When a heartbroken Kate Kasten lost her husband Kory to cancer, she was left to raise their two children alone.
Kory had been the love of her life and had battled for six years before succumbing to the disease, aged 43, in the spring of 2017.
Her friends and family were amazed at how positive she remained, but she told them that Kory had said he didn’t want her to be sad.
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Instead, he wanted her to live – and love – as life was too short to do anything else.
Then Kate, 37, met lorry driver Richard Darren Emery at a concert.
They started dating and he moved in with the widow and her son, Jonathan, 10, and eight-year-old daughter Zoe at their home in St Charles, a suburb of St Louis in Missouri.
Jonathan loved superhero costumes, video games and Lego, while Zoe played hockey and liked trampolining and crafts.
Emery had a son from a previous relationship, too.
During Christmas 2018, after the couple had been together about a year and a half, Kate’s 61-year-old mother, Jane Moeckel, moved in with them as she recovered from a hip operation.
On 28 December, Emery, then 46, went to a poker tournament at a local bar.
Kate had wanted him to stay in that night, but he went out and was drinking heavily.
The couple exchanged texts during the evening, and Emery believed Kate was suggesting they have sex when he got home.
But on his return at 11.30pm they had a huge argument.
Jonathan had completed a Lego set Emery had given him for Christmas.
As he tried to show it off, Emery went for a shower, leaving Kate upset that he hadn’t even commented on the boy’s achievement.
As the row escalated, she insisted Emery leave the house.
Soon afterwards a 911 call was made from the house.
It was Kate’s mother, screaming hysterically.
Zoe could be heard in the background, crying, "Why? Why?"
Jane had to give the address twice because of the noise.
“He has a gun,” she cried, and a gunshot sounded before everything went quiet.
After a few seconds, more shots were heard, followed by silence.
When the police arrived, they found Kate in the master bedroom with bullet wounds to the head and shoulder.
She was barely alive and unable to speak.
Officers tried to tie a T-shirt around her head to stem the blood flow and she was rushed to hospital where she died.
In another bedroom, her mother lay dead, along with both of her grandchildren.
All of them had been shot – Jonathan three times.
Kate was the first to be shot and the last to die in a quadruple killing with just one suspect – Emery.
Police were soon on the trail of Emery, who had left in his pick-up truck – but they didn’t know he had an AR-15 rifle and more than 900 rounds of ammunition with him.
He would later claim he planned to take his own life, but when pulled over by police less than a mile from the crime scene, he opened fire.
They shot him twice, but he again fled, this time on foot.
Emery attempted to hijack a car and tried to force the driver into the passenger seat.
As the driver bravely fought back, he stabbed her seven times.
One wound punctured her lung, but she would survive.
Eventually, Emery was arrested as he went into the toilets at a petrol station four miles away.
And with him finally in custody the police were able to piece together the tragic events.
Emery claimed Kate had slapped him during their row.
He’d then taken his gun from the safe in his bedside table and shot her twice at point-blank range.
Jane frantically tried to barricade herself and the children in another bedroom and dialled 911.
But Emery kicked the door down and shot all three of them dead.
He’d never before been heard to raise his voice – but now he’d killed four people.
Kate’s family were devastated, and more than 400 people attended a vigil for Kate, Jane, Jonathan and Zoe.
At his trial this year, the prosecution said that Emery had killed Kate then shot the others to eliminate the witnesses.
They added "all he cares about is his life".
Emery told the court that he’d had two failed marriages and several bisexual encounters, but with Kate he had felt as though he "finally belonged".
However, he admitted to having been jealous of Kate’s late husband.
At the time of the killing, he claimed he was frustrated as Kate had repeatedly refused to have intercourse with him because her menstrual cycle had left her "moody".
On the night of the killings, he claimed Kate had told him to have a shower when he got home and wake her up.
Because he believed that meant she wanted to have sex, he hadn’t paid any attention to Jonathan’s Lego set.
Emery’s defence argued he suffered from a mental illness that sent him into a "dream-like" state.
Emery told the court, "I don’t want to remember anything. I don’t want to know what I did to my family.
"You’re going to make me sound like I planned this out, like I had an itinerary. I have so many regrets that night. The first four are obvious and the fifth is me not killing myself."
The prosecution claimed Emery had known exactly what he was doing and was now presenting himself as a victim.
Jurors heard the emergency call that Jane had made, with Zoe’s chilling cries of "Why?" and the gunshots in the background.
Nine shots had been fired.
Seven of them hit the victims, all of whom had been killed in less than a minute.
Emery had then gone on to shoot at police and stab a stranger in his attempt to escape.
"Everything he did in those hours was about him and his safety," the prosecution argued.
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Emery, 50, was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and the jury recommended he be given the death penalty for the murder of an entire family.
And at the formal sentencing at St Charles County Courthouse in Missouri last month the judge confirmed the death sentence.
An appeal is planned.
The judge said he had spent many sleepless nights considering the defendant’s fate, but Emery hadn’t shown any true remorse.
"I tried to remember any testimony that you gave accepting responsibility, but your response was always, 'I’m just
a screw-up,'" the judge told the killer. "As if, somehow, that was the acceptance of responsibility. How I wish you would’ve asked for forgiveness."
The victims’ family and loved ones said they would never recover from the murders, while some members of the law enforcement services who had been on duty on the night of the killings, were so traumatised they were unable to return to work.
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