Loril William Harp, 68, of St. Louis has been charged with the murder of an Arnold liquor store owner 27 years after the incident.
Harp was arrested at 4:15 p.m. today (Sept. 30) at a retirement community on South Broadway in St. Louis, Arnold Police Chief Bob Shockey said.
On Tuesday (Sept. 29), the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Harp with first-degree murder, a class A felony, and armed criminal action, an unclassified felony, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Trisha Stefanki said in a press release today.
Harp was being held without bond in the Jefferson County Jail in Hillsboro.
Steven Weltig was shot and killed on April 23, 1993, while he was working at what used to be Ajax Liquor store, 1409 Jeffco Blvd. in Arnold. He was 40.
“It is closure for the family and the Arnold Police,” Shockey said. “We are sure the family is relieved that someone is going to be held responsible for the loss of their loved one.”
On Sept. 16, Harp allegedly confessed to the murder while he was interviewed by Arnold Police detectives Brett Ackermann and Josh Wineinger at the retirement community, according to a probable-cause statement from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Shockey said 15 detectives from his department have worked on the case over the last 27 years, and members of the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis and cold-case investigators from England also have reviewed the case.
Harp told the detectives he went to Ajax Liquor to confront Weltig about a shooting that occurred in 1993 on Avenue H in south St. Louis County, and because Weltig was in a dispute with a woman whom Harp was friends with, the probable-cause statement said.
Harp said a friend of his had been shot three or four times near Avenue H, and he believed Weltig shot his friend. Harp told detectives his friend survived the shooting, the report said.
Harp told detectives Weltig had “ripped a lot of people off back then,” referring to drug transactions, and he said he wanted to get “payback” on Weltig, according to the report.
Harp said his former wife drove him to the liquor store at about 10:15 a.m. the day of the murder. He said he was going to “rough up” Weltig, the report said.
Harp said he began to argue with Weltig after entering the store, and that Weltig pulled a .380 handgun from near the cash register and pointed it at him. Harps told detectives Weltig was “trying to kill me,” the report said.
Harp said he started to wrestle with Weltig, and he eventually grabbed the store owner’s hand and slammed it down to get him to release the gun. He said Weltig dropped the gun, and he then punched the store owner in the face and left out the back door, the probable-cause statement said.
Harp told detective the gun “went off” during the struggle, and that was how Weltig was shot, the report said.
Wineinger wrote in the probable-cause statement that crime scene photographs and the medical examiner’s report indicate the shooting was not accidental. Weltig was near the floor, possibly kneeling when he was shot from above, the report said.
The building that housed the liquor store is now a resale shop, and before that it housed an auto dealership.
Officers in 1993 tracked Weltig’s activities on the day of the murder.
He lived in Oakville and crossed the river to Illinois to purchase liquor for the store that morning. Once in Arnold, he stopped by what was an UMB Bank across the street from his business and then opened his store. A man and a woman told police they stopped by the store that morning to buy cigarettes and found Weltig shot in the head.
In 2015, Harp’s former wife told Arnold Police that Harp had told them he had shot Weltig, the probable-cause statement said.
A friend, who also said he was friends and had worked with Weltig, also told Arnold Police that Harp told him that he had shot Weltig, the report said.
Also in 2015, Harp’s ex-wife told detectives she did not drive her former husband to the liquor store the day of the murder, and instead, she said she was at home when Harp came in and immediately went to take a shower. She said her ex-husband told her he had just shot a man in an Arnold liquor store, the probable-cause statement said.
Harp’s former wife said her ex-husband told her the man he shot was Weltig, according to the report.
Detectives also interviewed Harp in 2015, but they were unable to gather enough evidence to seek charges for the murder, Shockey said.
The friend and ex-wife were interviewed again this year in August and September, and their stories remained the same, claiming Harp shot and killed Weltig. The only difference in their story and Harp’s is whether his former wife was waiting outside the liquor story the day Weltig was murdered, the report said.
Harp was interviewed on Aug. 27, and he again denied having any involvement in Weltig’s murder. But on Sept. 16, he allegedly confessed to his actions that led to Weltig’s death, the probable-cause statement said.
Harp, who requires 24-hour medical care because of poor health, told detectives that in the 1980s and 1990s that he used to be muscular and people would hire him to “collect or enforce.” He claims he had collected payment from others by either physically assaulting them, shooting at them, pistol-whipping them and hitting them with a hammer, the report said.
The probable-cause statement said Harp’s criminal history includes arrests for unlawful use of a weapon, first-degree kidnapping, tampering, illegal drugs, burglary, stealing, assault and traffic violations.
Harp has previously been convicted of at least five felonies, according to court records
In December 1984, he pleaded guilty in St. Louis County to a felony weapons charge and was sentenced to five years in prison. However, the sentence was suspended, and he was placed on five years’ probation, court documents said.
In December 1991, Harp entered Alford pleas for charges for second-degree burglary, felony stealing and felony drug possession in St. Louis County. By entering Alford pleas, Harp did not admit guilt but agreed there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty of the offenses.
He was sentenced to five years in prison for each charge, and the sentences were served concurrently, or at the same time, court records show.
In August 1997, Harp pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge after a 1996 arrest in Jefferson County. He was sentenced to three years in prison, according to court records.