In a quadruple murder that "looks and smells like a death penalty case," Missouri police have charged a man in the shooting deaths of his girlfriend, her mother, and her two children. The mother, 61-year-old Jane Moeckel, called 911 late Friday to report a man with a gun in the house in St. Charles; gunshots could be heard in the background, and Moeckel said she'd locked herself in a downstairs room with her two grandchildren, 8-year-old Zoe Kasten and 10-year-old Jonathan Kasten. By the time authorities responded, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that all three were dead, and the children's mother, 39-year-old Kate Kasten, was mortally wounded. "It was a gruesome, gruesome scene," says a prosecutor. "What can possess someone to take the life of a child is beyond me."
Following an all-night manhunt, police arrested Darren Emery, who authorities believe was Kate Kasten's boyfriend and lived in the home. Police say they exchanged gunfire with Emery as they were arriving on the scene; they say he fled on foot and attempted to carjack a woman he stabbed seven times. Police later found Emery with two gunshot wounds in a convenience store bathroom. He's charged with 15 counts that include first-degree murder, first-degree assault, armed criminal action, and attempted robbery. The Post-Dispatch notes that the murders are a tragic coda to a family already beset by heartbreak: Kate Kasten's husband and the children's father, former Marine Kody Kasten, died of cancer last year. (Read more murder stories.)