Emory Futo: The inside story of a St. Louis massacre
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It appeared to be a joyous 1991 Fourth of July at the Emory Futo home in Riverside, California. Emory and Angela Futo were hosting a neighborhood party, and among the guests were Emory’s parents, Imre and Euna, who flew in from St. Louis. The gathering was not just to celebrate the nation’s birthday. Joshua Futo was born on the Fourth of July one year earlier, and this was a big birthday celebration for three generations of the Futo family.
All seemed well in the California sunshine. But the seeds of tragedy had been planted a long time ago.
Imre Futo was a native of Hungary. He learned to fend for himself at a young age, and in 1956, when Hungary went into a revolution, Futo fled to the United States and wound up in St. Louis. He was just 19 years old.
Later, he would meet Euna Bailey, a shy soft spoken girl from a large family in Sullivan, Missouri. They would marry in 1964, and within five years have three boys: Emory, Nick, and Joseph. Imre Futo worked the night shift at Anheuser-Busch. Euna worked at Boatman’s Bank. The family lived in south St. Louis, first on Wyoming Street and later on Marquette Avenue.
From the outside, the Futos appeared to be a normal family. But to those close to the inner circle, they were anything but. And the story of what went on behind closed doors laid the groundwork for a horrific crime.
“Those close to the family knew,” said Betty Guetersloh, a cousin to the Futos. “We had a monster in the family.”
That monster, claims Guetersloh, was Imre Futo. She said he abused not just his immediate family members emotionally, physically and sexually, but others too.
Starting with her.
“It started when I was five years old,” said Guetersloh, who has never spoken publicly before. “He began touching me inappropriately. It continued. I was just a little kid. I was afraid to tell anybody.”
Why was Guetersloh speaking now?
“Nothing is going to change anything. But it’s time the truth is known,” she said.
The entire truth of the Futos may never be told, but the most well-known part of the story came in 1991.
It ended with four murdered family members and a son in on trial for their slaying.
“But I can tell you,” said Guetersloh, “whatever happened that day was driven by a series of events that went bad. And the driver was Imre Futo.”
Nobody around the family disputed that Imre Futo demanded things be done his way. Neighbors told investigators he was such a neat freak, he would “sweep the alley in his backyard.”
And if things weren’t done the way Imre Futo wanted, “there would be hell to pay,” said Guetersloh.
Emory Futo’s childhood was far from normal. Whatever he suffered from at home, school offered no respite. Constantly teased at school, he turned into a loner, then a social outcast. He bounced through three high schools: Bishop DuBourg, then St. John the Baptist, before graduating from Southwest in 1982.
After high school, Futo enlisted in the Navy, and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. He would meet a California girl named Angela Leverenz, and while on Christmas leave in 1985, they were married. After his naval stint ended, Futo landed a job as a mechanic at Metal Container Corp in Riverside, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. The couple bought a new stucco style home on a quiet cul-de-sac, and neighbors told police the Futos were quiet and well liked. And in 1990, Joshua arrived.
Back home in St. Louis, problems at the Futo residence continued. Joseph fled to Northeast Missouri State. Nick attempted suicide.
“Does anybody think I killed them?”
About a month before the family gathering in California, Emory Futo began asking friends about a gun. And before his family arrived, he found one. After they left, his plan was set in motion. On Wednesday, July 24, according to court records, Futo faked an illness to get off work. The next day, he kissed Angela and Joshua goodbye and said he was going camping. He said he would be back the next day.
But Emory Futo was not going camping. He was coming home.
Using the name Jim Clayton, Futo boarded American West flight 1408 bound for St. Louis. He would only be in St. Louis for a day. He purchased a round trip ticket, returning on a 6:40 a.m. flight the next morning.
Nick Futo’s girlfriend told police that a gun arrived in the mail that week. When she voiced concern, Nick told her it was for his brother Emory, who was coming to town later in the week for a drug deal. The gun was just for protection. While Emory Futo was still in the air on the 25th, Nick gave money to a co-worker at Grandpa Pidgeon’s on Chippewa to purchase a mallet. After he got off work at 5:30 p.m., Nick headed to the airport to pick up his big brother.
He would have only hours to live.
Around 8 p.m. that night, Nick called his girlfriend and said they hadn’t finished the drug deal yet. He told her he would call again later. She never heard from him again. Around 9 p.m., neighbors near New St. Marcus cemetery, just south of River Des Peres, heard gunshots.
When the calendar turned to July 26, the bodies began piling up in south St. Louis.
Around 4:30 p.m., grave diggers found the body of 24-year-old Nick Futo in the back of the cemetery. He had been shot 4 times, execution style. Inside his pocket was a piece of paper that said “American West 1408.”
