Crime & Courts

Meriden man faces trial in 4 killings

LYNDON — An eastern Kansas man accused of gunning down his wife, two teenage daughters and his wife's grandmother was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on four counts of capital murder after several witnesses testified about the shootings and bloody aftermath.

James Kraig Kahler, 47, of Meriden, had asked to waive the preliminary hearing in Osage County District Court, to spare his 11-year-old son the stress and emotional trauma of testifying.

But the judge rejected the motion, and the boy testified by remote television hookup outside the courtroom about what he saw on Nov. 28, 2009, in the Burlingame home of his 89-year-old great-grandmother, Dorothy Wight.

The boy said he had been cleaning coins for his collection with his mother, 44-year-old Karen Kahler.

"My dad came through the door and shot my mom" with a deer rifle, the boy testified. "I heard her collapse on the floor after the shot. I think she was holding her leg."

The boy fled and ran to a neighbor's house, where he reported that his father had shot his mother, great-grandmother and two sisters, 18-year-old Emily Kahler and 16-year-old Lauren Kahler.

James Kraig Kahler, who goes by his middle name, had been working until several weeks before the shootings as director of the Water and Light Department in Columbia, Mo.

Kahler's attorney, Tom Haney, told the Columbia Daily Tribune this week that Karen Kahler had carried on a romantic relationship with a man in Texas after she and her husband moved from that state to Columbia in July 2008.

Karen Kahler filed for divorce in March 2009, after an altercation for which Kraig Kahler was charged with assault. Haney said Kraig Kahler's work at the Columbia water department began to suffer because of marital problems, and the city's manager asked him to resign in September 2009. He eventually reached his tipping point, Haney said.

Osage County sheriff's Deputy Nathan Purling testified Tuesday about entering Wight's house and finding Lauren Kahler writhing on a floor with blood on her chest, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Purling said he asked the teenager who shot her and she replied, "My dad."

Unable to breathe, she twice held up her fingers to communicate her age and told Purling, "don't let me die," he testified. Purling said he told the girl he would do his best to comfort her.

Other witnesses also testified that Karen Kahler was found lying on her back in the kitchen, her skin pale blue. Her grandmother was found sitting in a recliner with a gunshot wound.

Magistrate Judge Jon Stephen Jones bound the defendant over on four alternative counts of first-degree murder as well as the capital murder counts. Arraignment is scheduled Feb. 7 in Osage County District Court.