St. Marys close boat arson killings investigation
Officers shot, killed suspect in double-murder arson
ST. MARYS, Ga. –
As police wrapped up their investigation Friday into the boat arson killings of two people that led to officers killing the suspect in their deaths, investigators are giving credit to not only their own officers, but also to people who live in the area who gave them crucial information and helped them bring this case to a close.
Human remains of two people were found on a boat that was set on fire early Monday morning. The remains are believed to be those of Karen Barnes, who lived on the boat, and her neighbor Larry Ford.
The boat was anchored on the North River near the St. Marys Boat Yard when it was set on fire by Barnes’ ex-husband, David Trauger, according to investigators.
Police said a 911 call came from Barnes’ cellphone at 3:20 a.m. Monday. It’s the call that began the week-long double-murder arson investigation. Only commotion and moans could be heard in the call.
Investigators found the 37-foot “Premium Time” cabin cruiser ablaze shortly after the call.
“In an extremely intense fire of 2,000-3,000 degrees, bones start to deteriorate and become ash, just like when you would be cremated. This fire was that intense,” said Lt. Shannon Brock, of the St. Marys Police Department.
On Tuesday, police still couldn’t tell if the remains were of a man or woman, but said Barnes and Ford were missing and considered endangered.
Police said all fingers pointed them to Trauger. They learned Barnes was given the boat after their divorce in May. (Couple pictured, right)
Police found Trauger’s truck and a smaller boat abandoned and unsuccessfully sunk in a marsh off Interstate 95. They said it’s the boat Trauger used to get to the “Premium Time” and set it on fire.
“We knew there was a domestic dispute going on because we tried to keep a watch out on the boat a little bit to see what was going on,” Brock said.
“It was no secret that he wanted to kill her, kill Karen, because he wanted that boat,” marina Capt. Jesse Marerro said.
On Wednesday, police said someone reported seeing Trauger near the Willow Way apartments in Kingsland.
While setting up a perimeter, police encountered Trauger in the woods behind his apartment. They said he had a gun in his hand and wouldn’t put it down. Police said he fired his gun, and four officers returned fire, killing him.
Police said they later found papers in Trauger’s truck leading them to believe he was getting his affairs in order and preparing to die. They said they also found shell casings in the boat.