Fenton murder suspect died by suicide when found by police in Arkansas


Fenton murder suspect died by suicide when found by police in Arkansas

James Kempf faces charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action. Photo courtesy of St. Louis County police

A man suspected of killing his father-in-law and shooting his estranged wife near Fenton died by suicide Friday when police tried to take him into custody, St. Louis County police said.James M. Kempf, 45, was found in rural northwest Arkansas after more than a week on the run after the killing, police said.

John D. Colter, in a family photo provided by Schrader Funeral Home

He was accused of entering his estranged wife’s home in the 1800 block of Charity Court the evening of Jan. 23 and shooting her in the leg, according to police. When her father, John Colter, 66, tried to intervene, police said, Kempf shot him in the head and killed him.Kempf’s wife escaped, and St. Louis County police converged on the home, thinking Kempf was still inside. Several hours later, tactical officers entered and realized Kempf had fled.Police on Monday and Tuesday searched for Kempf in a barn, hayloft and wooded area near the crime scene, but came up empty-handed. 

St. Louis County police officers cautiously open a door in a barn on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in unincorporated southwest St. Louis County. A manhunt is underway with officers looking for James Kempf, 45, who is accused of shooting his estranged wife and killing his father-in-law. The barn is less than a half mile from Charity Court where the shootings took place. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

J.B. Forbes

Kempf’s wife survived the attack. Police have not released an update on her condition. She is a firefighter/paramedic with the Mehlville Fire Protection District. The couple separated in April after 17 years of marriage, according to court records. She filed for divorce in September and had an order of protection against Kempf since this fall.Her father, Colter, lived in the Fenton area and was a pharmacist who worked at several locations for SSM Health in St. Louis. 

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James Kempf, 45, is being sought following the shooting Thursday evening that killed 66-year-old John Colter.

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