ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- The man accused of killing a suburban St. Louis woman, her children and her mother began dating the woman as she rebuilt her life following her husband's death from cancer.
Several hundred people gathered Sunday at a candlelight vigil to remember 39-year-old Kate Kasten, who nursed her late husband, Kory Kasten, for six years before he died in April 2017. Relatives and friends said she moved to St. Charles that December and was in a new relationship with Richard Darren Emery, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Emery is now facing 15 charges , including first-degree murder.
Investigators say Kasten's mother, 61-year-old Jane Moeckel, called 911 about 11:55 p.m. Friday to report she was trying to protect her grandchildren — 8-year-old Zoe Kasten and 10-year-old Jonathan Kasten — by locking them in a room. The three were later found dead in a bedroom.
Kate Kasten was found with gunshot wounds in the master bedroom. She later died at a hospital.
"It's beyond belief," said Frederick Moeckel, Kate Kasten's father. "The kids were very close. Only two years apart. They lost their father less than two years ago. He was an incredible man, and Katie was an incredible daughter. Jane was a wonderful person also."
Authorities said Emery was wounded when he was arrested several hours later in a convenience store after exchanging gunfire with officers. He also is accused of unsuccessfully trying to steal a woman's car while on the run — and stabbing her at least seven times. The woman survived.
Prosecutors have said Emery could face the death penalty once the investigation is complete.
"It looks and smells like a death penalty case," St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said.
Frederick Moeckel was close with his daughter, grandchildren and his ex-wife, who'd been staying with her daughter while recovering from hip surgery. He said he saw the family at least once a week, and the relationship between his daughter and Emery showed no visible signs of problems.
The family shared dinner together on Dec. 23 at his daughter's home, Moeckel said. He said the couple often hugged and his grandchildren adored Emery, who would often help them with homework.
"There was never an indication that something like this could happen," Moeckel said. "The kids loved him. The big question is what the heck happened?"
Police are investigating possible motives. Investigators said Emery was "matter-of-fact" after his arrest Saturday morning and refused to make a statement about the killings.
Emery doesn't appear to have a criminal record. Court records show he is twice divorced, drove a truck for a tire wholesaler and lived with Kasten and her children at the home she owned.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com