Minutes later, a couple of miles south of the cemetery, concerned relatives and police were knocking on the door of 53-year-old Imre and 50-year-old Euna Futo, after the pair did not report to work that day. Their home in the 6500 block of Marquette Avenue had been ransacked, but there was no sign of forced entry. Inside were their bodies. At first glance, police suspected a murder-suicide. But a closer look ruled that out, as prosecutors would later detail in court proceedings. Imre Futo had seven wounds, having been shot three times and stabbed four times. Euna Futo was beaten to death with a blunt object, like a mallet. An electrical cord was tied around her neck. She had been dragged through the house.
Police found something peculiar at the Futo home. All of the family pictures that adorned the walls were taken down and smashed. All but one: a photo of grand baby Joshua. Then they found something else: the couple’s wedding rings had been stripped from their fingers.
And by 6 p.m., the body of 23-year-old Joseph Futo was found in the back seat of his red mustang, in the 3300 block of Watson road, two blocks from his parents’ house. He was shot multiple times, his body covered with trash bags. The same gun was used to kill the father and his sons.
Within 90 minutes, St. Louis homicide detectives had three murder scenes within blocks of each other. There were four bodies. But only one last name.
Detectives quickly began asking the same question: were there any other members of the Futo family, and if the answer was yes, were they alive? And if they were alive, were they in danger? Or were they suspects?
Long before the bodies of the Futo family were found that fateful afternoon, a man named “Jim” called a cab company at 2:47 a.m. He wanted to be picked up at a Denny’s restaurant, taken to a Coco’s restaurant, and then taken to the airport. By 4 a.m, “Jim” was dropped off at Lambert.
Near the Denny’s restaurant, police found Nick’s car.
Hours later, Emory Futo was back in California.
Saying he felt better after his illness, he reported back to work.
Police soon learned there was one remaining family member, but he lived nearly 2,000 miles away in California, and police were having a difficult time locating him. Finally, they found a cousin who tracked Emory Futo down at Angela’s parents’ home. The cousin told Futo what had happened back in St. Louis. She told police Futo only asked one question.
“Does anybody think I killed them?”
Futo returned home, and California police were soon knocking on his door. He told them he had been camping that week, did not own a gun, and had not been back to St. Louis in over a year.
During the police visit, Futo’s phone rang. It was the Los Angeles Times. Word had already traveled.
“I’m in shock,” Futo told the newspaper reporter. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
But California police did. They had evidence Futo had indeed been in St. Louis. They placed Futo under arrest, and took him to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, where he requested an attorney.
Futo went quiet, then said he was done talking.
Meanwhile back in St. Louis, city homicide detective Chris Pappas had been working a grueling schedule. He finally had a long-planned four-day weekend he was looking forward to. Then his phone rang. Murder does not take a holiday. Pappas packed a suitcase and headed to California.
When Pappas arrived, Futo agreed to talk, and waived his Miranda rights. Pappas and other detectives began challenging Futo’s story. Yes, Futo now admitted, he was in St. Louis, but it was to help Nick with a drug deal. He said they went from the airport to a wooded area near St. Marcus Cemetery. Then they heard shots, got scared, and left. Futo then said he returned to California. He insisted that he had not set foot in his parents’ home in years.
Pappas eyed Futo closely. He knew this was a moment where Futo’s statement might not match the evidence on Marquette Avenue. Pappas gave Futo a few moments to think, and then laid down the law.
“Emory, if it’s true that you haven’t been in that house in years,” Pappas said, recalling the events in a recent conversation with News 4, “then we will not find your fingerprints there, will we?”
Futo went quiet, then said he was done talking.
But before long, Futo said he wanted to talk again. Now he remembered some more details. Yes, he did go to his parents’ house after fleeing the cemetery. But when he got there, he found them dead. He said he fled and headed to the airport.
Pappas and the St. Louis detectives weren’t buying it, and kept pressing Futo.
Soon, Futo had another version. This time, Nick picked him up at the airport and they drove to their parents’ home where Nick beat his mother in the head with a mallet. Then they met their brother Joe, and after driving around in his car, Nick shot and killed him. Futo then claimed they went back to their parents’ house, waited for their father to get off the night shift, and then Nick, on a murder spree, killed him too. Futo then claimed he and Nick had a suicide pact all along. This was how it was always supposed to end. They drove to New St. Marcus cemetery where he shot Nick, but then couldn’t shoot himself. Futo said he then drove to the Missouri River, threw away the gun and mallet, ditched the car, called a cab, and flew back to California.
At this point, it was all the detectives could do to keep from laughing at Futo’s ever-changing story.
