Mo. man suspected of killing entire family in Kansas

By John Hanna
The Associated Press

BURLINGAME, Kan. — A former city official from Missouri who lost his job after he was charged with assaulting his wife was due in court Monday to face charges of fatally shooting her and their teenage daughters in eastern Kansas.

The Kansas attorney general's office said in a statement that James Kraig Kahler, 46, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of three counts of capital murder in the deaths of his 44-year-old wife, Karen, and their daughters, Emily, 18, and Lauren, 16.

He also is accused of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of his wife's 89-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Wight, in whose home near Topeka the bodies were discovered on Saturday night.

Ashley Anstaett, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said Wight remained in critical condition Sunday.

Kahler is accused of aggravated burglary because authorities suspect he broke into Wight's home to commit the crimes, the statement said. He was scheduled to appear in Osage County District Court on Monday morning.

Anstaett said she didn't know whether Kahler, who was arrested after a 12-hour manhunt, had an attorney.

She confirmed that Kahler used to be the director of the Water & Light Department in Columbia, Mo., where he faced other charges. Online court records show Kahler was scheduled for trial in Columbia on Wednesday on a domestic assault charge that stemmed from an altercation with his wife in March.

Kahler's attorney in that case, Rusty Antel, said the couple was divorcing and his client had moved from Columbia to the Topeka area. Court records show the Kahlers' divorce trial was scheduled for Dec. 21.

Court records said the Kahlers had been sparring over their children, and a hearing was scheduled for January.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins had asked Kahler to resign in September because of what Watkins called Kahler's "difficult family issues."

A neighbor of Karen Kahler said police were called to her home twice over the summer in response to reports that Kahler had slashed his wife's car tires and ripped out utility cables. Karen Kahler had shared the Columbia home with their teenage daughters and their other child, aged 10.

In Kansas, Anstaett would not comment on whether the third child had been at Wight's home in Burlingame, 21 miles southwest of Topeka, when the killings occurred.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that police radio traffic indicated a 10-year-old child fled the house to call for help.

Phone messages left by The Associated Press were not returned by Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman; city council member Paul Sturtz; Kahler's successor, Michael Schmitz; and Daniel Pingelton, Karen Kahler's attorney in the divorce case.

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