Removal begins of factory where girl's body was found

Thursday, August 22, 2002

VALLEY PARK, Mo. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the process Wednesday of removing an abandoned glass factory where a 6-year-old kidnapping victim was found dead.

Cassandra "Casey" Williamson's body was found July 26, several hours after she was reported missing from her home in this western St. Louis suburb. Johnny Johnson, 24, a houseguest of Cassandra's father, was charged with kidnapping, first-degree murder and attempted rape.

Corps of Engineers workers have begun cutting down trees around the site of the former St. Louis Plate Glass Co. that was founded in 1902. The factory was abandoned in 1915 after the Meramec River flooded, but was never demolished.

After the trees are removed, the Corps plans to demolish the old factory to make way for a flood levee. Demolition work is expected to begin in October.

The old factory isn't far from where Cassandra was kidnapped. Neighbors say its removal is long overdue.

"I believe it should have been torn down a long time ago," said Jeff Scott, 33. "You've got kids doing drugs and underage drinking going on back there. You have transients back there. It's about time they did something."

Cassandra's disappearance was reported by her father, Ernie Williamson, who said he was preparing to pour her a bowl of cereal when he stepped out of the kitchen briefly. When he returned, she was gone.

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