ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree a St. Charles man killed his girlfriend, her children, and her mother just days after Christmas in 2018. But what is up for debate is the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the murders.

Richard Darren Emery is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and other felony counts, including armed criminal action and assault.

Emery is accused of killing 39-year-old Kate Kasten, 10-year-old Jonathan, 8-year-old Zoe, and 61-year-old Jane Moeckel, in the family’s home in the 100 block of Whetstone Drive. Emery was living at the home at the time.

A series of gruesome footage was shown to the jury Tuesday from multiple police officers’ body cameras. The St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty in the trial.

In their opening statement, lead prosecutor Phil Groenweghe said Emery wiped out three generations of one family just before midnight on Dec. 28, 2018.

Richard Emery enters the courtroom on the first day of trial
Richard Emery enters the courtroom on the first day of trial.

Emery, 50, dressed in a sport coat, tie, and slacks, sat with his head down as Groenweghe laid out the gruesome details of the quadruple murder. 

All four victims were shot in the face or head at close range, the prosecutor said. The murder weapon, a 9mm pistol, was so close to the victims that their skin had gunpowder burns.

Attorneys for the prosecution and defense agree that Emery had gone out drinking and playing poker earlier that evening. Emery returned home and got into an argument with Kate. At some point, Emery retrieved a handgun, and he and Kate struggled for the weapon.

Emery fired nine shots in all, Groenweghe said. 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. And while it’s uncertain who was shot first, Groenweghe said the last thing the fourth victim witnessed was their own sibling being killed.

After the shooting, Groenweghe said 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 fired seven shots and fled. Emery suffered two gunshot wounds during the shootout. He did not take the AR-15 with him.

Groenweghe 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 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

After his arrest, Groenweghe said Emery asked if the police he shot at were okay. He also asked if the woman he stabbed was okay. At no point did he ask about Kate Kasten and her family.

“The female was conscious but had a significant head wound,” said Rick Fisher, St. Charles police officer. “We were asking who did this and AI had to use a t-shirt to try to stabilize and then helped transport on a cloth gurney. In the other room, I found the grandmother and two children, and they were obviously deceased.”

St. Charles police obtained DNA from the four victims, Groenweghe said, and matched the gun to the bullets at the home. There was blood and skin cells from the victims on Emery’s gun. Investigators also checked the knife and found blood from both Emery and the stabbing victim.

Groenweghe described Emery’s alleged actions “deliberate, intentional and purposeful.” 

The defense admitted that Emery killed Kate and her family, and insisted that he should be held accountable for his crimes. However, they’re presenting a diminished capacity defense 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.

According to the defense, Emery committed second-degree murder and not first-degree murder. The latter implies deliberation and “cool reflection” before acting.

The defense said witnesses will tell the jury that Emery did not have a reputation or demonstrate a pattern of violence over the years, and that the murders were an aberration spurred by mental illness.

The start of the trial was delayed several months after Emery’s public defender died in January 2022. His current attorneys are public defenders from Jefferson City.

The trial is expected to take between two and three weeks, and court will also be in session on Saturdays.