An HIV-positive man infected 18 women and girls in Missouri with the AIDS virus in what public health officials called the largest known documented case of its kind.
His world knew him as Boss Man, the slender possessor of a kind of devilish charm. He cruised this bedraggled riverside slum in fancy cars, dazzled impressionable girls with roller-skating pyrotechnics, and mysteriously flitted back and forth across the Mississippi River to St. Louis.
But Boss Man had a deadly secret, one he did not share with his dozens of casual girlfriends. He was infected with the virus that causes AIDS. And yet, despite persistent rumors about his illness, the whirl of his flashy skates and his ready money proved irresistible.
28-year-old Darnell “Boss Man″ McGee had more than 100 known sex partners before he was killed in the streets in January 1997. Those he infected with the disease ranged in age from 15 to 29.
McGee was driving in a residential area with a young woman on January 15 when a man flagged him down. The man walked up to the driver’s window, shot McGee at point-blank range and then went through his pockets.
Police were unsure whether the killing was a robbery or revenge against McGee for spreading the virus.
Citing confidentially laws, Illinois health officials refused to even say whether they’ve tested women who had sex with McGee. He lived in East St. Louis, Illinois and is said to have infected women there.
Dr. Larry Fields, then chief health officer for the St. Louis City Department of Health and Hospitals, expressed frustration about not having more recent information from Illinois.
“Although the book is closed on McGee in Missouri, I, too, have an interest in learning the total number of partners infected,″ he said. Missouri officials earlier had said McGee infected about 30 sex partners, relying on initial Illinois numbers.
Nonetheless, Fields stressed that the release of Missouri’s report reflected more than just numbers, but real lives.
“The information shared today is more than a story,″ he said. “There is a lot of pain involved for individuals who are still part of our community.″
McGee, who learned he was HIV positive in 1992, had sex with at least 101 females before his death. Including four who were only 13 or 14 years old, according to Missouri’s report, which was compiled by city and state investigators.
Investigators say McGee preyed on girls with low self-esteem. He made them feel important with flattery and gifts. McGee would even pick them up in front of schools, liquor stores, and skating rinks.
“He told me I was pretty,” said Lucy, who was only 15 years old when she met McGee. “I liked that.”
They had sex four times. She tested positive for the AIDS virus in 1991.
Six of the infected women became pregnant by McGee. It was reported that at least one baby had tested positive for HIV.
The girls who knew him feel certain he was intent on spreading the virus. ”He did it on purpose,” said Angie, a heavyset 21-year-old, described by herself and others as a close friend of Mr. McGee. He got the virus from someone else, she said, ”so he wanted to give it to everybody else.”
”That was his attitude,” said Angie, who refused to give her last name. She was standing at the edge of a trash-strewn driveway, on a bluff overlooking the main road out of town. ”Oh, Boss Man, Boss Man,” she sighed. ”He was a lunatic. He knew he was going to die. He was going to take as many people with him as he could.”
At the Skate King, a long cinder-block shed by the railroad tracks, all the teen-age girls knew Boss Man. Inside the darkened roller skating rink, watched over by armed security guards, the attendants spoke of seeing him drive off with young girls, after a night of twirling and pirouetting.
”He was always skating in here, looking for all the women,” said 20-year-old Erica Frison. ”It was the weak ones he took advantage of.”
And they couldn’t help noticing him. ”He was like magic on wheels,” said Dan Williams, a security guard.
When 19-year-old Denise first saw him at a rink in St. Louis, her mother had just died of AIDS. Mr. McGee seemed to share her grief, crying sympathetically. With indulgent grandparents providing for her, she did not need his money, she said, like some of the other girls he took on shopping trips.
To her, Boss Man had other attractions. At the skating rink, he put everyone else in the shade, she said.
”It’s like, he got out there on the floor, and he was in another world,” she said, so brilliant she begged him for instruction. And his car stereo was powerful and new. ”’When I come, I’m gonna be playing this song,’ he would say, ‘so when you hear this song, come outside.”’
Denise tested positive for the AIDS virus after McGee’s death.
Officials also said that none of the 22 men who were identified as having sex with one of the 101 women have tested positive for HIV.
One woman in 1994 and two in 1996 identified McGee as a sex partner after they tested positive for HIV. Health officials could not find him to talk about the risks or state laws against knowingly spreading the virus.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story about McGee’s death that said he had multiple sex partners while carrying the HIV virus.
“Thirty women came forward within two days of that report,″ said Pamela Rice Walker of the Missouri Department of Health.
The police investigation into McGee’s death was thought to be a revenge killing. 24-year-old Montrell Worthy was arrested for McGee’s murder.
At the time of his arrest, Worthy confessed to shooting McGee during a robbery that netted only a piece of counterfeit crack cocaine. He later recanted, saying police tricked him.
Unfortunately, there are no records that can be found about what happened to Worthy’s case.