FENTON, Mo. – Authorities are continuing a manhunt for a Fenton man accused of shooting his estranged wife and killing his father-in-law.
St. Louis County police were called to a home on Charity Court just before 6:00 p.m. Thursday. When police arrived, they found a woman outside with a gunshot wound to the leg. She told police her husband, James Kempf, shot her but she was able to escape to a neighbor’s house.
According to Officer Tracy Panus, a county police spokeswoman, the victim told police her father, who lived nearby, was still in the house with Kempf. The police tactical team responded and a stand-off ensued for more than four hours – until police finally made entry into the house and found the body of 66-year-old John Colter, the woman's father.
Colter's actions may have saved his daughter's life.
“There was some type of altercation. Her father tried to intervene when she was shot in the leg. We suspect that’s how he was shot; trying to intervene on the victim’s behalf,” Panus said. “At this point, we still don’t have the suspect in custody and we’re looking for him actively and want to get him in custody as quickly as possible.”
Police believe Kempf fled immediately after the shooting and before officers arrived.
Colter worked as a pharmacist in the SSM Health Network in the St. Louis-area and he traveled to many facilities.
SSM Health issued a statement on Colter's murder: "John Colter was a beloved member of our pharmacy team at SSM Health in St. Louis. Our hearts break for his family and friends during this tragic time. We will keep them in our prayers as we cope with the senseless loss of our cherished colleague and friend."
Meanwhile, Fox 2 confirmed through court records that Kempf's wife filed for divorce last September and that she was granted a full order of protection against him. She wrote in the order that throughout their marriage Kempf threatened and verbally abused her and was violent on several occasions. Kempf was ordered to not come within 500 feet of her.
Neighbor Kathy Pusateri is still shaken by the tragedy more than 24 hours later.
"Very disturbing; very disturbing that one minute someone can be seen apparently be seen so happy and the next minute, just senseless actions," she said.
Police described Kempf, 45, as a white man, standing about 5’9” tall and weighing 200 pounds.
Prosecutors have charged Kempf with second-degree murder, first-degree assault, and armed criminal action.
Anyone with information on Kempf's whereabouts is encouraged to contact their nearest law enforcement agency immediately. You can also file an anonymous tip by calling CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS.