ST. CHARLES, Mo. – A man convicted of murdering his girlfriend and her family days after Christmas in 2018 will suffer the death penalty in state prison, a St. Charles judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Michael James Fagras affirmed the jury’s recommendation of capital punishment for Richard Darren Emery.
“This is a difficult decision to make, and I don’t take that lightly” Fagras said.
Emery will be moved to death row at the Potosi Correctional Center. The execution will take place at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. The exact manner and time of the execution will be determined by the Missouri Department of Corrections, Fagras said.
Prior to Judge Fagras’ ruling, the defense requested a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
A jury of two men and 10 women in their mid-20s to mid-60s convicted Emery of four counts of first-degree murder on Sept. 30, 2022.
On Oct. 4, the jury deliberated for a little over two hours before recommending the death penalty for Emery. The jury determined Emery acted with depravity of mind, vile callousness, and disregard for the sanctity of all life.
Emery’s attorneys did not dispute the fact that he killed his girlfriend, Kate Kasten, her two children from a previous relationship, 10-year-old Jonathan and 8-year-old Zoe, and Kate’s mother, Jane Moeckel.
Emery’s public defense attorneys presented a diminished capacity case to the jury, claiming he’d previously been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and was not in control of himself at the time of the murders. They had pushed for conviction on second-degree murder in the hope of sparing Emery’s life. Emery’s family, friends, and coworkers testified to try and convince the jury to change their mind about giving him the death sentence.
The murders happened on Dec. 28, 2018, at Kasten’s home in the 100 block of Whetstone Drive.
During the trial, prosecutors demonstrated that all four victims had been shot in the face or head at close range. The murder weapon, a 9mm pistol, was so close to the victims that their skin had gunpowder burns.
Emery fired nine shots in all. Kate was the first person shot, but was the last to die. She died hours later at a local hospital.
Moeckel, Kate’s mother, barricaded herself and two grandchildren in another room in the house. After shooting Kate, Emery broke down the door to that room and shot Moeckel while she was on the phone with 911 dispatchers. Before being shot and killed, Moeckel provided dispatchers with the home address and said her daughter had been murdered. She never got a chance to identify the shooter.
The two children, Jonathan and Zoe, were the final victims to be shot.
After the shooting, Emery left the home with the pistol and an AR-15 rifle, including 500 rounds of ammunition, and a knife. Emery drove away from the home as police arrived at the scene. That officer radioed colleagues to stop Emery’s truck.
Emery was pulled over and exchanged gunfire with police. He was wounded during the shootout and fled. He did not take the AR-15 with him.
Prosecutors said Emery eventually came across a woman who was leaving a Christmas party. Emery, who still had his knife, carjacked the woman and attacked her. He stabbed the woman seven times, five times in her chest, but ran off when the car alarm went off. The woman survived.
Emery was captured the morning after the shootings at a St. Charles QuikTrip, where police found him in a bathroom, covered in blood.
Emery took the stand on the final day of the trial to say he was not in control of his actions but acknowledged he had killed Kate and her family, and accepted responsibility for their deaths.
The start of the trial was delayed several months after Emery’s public defender died in Jan. 2022. Public defenders from Jefferson City represented Emery during the trial.