A killer’s confession, 30 years in the making | ‘You know everybody is gone, you’re going to be the one they are coming after’

There have always been questions about the night Emory Futo killed his family.
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 1:01 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Late last month, Emory Futo picked up a phone in a Missouri prison and began to dial. He had recently read a story; one detailing a nightmarish 24 hours for the city of St. Louis nearly 30 years ago that left his entire family dead and a community lost as to how and why someone could have killed them.

No one had the answers to those questions, except Emory Futo, who was convicted of their murders and sent to the Potosi Correctional Center to serve a life sentence. Until he dialed those numbers in August, he never provided the answers. He never confessed, and had disputed whole sections of the police narrative presented at trial. It seemed the real story of what happened to his family that night in 1991 would go untold.

But seeing the account of that gruesome night appear again after such a long time, after so many years in prison, he decided he wanted to tell his story.

“I want you to put this down,” he said when we spoke. “Emory Futo tells the truth after 30 years.”

Futo and I spoke numerous times over a two-week period in late August. I made it clear to him I was not passing judgement, the courts already had. And I was not the person to turn to for sympathy, as we did not know each other. But if he had something to say, to answer all those questions lying dormant for all those years, then we could talk.

There was a pause, as I waited for him to steer the discussion. I did not have to wait long.

“My decision has been made,” Futo said. “It’s my story. I do want to do this. I’m not the same guy. I’m not 24 or 25 anymore. I do want tell my story.”

I asked him what story he wanted to tell.

There was a long pause, but finally, with his voice cracking, he said, “I did this. Nobody else did nothing. I am responsible for everybody. I’m nearing 60. The truth needs to be told.”

Futo said he had read the previous story, and he wanted the full account of that fateful night to be known. Most importantly, he wanted his brothers Nick and Joe cleared of any involvement.

“My brothers did nothing, except turn on me,” he said.

The story of his brothers lies at the heart of the unanswered questions. For some, the history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse that Futo was subjected to by his parents would certainly lead to an understanding of motive. But the deaths of younger brothers Nick and Joe have remained a mystery without explanation for nearly three decades.

Futo’s defense team had argued in court that Nick was the family killer, before Emory killed him in a suicide pact that Emory then backed out of.

“There’s court truth,” Futo said. “And there’s real life truth.”

And here, he said, the two did not meet.

To understand how things went wrong between the three Futo brothers that day, Emory laid out his family history.

Emory Futo, in his Naval uniform, along with his wife Angela, his parents Imre and Euna and his...
Emory Futo, in his Naval uniform, along with his wife Angela, his parents Imre and Euna and his brothers Nicholas (center, front) and Joseph (center, back)(KMOV)

Futo says he began sleeping with a knife when he was 8 years old. He recalls one night his father Imre entered his room, and Futo reached for the knife.

“It’s not there,” Imre smiled.

According to family relatives, Nick Futo was Emory’s half-brother, fathered by his uncle. He also had learning disabilities. Joe, meanwhile, had multiple physical and emotional issues his entire life. And according to Emory, the three of them were emotionally, physically and sexually abused by their parents since they were small children.

“I would have to pull my dad off of them,” Futo said. “And then he would have his way with me. One of his tactics was to catch you from behind. And then it was on.”

Futo said he began sleeping with a knife when he was 8 years old. He recalled one night his father Imre entered his room, and Futo reached for the knife.

“It’s not there,” Imre smiled, and Emory was once again at his mercy.

Futo said when he was 15 he once skipped school. His father came home and saw him, and the two began fighting. He said his father kicked and stomped him on the ground. Futo said he got up and punched his father in the face, knocking him to the ground. It was the first time he had fought back against Imre in his life.

According to Futo, his father said “I’ve been waiting for this moment. You think you’re tough.”

He said his father got up, went into the house, came back with a shotgun, and fired it. Futo ran to the White Front gas station on Watson road. It was the last time his father laid his hands on him, he said.

“My own father put me in the hospital four times,” he said. “Stitches, head trauma, broken knee cap, concussions, internal bleeding, fractured ribs. And after the beatings and sexual abuse, he would tell you that he loved you.”

A couple of years later, Futo said, he had enough. He joined the Navy.

“I left to get out of Missouri and away from my family.”

Futo family murder
Futo family murder(KMOV)

“These boys are going to grow up and kill you one day.”

But Futo said he heard more stories, and while stationed in Great Lakes, he flew home unannounced. He was sitting at the kitchen table when his father walked in stunned.

“What are you doing here?” Futo said his father asked. “I told him ‘you know what I’m doing here.’”

He said his father asked him if his brothers called him.

“I told him that when I left, if I ever heard of him touching my mother or my brothers again, I was going to kill him,” he recounted.

He said he grabbed his father by the throat, but his mother came out and begged him to stop.

