The Argument | KCUR

The Argument

KCUR’s ongoing series The Argument explores the emotional forces behind murder in the Kansas City area — conflicts arising out of retaliation, domestic violence, access to firearms, family history, mental illness and substance abuse.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City man who gunned down a romantic rival was sentenced to two life sentences Thursday, despite a prosecutor’s plea for a 100-year term that could act as a deterrent to more “senseless killing.”

Dairian Stanley, 22, showed no emotion as Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Charles McKenzie handed down his sentence. Stanley was convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action but was acquitted of kidnapping.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Students at Central Academy of Excellence spent a semester composing short stories, plays and spoken word poetry about gun violence. The class was a collaboration between Kansas City Public Schools and KCUR's reporting project, The Argument

On this episode of Central Standard​, a few of those students and their teacher reflect on their work.


Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Dairian Stanley’s ex-girlfriend was warned before she met up with him that Sunday morning in September 2016.

Stanley had been missing for two days, had been talking “crazy stuff” and threatening to kill himself, his mother told her. When the ex-girlfriend found him at a BP gas station on Van Brunt Boulevard, Stanley demanded to know who she had been with.

“If I can’t have you, nobody can have you!” Stanley, then 21, said to her, according to court documents.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

"Where are the brave ones?" 

Academic coach Charlette Wafer looks out across an auditorium of students, administrators and community members at Central Academy of Excellence. She's reciting a poem. 

"Where are the brave ones? The ones who don't use guns to solve problems. The ones who are mentors and provide support before things get started. The ones who aren't afraid to snitch. The ones who are brave enough to stitch ... Our wounds, our community, our families, our city back together. Where are the brave ones?"

Courtesy of Crystal Hays and Shanta Barnett

In late August last year, Shanta Barnett got a call from her 15-year-old daughter Brannae Browne. 

“Momma, did you hear about what happened?”

Natasha Hays, the mom of one of Brannae’s friends, had been killed in a drive-by shooting, she told her mom.

Barnett warned her daughter to be careful.

“She was like, ‘Momma, we didn't do nothing so why we gotta be worried about it?’” Barnett remembers. “Something in my heart told her just to watch out, to be safe.”

Days later, on a Friday after school, Barnett dropped her daughter off at a cousin’s house in Northeast Kansas City, Kansas. About an hour later, Brannae was sitting on the porch when shots rang out from the street. With a bullet to the back, Brannae was soon dead.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

“Let’s hear what you've got,” Nathan Louis Jackson says to Roben Pope, a junior at Central Academy of Excellence in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jackson rests his elbows on the table so he’s at the same level as Pope, one of a dozen students in a special creative writing class here. He’s relaxed and informal.

“Doesn’t matter how much," he says. "Got just a few lines, got an idea? Let’s just hear whatever there is.”

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

There's no doubt that violence can have a profound impact on young people. But accessing feelings doesn't always come easy.

Toward that end, the Kansas City Public School District has created a special class at Central Academy of Excellence to give students an opportunity to create an artistic expression that might unlock hidden feelings about violence.

Courtesy of Kristen Oehlert

Alice Snodgrass was worried about her friend Nicki Alexopoulos. Worried about a threat from within her family.

“When she went silent, when she wasn't on Facebook, that was an indication that something was wrong,” Snodgrass says.

So, she drove 200 miles to check on Nicki. But as the two of them were catching up in the living room of Nicki’s home in Kansas City’s Brookside neighborhood, the “threat” showed up at the door. Nicki’s 38-year-old son, Patrick Alexopoulos, barged in with a 9 mm gun and a demand.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Despite a drop in murder rates at the national level, homicides in Kansas City are on the rise.

Courtesy the Clark family

Pretty Pennington was killed by a girl fight, a handgun and an AK-47.

She’d been to a friend's wedding that Saturday night, Nov. 12, 2016 — a fun party where she danced all night, picking up her phone only to post pictures to Snapchat. Her mother, Marvella Clark, was sitting at a table and noticed Pennington’s cell phone buzzed constantly.  

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It was a clear night in late July 2016 on the 3600 block of Askew Avenue on Kansas City’s East Side.

But inside one home, a fight was brewing. It was just after midnight, the police report would later say, when Lon’Nasha Tate opened the freezer to find that the ice cream she had saved for her kids was half empty.

Paul Sableman / Flickr - CC

Violent crime rates in Kansas City are on the rise, yet again. Today, we hear the first installment of KCUR's "The Argument," a reporting series that looks beyond the worrying statistics, and into the arguments that escalate to homicide. Then, we discuss how an 1878 eclipse, similar to the one that will cross the country on August 21, catalyzed scientific thought in America.

Photo illustration by Andrea Tudhope

The quiet neighborhood in east Kansas City, Missouri, was just coming to life that Friday morning, May 20, 2016, when Daniel Wilson pulled up in his old white Monte Carlo, witnesses say, carrying a grudge and a gun.