“I remember we interviewed him for hours,” said Pappas. “He was very talkative and kept acting very dramatic. We were on a first name basis. ‘Hey Chris,’ he would say, ‘this is how it happened.’ ‘Well Emory,’ I would say, ‘what about this?’”
Finally, after Futo weaved his tale about the suicide pact, Pappas had heard enough.
“Emory,” Pappas inquired. “If you were planning a suicide pact, then why did you buy a round trip ticket?”
That question stopped the talkative Futo in his tracks. He stared at Pappas, and had no answer.
Two years after his entire family was murdered, Emory Futo would stand trial.
This time, he had another explanation: Nick had already killed everybody before Emory arrived. Defense attorney Richard Sindel, as good as you can find in a court of law, then went back to the suicide pact between the brothers. Nick committed the murders, then Emory wanted to back out of the pact, and only killed Nick in self defense.
Sindel called witnesses detailing the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse Imre Futo committed on his family. The defense argued that Imre Futo first began abusing his wife, then turned his attention to the children when they reached school age. In his worst moments, the father took the sons into a dark basement.
One witness, who knew the family for more than 20 years, testified the abuse by the senior Futo became well known throughout the southside neighborhood over the years.
Sindel found a former college girlfriend of Joseph Futo. She testified that Futo told her his father beat both his wife, and the children.
And then Betty Guetersloh took the stand.
“I was in that chair for three hours,” Guetersloh said. “And I was pregnant. But I was the only family member left living who could tell the story of the family abuse.”
But Sindel and Guetersloh’s story line kept meeting objections by the state.
Finally, Sindel called on Futo.
When asked about why he came to St. Louis on that fateful day, Futo said he convinced himself in his own mind that he was “going on a camping trip.” Indeed when Futo left his California home en route to the airport, he packed his car with camping gear.
When questioned why he kept changing his story, Futo claimed that the events came back to him “in pieces.” On cue, Sindel had psychological experts on hand to testify that Futo could have forgotten the events of his trip back home, just like he put his beatings as a child out of his mind.
Prosecutors painted a more elaborate picture. Yes, this was about hatred. But it was also about money. They told the jury of an extravagant lifestyle that Futo could not afford, with an expensive California home adorned with a swimming pool. All of it was far beyond the salary he earned working at a metal container plant, argued the state. With his entire family out of the picture, Futo stood to inherit a tidy sum of insurance money, around $350,000.
Robert Craddick prosecuted the case for the state. This was his closing argument.
“.......His intent and purpose from the get-go was to accomplish those murders. His intent and purpose since the accomplishment of those murders is to destroy the evidence which he accomplished, to get out of town without anybody further knowing which he thought he had accomplished and to not leave any trace that he had participated in the murders. Physically he accomplished that. But there is no doubt, ladies and gentlemen, who did those things.....”
The state went all-in for the death penalty.
“Goodbye, Mr. Futo.”
The jury deliberated for quite some time. Both sides were getting anxious. Finally, the verdict came: Guilty on all four counts of murder. Judge Robert Dowd gave Futo his sentence:
“I think it’s clear there is no doubt of your guilt,” Dowd told Futo. And while acknowledging the horrible abuse he suffered, Dowd told Futo, “Your father didn’t deserve to die.”
Dowd delivered the sentence: four consecutive life terms without parole.
Dowd looked down at Futo one last time.
“Goodbye, Mr. Futo.”
Betty Guetersloh watched it happen.
“I don’t believe money had anything to do with this. Angela’s family had money. I know what Emory went through, and if he says he didn’t kill everybody, I believe him.”
An appeals court would later order a retrial, ruling that the Dowd had improperly prohibited Futo from talking with Sindel during breaks in testimony. Then in 1997, Futo was convicted a second time. He currently sits in a prison cell in Potosi. He declined our numerous requests for an interview.
To this day, Chris Pappas hasn’t gotten the answer to the question that’s been nagging him: Why?
“I could never figure that one out,” said Pappas. “His answers kept changing. To kill your entire family? It just made no sense.”
Some 15 years after the murders, Betty Guetersloh got in her car and headed south, looking for answers.
“He doesn’t get any visitors. I needed to go. It was very emotional for both of us. I told him I couldn’t imagine what he went through. I pleaded with him to talk to me. I told him that I forgave him. But I needed to know about his brothers. Why were they killed?” she said.
Futo stood by his story. He said Nick did most of the killing.
But few doubt who killed Imre Futo.
That Fourth of July family gathering in California did not end well. Futo told Guetersloh he walked in on his father who was alone with baby Joshua. What he saw, Futo said, “made him snap.” In front of the neighborhood gathering, Futo kicked his parents out of the house and back to St. Louis.
The next time Futo saw his parents would be the last time.
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