ST. CHARLES, Mo. – After several hours of testimony punctuated by occasional sobbing fits, a St. Charles man acknowledged that he killed his girlfriend, her two children, and their grandmother, but told the court that he was not in control of his actions that night.
Richard Darren Emery claimed he didn’t know what was happening on the night of Dec. 28, 2018, the night he is accused of killing 39-year-old Kate Kasten, her two children from a previous relationship, 10-year-old Jonathan and 8-year-old Zoe, and Kate’s mother, 61-year-old Jane Moeckel. Emery said he felt like he was in a video game as an argument with his girlfriend escalated, culminating with the murders.
Emery told the court that he and Kate had been at Throw Backs Bar & Grill in St. Peters for nearly four hours that night, playing poker, drinking a bucket of beers, and talking with friends. He claimed they were both drinking, but prosecutors say Kate’s blood alcohol level was 0.0 during the autopsy.
Based on Emery’s testimony, he left the bar shortly after 11 p.m. to return to see Kate. A text message thread cited earlier in court hinted the two might have sex. When Emery arrived back at the house, he says he recalls Jonathan in the kitchen trying to show him a Lego set he completed, one he had just bought for Christmas. Emery recalls that moment, but went up to the shower promptly after he arrived back. Once he got out and in a bedroom, Emery says Kate started arguing that he had not acknowledged Jonathan’s Lego project enough.
“It seemed very out of the blue. She didn’t seem like the kind of person who would start an argument,” Emery testified.
An argument then ensued, Emery said, one in which recalled telling Kate something along the lines of “I can’t do anything right” or “no matter what I do, it’s not good enough.” He said Kate told him to “Get the [expletive] out of my house” and slapped him in the face.
According to Emery’s testimony, the two ended up in a struggle, which led to him grabbing her and punching her. As the situation escalated, Emery recalls he went to a gun safe and took out a pistol.
“It went off. … You don’t understand what’s going on… How did it get over there, we were in the bathroom. We were struggling, it didn’t make any sense.”
Before midnight, a 911 call was made by Kate’s mother, who was also in the house and heard the disturbance. Emery claims he remembers gunshots going off, but says he did not deliberately shoot Kate, Jonathan, Zoe, and Jane.
“This whole process, I don’t know what’s happening. I mean, I’m there, but I’m not there,” Emery said.
His public defense attorneys are presenting a diminished capacity case to the jury, claiming Emery had previously been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and was not in control of himself at the time of the murders.
During Thursday’s cross-examination, prosecutors attempted to prove Emery to be a hot head who is prone to violence.
Prosecutors brought up a 2016 golf game in which Emery threatened to shoot a member of the foursome. When asked about the incident, Emery said there was a man in their group who was loud and obnoxious while they were playing. Others in their foursome would ask him to stop throughout, but he didn’t listen. Emery said it was etiquette.
Near the end of the round, Emery said he undid the strap on the back of the man’s golf cart so his clubs would fall off when he drove away.
After the round, Emery was in the parking lot and the man drove up in the golf cart and asked if he was responsible for the clubs spilling out. Emery said he was and told the court the man then punched him once in the face. Emery said he staggered back, but went to his truck to put his clubs away.
Emery said the man approached him again, but was with one of Emery’s friends. Emery told the court he thought the man was coming to attack him again, so he grabbed a pistol that he kept in his truck for self-defense. He warned the man he would shoot him if he came any closer.
Emery later learned the guy was coming over to apologize for hitting him.
Prosecutors brought up another incident at Community Wholesale Tire in Hazelwood, where Emery worked as a delivery driver. Emery testified that a co-worker threw a trailer wheel at him in an unsafe manner. The box skipped off the loading dock, onto his truck where he was standing, and landed on his feet.
Emery got out of the truck and began yelling at his coworker. A supervisor came by, saw the men arguing, and sent them both home for the day to cool off. Emery said when he drove out of the parking lot, the coworker pulled alongside him and waved at him to pull over. Emery said he kept driving, but the man followed.
Emery stopped at a fast food place for food. His coworker pulled into the parking lot, got out, and approached Emery’s truck, yelling at him to get out the truck. Emery stayed in the truck and said he wasn’t there to fight.
Prosecution asked if Emery displayed a pistol. He said yes, because he felt threatened.
Finally, the prosecutor inquired about the time Emery was pepper sprayed while in jail. Emery admitted he was ultimately in the wrong and not listening to what he should be doing. The prosecutor asked him to explain.
Emery said a female corrections officer had told him and two other inmates to return to their cells. Emery said he was upset at the time and flipped a food tray. The tray went in the officer’s direction, but Emery claims it was not intentional. The officer backed up and deployed her pepper spray on Emery.
Emery said he did not remember signing a report about the incident, and could not recall if he said anything to the officer in the moment.
After the murders of Kate Kasten and her family, Emery exchanged gunfire with police and tried to carjack a woman while attempting to get away. Investigators said Emery stabbed that woman seven times, including five times in the chest. She survived that attack.
Emery was captured the morning after the shootings in a St. Charles QuikTrip bathroom, suffering from gunshot wounds. Authorities believe he was injured during the shootout with police.
“I wanted to go to sleep, I wanted to be warm,” Emery said on the stand. “I wanted the nightmare to end. Somehow, I knew if I would go back to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up.”
Late Thursday afternoon, the prosecution went back to the night of the murder. Emery stressed he could not recall the exact order of things and did not remember where in the bedroom he shot Kate. He said he never saw the crime scene photos, but the prosecutor said that’s because Emery told police he didn’t want to view them after his arrest.
The prosecutor showed Emery photos from the crime scene, as well as video from police body cameras. Emery broke down in tears each time he saw the victims.
Emery and the prosecutor dispute who was in control that night. Emery reiterated the situation felt like a video game to him. The prosecutor continuously asked Emery, “who pulled the trigger,” with each shot fired that night. Emery responded, “I did.”
When Emery testified that he could not remember how close he was to 8-year-old Zoe when he shot her, the prosecutor had a crime scene photo displayed on Emery’s monitor at the witness stand. The prosecutor pointed out that a ballistics expert previously testified that this could only occur if the shooter was within one or two feet of the target.
Emery said he considered taking his own life before getting into the brief shootout with police. He testified putting the pistol he used to kill Kate and her family up to his own head after he’d been pulled over. The prosecutor said officers testified they did not see Emery with a handgun at the time.
Emery claims he did not make the conscious decision to exit his truck and open fire at police. He also told the court he could not remember making a conscious decision to stab a woman during his attempted carjacking.
At this point, the prosecutor grew frustrated and asked Emery if he couldn’t remember those events or if he simply didn’t want to remember them.
“You’re right. I don’t want to remember anything,” Emery said. “I don’t want to know what I did to my family. You’re gonna make me sound like I planned this out, like I had an itinerary? Sir, you are incorrect!
“I have so many regrets of that night. And the first four are very obvious. And the fifth one is me not killing myself. This was not supposed to happen – ever!”
Following hours under cross-examination from prosecutors, Emery’s defense attorney asked her sobbing client, ““Darren, did you deliberately kill your family?”
“No! I miss them so much!” he said.
“Darren…do you take full responsibility for what happened?”
“Yes. It was all my fault!” he said.
The trial began Sept. 20. Prosecutors have previously said they expect the trial to last about two and a half weeks, with court taking place on Saturdays.