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A Missouri man accused of murdering of his girlfriend, her two young children and her mother after competing in a poker tournament nearly four years ago has been convicted.
Richard "Darren" Emery, 50, was found guilty by a jury of four counts of first-degree murder on Friday in the 2018 slaying of his girlfriend, 39-year-old Kate Kasten, her 8-year-old daughter Zoe, her 10-year-old son Jonathan and her mother, Jane Moeckel, 61 according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Jurors returned their verdict after just under two hours of deliberations after a trial that spanned two weeks. He now faces the death penalty or life in prison without probation or parole.
During trial, Emery, who broke down in tears as the jury read the verdict, confessed to the slayings but was unable to explain what motivated him to kill Kasten, her mother and two children in under a minute at the family’s St. Charles, Missouri home on Dec. 28, 2018.
According to prosecutors, Emery fatally shot Kasten during a verbal altercation after he’d returned home following a night of drinking and playing in a poker tournament at Throwback Tavern in St. Peters. The argument allegedly stemmed from a dispute involving Kasten’s son’s Lego set, which the Missouri man had purchased for him for Christmas, according to KMOV. In the midst of it, Kasten told him to get out of her house, after which he shot her.
Emery then ran to another bedroom in which Moeckel — who was staying at Kasten's to recover from hip surgery — had barricaded herself with her grandkids and called 911. He kicked down the door and shot and killed Moeckel and her two grandchildren at point blank range, prosecutors said.
Emery fled the premises with an AR-15 rifle and 900 rounds of ammunition.
He was spotted by police less than half a mile away, pulled over and began shooting. They fired back and hit him twice, after which he testified that he ran away. He then unsuccessfully attempted to carjack a female motorist, who was leaving a holiday party and stabbed her seven times, making off with her keys but not her car. He was arrested four miles away from where police spotted him — inside a gas station bathroom stall — after the clerk called police.
Emery claimed on the witness stand during trial that he wasn’t in control the night he carried out the quadruple homicide.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Emery testified. “I’m there, but I’m not there. It’s like looking through somebody else’s eyes.”
He also described himself as a “screw-up.”
“They did not deserve me, and I certainly did not deserve them,” he said.
A psychologist for the defense testified during trial proceedings that Emery lived with borderline personality disorder, insisting that he may have carried out the series of murders while in a “dream” state, feeling emasculated by his girlfriend's demand that he leave and comparisons to her deceased husband.
“This was the dream being kicked out from under him,” psychologist Michael L. Hendricks stated. “He had invested heavily in this relationship and was told it was all over. He’d given up so much for naught.”
Emery’s lawyers had sought a second-degree murder conviction in order to spare their client from the possibility of capital punishment.
On Saturday, Kasten’s loved ones took the stand as the case’s trial transitioned to the penalty phase.
"You keep praying,” Rick Moeckel, Kate Kasten’s father, told the court over the weekend, St. Louis television station KSDK reported. “You wake up from this bad dream but it's not a dream. It's for real.”
Kasten’s stepmother addressed the court over the weekend, as well, recounting the lingering trauma that Kasten’s death had inflicted on her family.
"To know we'll never see them again,” Debbie Lubbert said in court. “It hurts us. It really hurts. We trusted Darren.”
The sentencing phase of Emery’s trial was expected to run through Monday.
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