the 47th Street and Raytown Road area. He was taken to a local hospital.
    Porter was one of the men who guarded Merola. At first he would say nothing, but on the third or fourth day, he asked Porter if he wanted to know what his lieutenant’s last words were.
    “I said yeah, I did, and he said that Kraxner had said ‘Help me.’ So he shot him again in the chest,” Porter said.
    Merola would later plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
    The incident is etched on Porter’s mind, just as it’s etched on a memorial in front of the Independence Police Station. There’s also a memorial at the site where Kraxner was killed.
    Page 2 of 2 - Porter would later transfer from the Independence Police Department before returning to the Sheriff’s Office. He then moved on to a department in Iowa, eventually returning to Independence to work at the utilities department. He retired about seven years ago.
    In the time since Kraxner’s murder, Porter has seen and heard of cold-blooded killers, but Merola’s story hit home because he was involved so deeply.
    “I hadn’t seen anything that brutal,” he said, but added that with the advent of 24-hour news coverage, he has seen more since then.
    “Merola was just cold and mean, and if he gets out, he’ll just kill again,” Porter added. “He needs to stay in jail for the rest of his life.”
    Maj. Terry Storey, an Independence police detective, said officers in the department have signed the petition against Merola’s release several times in the past. He signed his name recently to the petition, which will be sent to the board at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center outside St. Louis, where Merola is serving his sentence.
    Several officers plan to speak at the parole hearing in late December.
    Storey said the magnitude of Merola’s crime hangs heavy at the department, where other officers throughout the years have lost their lives while on duty.
    “It could be any one of us at any time,” Storey said. “You never know.”

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