After Lincoln County shooting rampage, survivors draw on fortitude
BY JOEL CURRIER firstname.lastname@example.org 314-340-8256 STLtoday.com | Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 12:00 pm | No Comments Posted
July 1, 2011— Joseph Klos kisses his daughter Chloe Klos, 16 months, as he shows her a photo of herself. Joseph is preparing a package of photos to send to Chloe's maternal grandparents who live in the Philippines. Chloe's mother Liza Fain was killed the night of February 9 by her ex-husband Garey Fain, 54, of rural Foley. Joseph, who lived with Liza, was shot multiple times that night. Emily Rasinski email@example.com
LINCOLN COUNTY • Chloe recognizes the woman in the large framed photograph leaning against the foot of the couch. She toddles toward it, touches the glass and looks back at her father with a quizzical grin.
"Mama," the 16-month-old says.
Chloe sometimes looks behind the picture for her mother. But she doesn't yet have the words to ask the painful questions about the woman whose face looks so much like hers.
Someday, Chloe's father, Joseph Klos, 24, will take her to the grave of her mother, Liza Fain, 33, in the Philippines. Maybe then he will explain how one violent night in February tore apart their family and changed the lives of several others.
He'll recount how Chloe and her two older siblings hid in their bedrooms on Feb. 9 when Liza Fain's ex-husband, Garey, barged through the front door of their Winfield home, shot Klos several times and killed Liza before a police officer shot him dead.
"Almost everything I knew about my life changed that night," Klos said.
The shooting rampage forced Chloe's father to raise her alone, even as he spent months recovering from nearly a dozen bullet wounds. It gave a veteran patrolman grim memories of killing someone the only time he fired his handgun on duty. And it left the gunman's sister struggling to forgive him while looking for a home for his children.
'SAYING MY LAST PRAYER'
The February attack by Garey Fain in Winfield, in Lincoln County, was the culmination of a rage that had grown since Liza had left him three years earlier.
Klos was getting ready for bed that night when he heard banging at the front door of the trailer he shared with Liza, Chloe and Liza's children from her marriage, Sarah, 13, and Sam, 11.
Garey Fain, 54, was just outside.
Liza called 911 and hid in the bedroom, telling dispatchers her ex-husband was shooting through the door and kicking his way in. The open 911 line picked up some of what happened next.
Klos confronted Garey Fain armed with three handguns in the kitchen. Klos tried to dodge Fain's attempts to shoot him and shouted at him to stop. Klos, shot several times, fell to the floor.
"I actually slipped on my blood," Klos recalled in a recent interview. "I remember looking around and blood was everywhere. He put the gun to my head three times. One time I kicked him. One time I swatted him away. The third time he was out of bullets. That's when he started beating me with it."
Fain left Klos on the kitchen floor, went to Sarah's bedroom and asked where her mother was. Sarah told him she didn't know but thought her mother might be in her bedroom. Police reports say Fain then found his ex-wife hiding in the bedroom closet, yelled "I don't need this!" and fired at least seven shots at her.
"How's it feel now, huh?" Fain said, according to the 911 recording of the shooting.
Fain left the trailer but found Winfield police Officer Charles Hobby arriving at the scene. Fain went back inside to fire three more shots at Klos, then returned outside and confronted Hobby. When Fain refused to drop his gun, Hobby shot and killed him.
Paramedics rushed inside to treat Klos, who pleaded with them to save him.
"Am I going to die?" he remembers asking paramedics. "I was saying my last prayer."
Liza Fain died at a hospital in Creve Coeur three minutes after midnight. Even though she took fewer bullets than Klos, the damage to her liver and right kidney was too severe.
Garey Fain had met Liza in her native Philippines in the 1990s while he was serving in the Merchant Marine. He was more than 20 years older, but she fell in love with him and hoped a life with him in the United States would present new opportunities.
They had two children, Sarah and Sam. But Garey Fain traveled for work much of the year, leaving his wife at home with the children. Relatives said the marriage dissolved as Liza became accustomed to her independence. She filed for divorce in 2007 and it became final in 2008.
Liza Fain grew close to Klos when they worked together at a cookie factory in Moscow Mills. Eventually, they moved in together and had a daughter, Chloe, in March 2010.
