Former Columbia, Mo. official charged in death of wife and kids

James Kraig Kahler, Columbia’s former water department director, was arrested in rural Kansas yesterday and charged with capital murder in the deaths of his ex-wife Karen, 44, and daughters Emily, 18, and Lauren, 16, according to a spokesperson from the District Court of Osage County, Kansas.

James Kahler, 46, is also charged with the attempted capital murder and aggravated burglary of Dorothy Wight, 89, Karen Kahler’s grandmother. Wight is in critical condition from gunshot wounds in connection with the alleged attack.

According to initial reports in the Topeka Capital-Journal, police responded to reports of gunshots in a home outside Burlingame, Kansas, at about 6 p.m. on Friday night. They reportedly found four people shot. One was pronounced dead at the scene, two others later died at an area hospital.

According to news reports, James Kahler and his ex-wife were preparing to litigate custody of the couple’s children. James Kahler also had a third-degree domestic assault charge pending in Columbia from an alleged incident in March 2009. Case.Net says he was supposed to stand trial on Wednesday. He was free on a $1,000 bond. Karen Kahler also sought a protective order from James Kahler in March 2009, but the request was later dropped, according to Case.Net.

The Death Penalty Defense Unit has been assigned to Kahler’s case. His bail was set at $10 million. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 10.

Friends of Lauren Kahler have started a Facebook tribute site in her memory, which includes this video. On Lauren Kahler’s MySpace page, she writes:

Hi. Im Lola. And welcome to my profile!!! WOO!. Anywho, Im 16 and I live in Missouri. Moved from Texas about a year ago. Hardest thing a person will ever have to go through. Along with that, my parents are getting a divorce and its prety damn messy.

On Emily Kahler’s MySpace page, she writes about how she loves playing the drums and promotes her and Lauren’s band, DaZe Off.

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