ST CHARLES, Mo. — A St. Charles jury recommended the death penalty for Richard "Darren" Emery for the 2018 murders of his girlfriend, her two children and her mother.
The jury deliberated for about two and a half hours before returning with the sentence. The jury was choosing between life in prison without probation or parole, or the death penalty.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said the formal sentence will be handed down by the judge. He said that will occur on Nov. 3.
Emery was sobbing and holding his attorneys after the sentence was read. 5 On Your Side's Justina Coronel said crying could be heard elsewhere in the courtroom as well.
On Friday afternoon, the same jury found Emery guilty of first-degree murder less than two hours after beginning deliberation about whether he was guilty of first- or second-degree murder.
Emery was accused of killing his girlfriend, her two young children and her mother in 2018. He faced four counts of first-degree murder and 11 other charges for crimes allegedly committed in the hours-long manhunt following the shootings.
Throughout the trial that began on Tuesday, Sept. 20, Emery's defense built its argument on Emery's borderline personality disorder and says he was in a disassociated state when he murdered the family and should only be convicted of second-degree murder. Prosecutors, however, stood firm that he was aware of what he was doing so it was first-degree murder.
On Thursday, Sept. 29, Emery took the stand and gave his account of the deadly night of Dec. 29, 2018. He didn't deny murdering the family but said it felt like he "was there but not there" and compared it to a game of "Call of Duty" but did not know who was controlling the game.
Lohmar said he believes the defense's argument backfired.
"It was disingenuous and not true and they proved for about three weeks it was all part of a plan of self-preservation," he said.
"It’s a surreal feeling, nobody likes to be here," Lohmar said. "We don’t take pleasure being here. On the flip side, we are satisfied. Justice has been served."
Closing arguments before the decision
Prosecutors pushed the death penalty in their closing arguments to the jury.
"His raid is over," said prosecutor Philip Groenweghe. "He should forfeit his life because he has caused so much pain to others. What matters most to him is his life."
That's when he said a strong message about his conduct would be to recommend for he forfeits his life.
"Anything else to him would be a victory," Groenweghe said. "He has shown callous disregard to everyone. Maybe living with yourself is punishment enough, but all he cares about is his life. That’s where his treasure is to be found."
As for his defense attorneys, they described Emery as a good man with a good heart with good people who care for him.
"Life in prison without possibility of parole means he will die in prison," Stephanie Zipfel said. "Now you must decide if Darren is someone who is so purely evil, so irredeemable that he must be eliminated from this earth."
While the jury already found him guilty, she noted they could still use his mental health condition for the mitigation phase in the penalty.
"It's not an excuse. He makes no excuses for what he’s done but look at it to provide some context," she said. "He knows the pain he’s caused and he's deeply remorseful for his actions. He’s ashamed, he’s broken and will be forever. He will have to suffer the rest of his life for what he’s done."
She further said this isn't about forgiveness but rather a punishment and if they consider mercy.
"Darren is more than the worse things he’s ever done," Zipfel adds. "You have to make a choice in your soul and this is a moral decision."
A judge will need to approve the jury's recommendation on Nov. 3.
Lohmar said there will be an automatic appeal to the state’s Supreme Court and several appellate steps along the way.
"This is a huge step, the biggest step but the first step to what’s going to be a long process," Lohmar said.