The new owners of an apartment building in Richmond Heights didn’t factor in the human costs of dislocating residents during the pandemic. After all, from a financial standpoint, it was none of their business.
At 1:15 a.m. Sunday Nov. 6, 2011, Officer Jeff McNutt of the Town and Country Police Department observed the driver of a 2011 Lexus veering from one lane to another on west bound Interstate 64 at Mason Road. After he pulled the vehicle over, he could smell alcohol on 22-year-old James Ryan Redlingshafer Jr.’s breath and noted that his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Redlingshafer Jr. denied he had been drinking, but based on a field sobriety test, McNutt arrested him for drunken driving.
Redlingshafer Jr. later failed a breathalyzer test at the police station. Redlingshafer Jr. refused to answer most questions posed to him by the arresting officer, including whether he was under the influence of narcotics. However, when asked to provide his occupation, he responded by saying that he worked in “finance.” On his arrest report, McNutt described the young man’s attitude as “indifferent.”
Since then, Redlingshafer Jr. has avoided further scrapes with the law, and is now partnered in a lucrative real estate business with his father. Nevertheless, the terse language contained in the nearly decade-old police report eerily presaged the future.
In July, when the Redlingshafer family real estate business — Artemis Holdings LLC — purchased a six-unit rental property in Richmond Heights, residents didn’t know they would be subjected to indifference. Nor did they have an inkling that demolition work was imminent. Initially, Artemis Holdings didn’t even bother to tell the Richmond Heights Zoning and Building Administrator of its plans. The company only applied for a building permit after a tenant informed the city that work had already commenced.
On September 30, Artemis Holdings began gutting the former apartment of an 85-year-old tenant, who had vacated the premises on short notice. Others would soon be forced to make hasty exits, too, including an 82-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis. Asbestos was subsequently discovered in the apartment building, but only after the hazardous material had been released into the environment during demolition, potentially exposing the remaining residents to toxic dust and particulate matter.
By late October, the rehabbed apartment was being advertised online for $1,395 a month, a 100 percent increase. A month later, four of the six tenants had moved. The bottom line: Tenants were displaced during the worst pandemic in history, and two of them are octogenarians with pre-existing health problems. Moreover, Richmond Heights and St. Louis County officials deemed such practices acceptable, accommodating the landlords at every turn at the expense of the tenants.
The lax enforcement of various laws in this case suggests systematic indifference on all fronts.
The Fourth Circle of Hell
Besides Artemis Holdings, Redlingshafer Jr. is connected to four other corporations, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office. Two of those companies have names that allude to Greek mythology. Artemis Holdings is named for the Greek god of hunting, whereas, Plutus Holdings LLC, refers to the Greek god of wealth. In Canto VII of Dante’s Inferno, Plutus is a demon of wealth who guards the Fourth Circle of Hell.
Though other corporations in Redlingshafer Jr.’s portfolio lack literary or mythological cachet, they are no less predicated on the pursuit of profit. Two of them — RedRose Capital LLC and AKR Ventures STL LLC. — are registered in the state of Texas and are tied to both Redlingshafer Jr. and Texas-based real estate investor Phillip A. Rose.
Redlingshafer Jr. appears to have inherited his business acumen from his father, 61-year-old James Ryan Redlingshafer Sr. — co-owner of Artemis Holdings. The elder Redlingshafer lives nine miles west of Richmond Heights in Country Life Acres, a gated community.
The village, which was incorporated in 1949, is comprised of 27 households with a population of 74. Its median annual family income is estimated at $200,000. Redlingshafer Sr. and his wife purchased the five-acre estate — #23 Country Life Acres — in 2016 for $3.8 million.
The inhabitants here don’t hold annual house tours, making it impossible to get a close glimpse of their environs. But from the vantage point of Clayton Road, the enclave emits the gentility of the plantations of the Old South, with their sweeping lawns and white-fenced pastures that resemble the bluegrass region of Kentucky or the horse farms of Northern Virginia.
Despite the bucolic setting, however, Country Life Acres is by no means paradise.
Three years before Redlingshafer Sr. moved here, a member of Country Life Acres’ landed gentry was brutally murdered. The victim, Ivan “Ike” Mullenix, a fellow real estate baron, had once been the largest apartment complex developer in the St. Louis area. His wife stabbed him in the heart during a domestic dispute in July 2013.
Though not as renowned as the tony St. Louis County suburb of Ladue, the tiny burg of Country Life Acres has long been home to prominent St. Louis businessmen and professionals. Redlingshafer Sr.’s residence was built in 1938. His mansion is located next to the former estate of the late Branch Rickey, the legendary St. Louis Cardinals baseball club executive. Rickey bought his palatial digs and the surrounding 23 acres for $100,000 in 1930.
After leaving St. Louis, Rickey made baseball history by signing Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, ending racial segregation in the Major Leagues. But the color barrier remains largely intact in Country Life Acres today, where nearly 94 percent of the residents are white. Related Article: There Goes the Neighborhood