Float trip fatality: Widow coping with loss of husband

9:48 PM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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By Elizabeth Matthews

STEELVILLE, Mo. (KSDK) - A woman is grieving after witnessing her husband getting shot in the head on a weekend float trip. Now police say the shooter, James Crocker, is charged with second-degree murder.

Authorities say he shot 48-year-old Paul Dart Jr. along the Meramec River in Crawford County over the weekend.

Now Loretta Dart has to pick herself up and try to forget the scene of her husband being shot, rushing to his side and trying to bring him back to life. Trying not to think about the man who killed him.

"I hope he rots in hell, I hope the man that did this to my husband rots in hell," says Loretta Dart.

She says she was in love with the man of her dreams and now he's gone. His life taken in a split second over a property dispute.

"He was really trying to stop this guy from hurting anybody or hurting him, he was trying to calm him down and the guy didn't seen none of it," she says.

Dart says she and about 40 others were on an annual float trip down the Meramec River with friends and family. The group stopped on a gravel bar to get a drink and go to the bathroom when the unimaginable happened.

She says this man, James Crocker, came out of the woods and demanded the group get off his property. That's when Paul Dart Jr. stepped in.

"When he went out he went to grab him like this and when he did, the guy pulled out reached up just like that and went pow, and shot him right in the face," says Dart, remembering the scene. "I got halfway up and the guy had already shot my husband in the face, and he went down."

She says she ran to her husband's side to help him. She says she tried breathing for him, trying to revive him, but she says it wasn't working. He was losing blood and she was losing him.

Now she and her son are dealing with the memories of Paul Dart Jr. and remembering the kind of man he was.

"He would do everything for everybody, waking me up every morning, saying, 'Good morning, beautiful; I love you,'" she says.

James Crocker is being held on $650,000 bond. The sheriff's department is waiting on toxicology reports to see if alcohol was a factor. 



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