UPDATE: Columbia College student killed in apparent murder-suicide

Thursday, April 1, 2010 | 6:47 p.m. CDT; updated 8:32 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 1, 2010

COLUMBIA — Kimberly Smith was a criminal justice major at Columbia College, set to graduate in May. The 20-year-old was in her hometown, Troy, during her last spring break as an undergraduate.

Her on-again, off-again boyfriend there, Rafe Wagner, had just completed training to start a new life as a prison guard.

And for reasons not yet understood, authorities think he turned his .40-caliber Glock on Smith sometime Saturday before turning it on himself, ending both lives with two pulls of the trigger.

Authorities said the two weren't found until early Monday morning, when Smith's family members, concerned by her disappearance, saw her car in Wagner's driveway at 244 Autumn Oaks Drive in Troy and spotted the couple's bodies through a front-door window of his house.

Lincoln County Sheriff's Detective Shayne Duryea said investigators were still looking into the deaths — conducting interviews, performing forensic tests — but the extra work may be for naught.

"We don’t have any indications or reason to believe that this was anything other than a murder-suicide," Duryea said.

Wagner, 28, got divorced in September 2009, and according to one family member interviewed by Duryea, he started seeing Smith around that time. The pair had apparently not met before then, Duryea said.

Wagner didn't have a criminal record — just a couple minor traffic tickets — or any reported history of domestic violence with Lincoln County law enforcement.

Duryea said Smith's family alleged that Wagner abused her, which Wagner's family denied. Officially, the department had no evidence of abuse, Duryea said.

Smith grew up in Troy and graduated from Troy Buchanan High School in 2007.

Columbia College is on spring break this week. A news release from spokeswoman Joanne Tedesco said, "The Columbia College community is saddened by the loss."

There was no word from the college about any memorials that might be planned. Students return to classes next week.

Services for Smith will be held at noon Friday at the Ingersoll Chapel for Funeral and Cremation Services, 211 Boone St. in Troy.

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Leah Strid April 2, 2010 | 1:35 a.m.

This is a tragic story. My condolences to her family and friends.

However, perhaps the Missourian editors should proofread published articles a little more carefully, as the Missouri Department of Corrections doesn't have prison guards, they employ correction officers. 'Prison guard' is an outdated and offensive term. The C.O.'s at the Missouri DOC facilities are custody certified and undergo a great deal of training. Kudos to the Tribune for using the correct job title.

(Report Comment)
Anonymous III April 2, 2010 | 11:29 a.m.

I find this immensely tragic, and I think probably the biggest tragedy is how many people cloud actions in denial, ending in people doing this kind of stuff. There are so many chaotic families out there who have insane ideas about what abuse actually is that so often their children grow up with altered chemical levels in their brain and then go into relationships as victimizing abusers. This is such an easily traceable pattern that so sadly often ends in the victim being murdered, just like this girl. To read that this man's family is saying he never abused her only makes sense if you realize that there is a good chance abuse is a part of their family, and that they either don't think abuse is abuse, or else they are so unwilling to confront those feelings that they would rather keep denying (either explanation would fit abused human behavior). I know everyone would like to think that humans are completely free-willed creatures and that no matter what happened in their past they could do anything in the future, but the reality is that someone who is so disturbed that he is willing to murder his much younger girlfriend then kill himself almost categorically had to grow in chaos, or else has an extremely serious brain disease (and often both, since chaos can trigger disease). As a society, I find it mind boggling how little we talk about this, because it seems to me this is an extremely dangerous problem we have that ends up in horrible stories like that of this girl, and untold others who silently still suffer abuse.

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