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Rapid City Journal - Rapid City, South Dakota

Autopsy results due today
By Kevin Woster, Journal Staff Writer
Rapid City Journal; Rapid City, South Dakota

This story ran: Tuesday April 27, 2004

RAPID CITY - Law enforcement officials are expected today to release the cause of death of a 21-year-old California woman whose body was found Friday in a field near Hermosa. And critics of the network of magazine sales companies that she worked for at the time of her death will be watching the news closely.

Kristina Moore of Lancaster, Calif., was reported missing Thursday by her supervisor on a magazine-sales crew working in Rapid Valley. Moore was selling magazines door to door in the O'Brien Street area Thursday during the late afternoon and early evening. She didn't show up to be picked up by her supervisor at 9 p.m.

Friday morning, her body was found near Daughenbaugh Road about three miles north of Hermosa. Deputies at the scene reported the death as an apparent homicide. The Pennington County Sheriff's Office, Rapid City Police Department and South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation have been investigating.

Lt. Lynn McLane of the sheriff's office said late Monday afternoon that an autopsy had been completed Monday on Moore's body but that results wouldn't be available until today.

A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m.

"Our pathologist needed a little more time to review some things," McLane said.

Whoever or whatever killed Moore, her death grabbed the attention of organizations critical of a door-to-door magazine sales network that operates nationwide and primarily employs young people.

Earlene Williams, a New York woman who founded a watchdog group on the magazine-sales industry 22 years ago, said Moore's death is the most recent of many tragedies connected to youth sales crews that are badly supervised and poorly treated.

"I was really dismayed this time, because it's not been two weeks that I dealt with a rollover accident out in Wyoming that left one dead," Williams said. "It's only been two months since I dealt with a drug overdose. The stories come to us from all over."

Williams has been in contact with authorities in the Moore investigation and will continue to monitor the case. So will Phil Ellenbecker, a telecommunications engineer in Verona, Wis, whose 18-year-old daughter died in an accident in 1999, two days after joining a magazine sales crew. Malinda Ellenbecker and six other crew members died when the driver of their van lost control of the vehicle on a stretch of interstate, Phil Ellenbecker said.

"He was speeding down the interstate driving with a suspended license and saw a police car by the side of the road," Ellenbecker said. "He tried to switch seats with a girl up front, rolled, and 12 kids were ejected. Seven died, five were maimed for life."

Ellenbecker formed Dedicated Memorial Parents Group and manages its Web site. He also lobbies for tighter regulations on magazine sales crews, from the field supervisors up to the publishing companies.

"The entire chain is tarnished with all types of criminal activities," he said. "You've got kids being physically and mentally abused. And they're independent contractors, not company employees, so when a kid gets hurt or in trouble, they are just abandoned."

Williams formed Parent Watch after helping her own son break free of a magazine-sales crew in New Jersey years ago. She said the crews are overworked and tightly controlled by their supervisors. In the end, the kids doing all the work make little money and can be vulnerable to injury or worse, she said.

Driver-supervisors drop off individual sellers in neighborhoods and meet at a pickup spot an hour to two hours later, Williams said. There is intense pressure to sell, she said.

"If the car handlers feel the sales aren't adequate, they'll keep them working later, sometimes as late as 11 at night in the summer," Williams said. "Many kids just walk away from these crews, or sometimes they ask a homeowner for help or to call their parents. It's not unusual for a kid not to show up at the end of a drop."

The company that was running Moore's crew was listed by local authorities as Liberator/Imperial Sales. Williams said Liberator and Imperial are actually different entities that often work together under a larger clearing house called Pacific Coast Clearing Services.

But the crew companies operate under different names, and finding company officials is difficult, Williams said.

Sara Rabern, a spokeswoman for South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, said consumer protection specialists in the office received a complaint in 2001 about Liberator Sales, listed as being headquartered in Gig Harbor, Wash., for its door-to-door sales practices for magazines. The complaint was resolved when the company returned money to a customer, Rabern said.

Liberator Sales officials couldn't be reached by the Journal on Monday. A number listed for the company in the Washington directory for Gig Harbor rang into a customer service center for Pacific Coast Clearing Services and a succession of record messages about subscription services.

McLane said she wasn't aware of any complaints or investigations against Liberator/Imperial sales crews in Rapid City this year. She said the crews apparently had left town since Moore's death.

"I don't believe they're in town anymore," she said. "There have been some other groups selling magazines. There's a lot of sales groups out there."

Contact Kevin Woster at 605-394-8413 or

This Article was published online on Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Copyright 2004 Rapid City Journal; Rapid City, South Dakota; All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
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Rapid City Journal

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.
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