And that wasn’t the first time Futo returned. When the family threw a combined graduation party for Nick and Joe, Futo said he flew in from Hawaii. When a fight broke out at the party, Futo said he rushed in to break it up. Then, he recalled, his father grabbed him by the throat. He turned, grabbed his father back, picked him up, and said, “Don’t you ever touch me again. I will kill you. I am not a little boy anymore.”

Futo is clear in his retelling the abuse wasn’t solely perpetrated by his father. That missing knife under the bed? His father told him his mother Euna found it.

“She did things at his direction. As I got older, I remembered more and more,” he said. “I asked her, ‘Why did you join him in doing certain things? You let him do this! You were there!’”

The same mother, Futo said, who would get a beating of her own if there were lumps in her husbands’ gravy.

While in the service, Futo said he saw a psychologist. He would later meet and marry a woman named Angela, and they would attend counseling together.

“My temper was bad” he said “I have a nasty temper.”

That temper, and the cause behind it, didn’t go unnoticed. Futo said a family member once approached Imre and told him, “These boys are going to grow up and kill you one day.”

Years later when Futo’s parents flew out to see them on the Fourth of July in California, they came meet their baby grandson, Emory’s son Joshua.

Futo said he encountered his parents alone with his son, and though he wouldn’t discuss what he saw that day, he said it fit the pattern he and his brothers endured growing up.

He threw his parents’ belongings into the front yard and, “I told them to get out, and not to ever see or talk to me again.”

His brother Nick was flying in to join the party that night. By the time he arrived, the parents were on their way home.

Emory, Nick and Angela spent the evening talking about what had happened in Joshua’s bedroom, and about the history of the family abuse. Futo said Angela could not bear hearing the stories, and left the two brothers alone. He said he and Nick sat by the pool, drank beers, and agreed they could take no more.

“Me and Nick decided we needed to take care of this. This could never happen again. Once you touch my son, that’s already etched in stone. It can’t go no further,” Emory said. “Nick was like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do this. But I can’t do it by myself.”’

He paused again.

“I said, ‘Nick, they got your nephew, in my own house, 2,000 miles away!’”

Another pause.

“I feel like I am going to puke. My legs are shaking up and down.”

Futo’s voice cracked again.

“I couldn’t protect my own son.”

Futo arrest
Futo arrest(KMOV)

“Thoughts that you can’t imagine go through your head,” he said. “You know the thing you are going to do is the worst thing you could ever do.”

Finally, Futo said, after years of running, he had had enough.

“I decided to come out and do everything. I was done. No more hiding,” he explained.

Futo said he and Nick went in the house and called Joe on the phone.

“We hadn’t talked in a long time. Me and Joe did not get along. But everybody decided this is what we were going to do. I thought we had agreed. I thought everything was fine. I was getting on a plane and coming out. I would deal with everything and I would do everything. And Nick and Joe would be there,” he said.

Three weeks after Futo kicked his parents out of his California house, he boarded a plane for St. Louis.

Futo said he didn’t sleep the night before.

“Thoughts that you can’t imagine go through your head,” he said. “You know the thing you are going to do is the worst thing you could ever do.”

Nearly 30 years after that fateful trip, he has had many sleepless nights to stare into the dark and ponder.

Another long pause as Futo cried into the phone.

“I miss them. I miss them so bad sometimes. I don’t know what more to say. To have this weight sitting on me all these years. I need to do this for me. I need to clear my chest and my heart. I know now that what I did was wrong. I hope and pray I will be forgiven. I’m sorry for all the pain I caused,” he said. “I am so sorry. I know I am going to die in prison.”

I gave Futo time to recover, knowing the road we had to travel next.

The body of Nick Futo was found by gravediggers at New St. Marcus Cemetery off Gravois Road on...
The body of Nick Futo was found by gravediggers at New St. Marcus Cemetery off Gravois Road on July 26. He had been shot 4 times, execution style. Inside his pocket was a piece of paper that said “American West 1408.”(KMOV)

“It’s time. Everyone wants to know ‘why the brothers?’ They need to know answers.”

“Let’s talk about that day,” I said.

“Okay,” Futo said in a low voice. “It all started when I got off the plane. I thought everything was fine on the flight into town. The minute I got off the plane, I knew we had problems.”

Nick was waiting for Emory at Lambert Airport. They drove to the Steak ‘n Shake on Lindbergh. There, the plan went off the rails.

“As soon as I met Nick, he said, ‘There’s a problem’. Me, Nick and Joe had talked several times before Nick ever came to California. There was always wishy-washy going on with Joe. Nick said Joe started telling him this was all a lie. Joe doesn’t want to do this, he doesn’t want to be there, none of this stuff ever happened. And now Nick was trying to figure out what to do,” Futo said. “I said, ‘Nick, you were just in California with me going over story after story after story. You agreed with everything.”

The two then drove to meet Joe just outside the old Magic Market on Watson road. And according to Futo, Joe immediately flipped the script.

“Joe was denying everything. I knew we might have some issues, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I met Joe. Right away, his demeanor was bad. He didn’t want to talk about the past. It brought him a lot of pain. Nick kept trying to intervene, and we just went back and forth. I said, ‘Joe, what if it was your kid? Nick, what if it was yours? Who is next?’” Futo said. “I did all I could to protect them, and then years later you have your brother tell you you’re a liar, and tell you that this stuff never happened to him? That’s when I lost my cool. That’s why I snapped. I couldn’t believe this. Joe was trying to forget everything. He didn’t want to hear or talk about it anymore. I kept saying, ‘How can you do this to me when I did everything for you?’ He kept saying, ‘Never happened, never happened.’ I would say, ‘What do you mean it never happened?’”

Futo said the arguing got so heated, the two brothers squared off in a fist fight. Nick broke up the fight, and Joe left in his car. Emory grabbed the keys to Nick’s car and chased him down.

“I knew what was going to happen. I caught up with him and we started arguing again. Joe was trying to get out of it. He was not going to be involved. It got very heated,” he remembered.

The phone went silent. I could hear other people stirring behind Futo.

“It got worse and worse.”

More silence, and more noise behind Futo. I asked him what it was.

“I’ve got two inmates with their hands on my shoulders. They know what I am doing. Another is bringing me a drink. I’m fine,” he said. “Prisoners don’t usually confess around here.”

Another pause.

“So " I asked, “what about Joe?”

“When things happen to you, and you see things, you just snap and say, ‘That’s it. I don’t care what anybody says, that’s it. I’ve got to stop this.’ Is it right? No, it’s not right,” he said. “Was I in my right mind at the time? I don’t think I was.”

Futo’s voice cracked again.

“What happened, happened. Joe said he would say everything we talked about if anything happened to our parents,” Emory said.

Joe Futo was found in the backseat of his red Mustang, his body covered with trash bags. He had been shot multiple times.

When Emory returned to the Magic Market, he now found Nick balking too.

“He had called his girlfriend. Now he was teetering,” Futo said. “He kept asking me, ‘Where’s Joe? Where’s Joe? I told him Joe got pissed and left. And he kept asking. I said, ‘Joe’s not coming back, it’s just you and me.’ And then Nick tells me, ‘If you do this, Joe is going to tell on you.’”

I suddenly realized there was an elephant in the room.

“But you had another problem with Nick,” I said. “He is now a witness.”

“Yes,” Futo said. “And he kept asking about Joe. I think he knew something had happened.”

Another pause.

“There was no final conversation with Nick. No fighting. After what I did to Nick, I sat next to him on the ground crying. I wanted to commit suicide. I wanted to kill myself for everything I had done,” Futo said. “It’s on me now. I did this.”

I asked him about the court argument involving a suicide pact.

“There was no pact.”

Grave diggers found Nick Futo’s body in the back of New St. Marcus Cemetery. He was lying face down, and had been shot execution style, four times.

“It’s time. Everyone wants to know ‘why the brothers?’ They need to know answers.”

“Now everything is spinning out of control. Everything was going bad. I am reacting on the fly. I’m trying to figure out what I have to do. I want to get back to my wife and son. I want this to be over with,” he said. “I don’t ever want to have to talk about this again.”

Futo then drove Nick’s red Mitsubishi a few blocks to his parent’s house in the 6500 block of Marquette.

And he waited.

His mother came home first from her job at Boatmen’s Bank.

“There was no conversation. My mom didn’t really have much time to react to anything. There was just an incident that happened quick. It caught her by surprise,” he remembered.

Euna Futo was beaten to death with a blunt instrument. Her skull was fractured. An electrical cord was tied around her neck. She had been dragged through the house. Her body was found in the hallway near the rear bedroom.

With his mother’s body down the hall, Emory sat and waited through the night for his father to come home after working the late shift at Anheuser-Busch.

For hours and hours with his mother’s body down the hall, Futo watched the clock. It was now a new day.

“He opened the door at 12:21. Walked the dog outside. Came back in at 12:30. He turned the light on and saw me,” he said of his father.

Euna Futo may have been caught by surprise, but Imre Futo was not.

“He knew,” Futo said. “And he knew why.”

As Emory Futo moved in to avenge years of abuse, his father spoke his final words.

“He said, ‘I knew this day was coming. I just hoped it wouldn’t,’” Emory said.

Imre Futo did not die an easy death. He was shot three times and stabbed four more. His body was found in the basement.

Then, Futo headed home.

