On Saturday, Loretta Dart watched as a stranger on the Meramec River shot and killed her husband. As we reported yesterday, police say that 59-year-old Steelville resident James Crocker, a property owner along the river, was angry about a group on a float trip stopping near his home. Reportedly upset that one of the men was urinating on the gravel bar, Crocker pulled out his firearm and eventually shot at the men, striking one in the head, police say.
Loretta Dart, the grieving widow of 48-year-old Paul Dart Jr., is now speaking out about the tragic turn of events on what was supposed to be a relaxing float trip with friends and family.
"Missing my husband really bad," she writes on a public post on her Facebook page. "Can't believe he was murdered yesterday. Don't know how im gonna live without him . He was my rock my everything an now he has been taken away from me."
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Here's the full post she published on Sunday after her husband died from his gunshot wounds.
According to police and court records, Crocker had a woman call 911 for him after the shooting and eventually told cops, "It's my property, and I was going to protect it."
He is now facing second-degree murder charges from the Crawford County Prosecutor's Office.
Dart told the Post-Dispatch that Crocker was waving the gun around and firing shots into the air, telling them that they were on his private property. (The property boundaries along the river aren't always clear with river levels in flux).
She also said that her husband was just trying to diffuse the situation and that her cousin had stopped to urinate.
"My husband tried to calm the guy down," she told the paper. "He went to the guy's arm to try to stop him, but the guy jerked back and popped him in the face."
She told KSDK (Channel 5), "I hope he rots in hell, I hope the man that did this to my husband rots in hell."
"He was really trying to stop this guy from hurting anybody or hurting him, he was trying to calm him down and the guy didn't seen none of it," she added, giving this description of the incident:
When he went out he went to grab him like this and when he did, the guy pulled out reached up just like that and went pow, and shot him right in the face. I got halfway up and the guy had already shot my husband in the face, and he went down.
She added of her husband, "He would do everything for everybody, waking me up every morning, saying, 'Good morning, beautiful; I love you.'"
Paul Hart frequently posted public Facebook statuses that referenced his love for his wife.
Here is video of KSDK's heartbreaking interview with the widow, followed by the full news release from Crawford County Sheriff Randy Martin: