By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH, The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Missouri jail guard persuaded her terminally ill father to fatally shoot her estranged husband to resolve a custody dispute and then kill himself so it appeared to be a murder-suicide, authorities allege.
Elizabeth Kilgore, 35, of Quincy, pleaded not guilty last week to first-degree murder in the death of Lance Kilgore. No attorney is listed for her in online court records. She is jailed without bond.
A Missouri State Highway Patrol sergeant wrote in charging documents that 77-year-old Charles Sander killed his son-in-law and himself in September. The shooting occurred during what was supposed to be a custody exchange of the couple’s 2-year-old son at a convenience store in Osceola, which is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Kansas City.
The sergeant said the child was the focus of a contentious divorce that was nearly finalized. A witness who was attempting to mediate the separation said Elizabeth Kilgore described hanging a picture of her estranged husband on a tree and said it felt “good” to shoot it. Another witness reported Elizabeth Kilgore said that if Lance Kilgore tried to take her baby away, she would kill him.
After the couple separated last year, Elizabeth Kilgore moved in with her mother and began working at the St. Clair County Jail. While there, she asked two inmates for help killing her husband, according to the charging documents.
She was fired in August after one of the inmates reported that she’d made the request. She admitted under questioning to smuggling the inmate contraband but denied the solicitation allegation.
In a recorded call, she can be heard telling the second inmate that her father had offered to “handle my problem for me.” Charging documents allege she also told the inmate: “I’ll let him, but I’d hate to see one of my parents go to jail.”
Charles Sander, a convicted felon with an extensive history of drug-related arrests, was in poor health and had been taking what the sergeant described as a “farewell tour” in which he was contacting family members and other to restore broken relationships.
The sergeant wrote that Elizabeth Kilgore blamed her father for her brother’s suicide. Charging documents describe Charles Sander as being “terminal,” but no details are provided on his illness.
One witness said that the day before the shooting, he offered Elizabeth Kilgore his assistance if she wanted to run and hide with her son. The sergeant wrote that Elizabeth Kilgore told the witness she “had it taken care of” and that the witness should stop calling.
That night, Charles Sander stayed with Elizabeth Kilgore at her mother’s home, even though her parents were divorced. He left for the custody exchange the next day with his ex-wife, according to the charging documents.
While Lance Kilgore was talking to his mother-in-law, Charles Sander shot him and then shot himself. The shootings were captured on store surveillance video.
Elizabeth Kilgore arrived minutes later in another vehicle with her son, explaining that she was “running late,” the sergeant wrote.
The pistol used in the killing had been reported missing by Elizabeth Kilgore a week earlier. Lance Kilgore had expressed concerns about his safety as the situation escalated, the sergeant wrote.
[Featured image: Elizabeth Kilgore, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office via AP]