“You figure out what you have to do to protect yourself and get back to your family. Then you know everybody is gone, everybody is dead, you’re going to be the one they are coming after. I knew that was happening,” he said.

Futo fled in Nick’s Mitsubishi to a Denny’s restaurant. At 2:47 a.m., he called for a cab to take him to the old Coco’s restaurant, and then to Lambert airport.

“The wait to get on the plane was forever. Looking around the corners, looking over your shoulder. Then the plane was delayed in Phoenix. At home, you try to act like it’s normal, and it’s not. And you know in your heart and in your mind.......they’re coming,” he said. “Your body tells you, ‘You’re getting locked up.’ Everything was on the fly. I knew I had a matter of time. I had a choice to make. I chose to wait until they came.”

There was now a buzz in the neighborhood. Word about the murders involving the relatives of one of their neighbors was out. Police cars began to cruising the streets.

Futo knew he had to talk with Angela.

“She was going crazy. I remember watching her vacuum the carpet over and over. She had withdrawn. I knew right then that it was going to be hard. I told her to meet me in the bedroom. She sat down and stared at me. I told her I was going to be leaving,” Emory said. “She didn’t say anything. She was crying. She said, ‘Is this about Joshua?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Is this about what happened here? I said, ‘Yes.’”

Like clockwork, the police soon arrived, led by St. Louis homicide detectives Chris Pappas and Joe Nickerson. After multiple interrogations, and multiple stories, Futo was arrested for the murders of his family.

“Chris Pappas was the one who had it right,” Futo said. “I lied to try to cover things. He knew nobody did nothing except me.”

“Sorry doesn’t mean s***. I don’t think I am ever going to be forgiven. I can’t even forgive myself.”

The trial dominated the headlines in St. Louis. Futo was represented by high-profile defense attorney Richard Sindel. The jury was sequestered for nearly a month.

“My thoughts were, I need to stay alive for my son to grow up and be able to talk to me and know who I am. I never told the truth to nobody until now,” Emory said. “I never told the truth to my attorney. He asked me many times what happened. I said, ‘I’m not going to tell you.’ He said, ‘I need to know.” I said ‘No, you don’t.’ But he kept me off death row.”

The jury was out for a long time, and Futo thought there was a chance for a not guilty verdict, based on the abuse claims. But the jurors were not biting. They came back with four life sentences without parole, one for each of the murders.

After News 4′s initial story on the murders was published, a juror reached out.

“Just so you know,” she said. “The guilty decision in the deliberation room was unanimous.”

After the verdict, Futo went to the jury box and thanked the jurors for sparing his life.

“I just want to make one thing clear,” he said, all these years later. “This was never about money, like they claimed. This was about a lifetime of abuse, and what they did to my son.”

Another pause. Another crack in the voice.

“Sorry doesn’t mean s***,” Futo said. “I don’t think I am ever going to be forgiven. I can’t even forgive myself.”

Futo kept in touch with Angela for about five years in prison. She has since met someone else, and moved on in life. He said he still checks in with her father every month, but he understands why she moved on.

“I created that circle of disaster for them. She had a son to raise.”

City homicide detective Chris Pappas still follows the Futo case.

“His confession just gives us affirmation of what our investigation revealed,” Pappas said. “He gave us multiple versions, none of which were true, but that’s not unusual in murder investigations.”

When Pappas was told Futo credited him with being the only one who insisted from day one that Futo killed his entire family, the former detective said, “He only confessed to us that he killed his father. Nobody else. Our team felt strongly that he killed his entire family. This is closure.”

Richard Sindel remembers the case well. He acknowledged that Futo never told his full story 29 years ago, and agreed it is a rare case where a prisoner admits his guilt after all this time.

“I think time makes a difference as people sit there,” Sindel said. “You don’t know what motivates their feelings.”

Asked if, considering Futo’s abuse claims, a trial today might have gone differently than decades ago, Sindel wasn’t sure.

“Most of the lawyers I talked to before the trial agreed this was a death penalty case. I think people have revisited some issues in society. But this was a very difficult case to argue.”

Sometimes, even brutal tragedy isn’t the end of the suffering. For some, life seems compelled to remind them their paths have become fixed; their decisions nothing more than preordained bends in the river, propelling them toward an inevitable end.

Imre Futo was obsessed with neatness, to the point where he would sweep the alley in his backyard. To the point where his gravy couldn’t have lumps.

“You know what the scariest thing is?” Emory said. “You walk into my room right now, and everything has to be perfect. My shoes in my bed are heel to heel even. My labels on my soda have to be facing me. My labels on my condiments, I have to be able to see them, and they have to be clean. It’s a running joke in here. I had a prison superintendent come in and say, ‘Who lives in 118?’ I said I did. He said, ‘That’s the best room I have ever seen.”’

There was a pause.

“I’m f***ing him.”