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Suspect Identified In Murders Of South American Researchers In Kansas City

Kevin Ray Moore, 42, died in a murder-suicide incident on Oct. 16, but police believe he was behind the murders of Camila Behrensen and Pablo Guzmán Palma as well as the arson of their apartment on Oct. 1.

By Dorian Geiger
Killers With Fire: Arson Murders

Officials have identified the alleged arsonist who set a Kansas City apartment ablaze earlier this month and killed two South American scientists.

Prosecutors say Kevin Ray Moore, 42, is responsible for intentionally torching the apartment of medical researchers Camila Behrensen and Pablo Guzmán Palma on Oct. 1. 

“This office also expresses its deep condolences to the families of the victims, Camila Behrensen and Pablo Guzmán Palma, as well as to their colleagues and friends at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research,” the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on Oct. 27.

Prosecutors said Moore died on Oct. 16 following a murder-suicide incident in Clay County. Officials, however, were unable to immediately clarify whether Moore died by suicide or if he was a murder victim. The Kansas City Police Department and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office both declined to comment on the open case when contacted on Friday morning.

“We will not be releasing any documents or information at this time because the Clay County investigation is still ongoing and we do not want to compromise the integrity of that case,” Leslie Freeman, a public information officer for the Kansas City Police Department, told Oxygen.com via email.

Photos of victims Camilla Behrensen and Pablo Guzman

Kansas City police officers were dispatched at approximately 5:00 a.m. on Oct. 1 to the 4100 block of Oak Street following reports of a structure fire, Behrensen, 24, and Guzmán Palma, 25, were found deceased at the scene.

“After entering the apartment to extinguish the fire, KCFD located two victims inside suffering from apparent trauma,” a Kansas City Fire Department statement read.

Following the double murder, Kansas City Police asked homeowners in the area to come forward with any possible video surveillance that could help shed light on the allegedly targeted blaze. Detectives also sought Amazon Alexa recordings after a virtual assistant was found in the South American researchers’ apartment, The Daily Beast reported. A $25,000 reward had been offered for information leading to an arrest following the deadly fire.

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Behrensen, who was from Buenos Aires, and Guzmán Palma, who hailed from Santiago, Chile, were predoctoral students at Kansas City’s Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

"We are devastated by the tragic deaths of predoctoral researchers,” Stowers Institute said in an Oct. 4 statement. “These researchers were members of our 2020 class and vibrant members of our Stowers Institute community. Our deepest sympathies are with their families at this difficult time.”

The two researchers joined the medical institute in 2020.

“Camila and Pablo each radiated a distinctive joy and optimism and a love for knowledge that will be profoundly missed,” the Stowers Institute statement added. “They cared deeply for their science and their colleagues, and both were undoubtedly destined to make distinct contributions to our understanding of biology and to humanity. The void that their unrealized personal and scientific accomplishments leave in all of our hearts is deep.”

Behrensen held a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the University Argentina de la Empresa, according to reports. Faculty and fellow researchers described her as a “brilliant young woman with a vibrant intellect.” She was also actively involved as a member at Stowers’ Si Lab, The Kansas City Star reported.

Guzmán Palma, whose research focused on spinal regeneration, was a former biochemistry student of Chile’s Pontifical Catholic University and an avid reader who adored music and cinema. He was a member of the Gibson lab at the medical research institute. 

“Mr. Guzmán Palma’s classmates and faculty at the Institute describe him as a gentle soul with a true passion for science and biology,” the Stowers statement added.

No further information was available from authorities regarding the open case as of Friday afternoon.

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