Liza Fain sometimes worked as a medical assistant in Lake Saint Louis. Her passions were her children, bargain hunting and experimenting in the kitchen. Klos took community college engineering classes, tutored math students there and trained to fight as a mixed martial artist.
Garey Fain had struggled with his new life since Liza left him. And his rage simmered.
His roommate, Earl Bender, told police later that Fain had talked constantly of killing his ex-wife as a way of getting full custody of the children. Police said Fain often called to have officers check on Sam and Sarah at their Winfield home.
A couple of days before the attack, Fain visited Sarah at school to ask her whom she wanted to live with, according to police reports. She told him she wanted to stay put, and that Klos took care of all the children.
"We didn't have a lot of money, but we had a happy little home," Klos said. "And I think he was jealous about that."
On Feb. 9, Fain's rage boiled over. After an evening of mixing vodka and prescription drugs, he started arguing with Bender about his dogs urinating on the carpets of the Foley home they shared, police reports show. Fain wouldn't let it go.
"What are you going to do, shoot me?" Bender said.
Fain did just that, emerging from his bedroom with a pistol and shooting Bender in the shoulder, according to police. Bender ran next door for help while Fain took three handguns and drove his red Hummer nine miles to Winfield to carry out the attack on his ex-wife and Klos.
Before Feb. 9, Winfield patrolman Charles Hobby had pulled his gun but never had to fire it. His worst memories from a law enforcement career that started in 1976 were the aftermath of car crashes and a few murders.
But as he came face to face that night with Garey Fain, he says, he "was scared to death."
Arriving after neighbors reported gunshots, Hobby pulled up the driveway on East Cherry Street just as Fain came out of the home. Fain spotted Hobby, turned and darted back inside.
Hearing three gunshots from inside, Hobby, 66, drew his .40-caliber pistol as he approached the door. Garey Fain reappeared with a handgun.
"Drop the gun!" Hobby said five times as Fain pulled out a second gun and came at him, according to police radio recordings.
"Ain't happening," Fain replied.
As Fain raised a gun at Hobby, the officer fired three shots, hitting Fain twice, in his chest and hip, authorities said. Fain never fired his weapons.
A second Winfield officer arrived. As Fain lay on the ground, they recited his Miranda rights and asked if he shot the people inside, according to police reports. Fain admitted to the shootings.
He died two hours later from a punctured lung. Autopsy results said his blood-alcohol content was 0.12 percent well above the drunken-driving limit of 0.08 percent with a mix of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication in his system.
A month after the shooting, Hobby went back to work after the Missouri Highway Patrol ruled that his use of deadly force was justified. "I'm here today and he's not, and that was his own choosing," Hobby said.
He insists that the killing of Fain doesn't bother him, though he acknowledges he still replays moments from that night in his head almost daily. He also carries a flash drive loaded with 911 recordings from the incident. Every time he listens to them, he hears something new.
He says his three tours flying on B-52 bombers in Vietnam didn't compare to coming face to face with Fain.
"I'll always remember his face, his beard," Hobby said. "It's burned in my mind now. It's more personal when you're that close to somebody and you take somebody's life."
Perhaps the hardest part, he said, is thinking about Fain's family. "He had kids," he said. "And now they don't have a father anymore."
Garey Fain's sister, Nancy Mabrey, says it wasn't until the morning after the shootings that she learned what her brother did. The news came in a phone call.
Mabrey, 58, of St. Charles, says she never suspected her brother was capable of murder, despite his struggles with alcohol and anger over Liza's decision to leave him and start a relationship with Klos.
"I don't blame her for divorcing him," she said. "She wasn't his slave anymore, and he wanted her to be. All the hate in his heart, he couldn't release it."
Mabrey picked up Sam and Sarah the day after the shootings. They have lived with her and her husband since.
She and her husband are the children's licensed foster parents and are looking to find them a permanent home in the next few months. They aren't seeking custody because they don't think they can devote the necessary time and energy as they approach retirement age, but they plan to remain part of the children's lives.
"It's tough," she said. "I love them so much, and we're trying to find a place for them. We just feel like we're way too old to do this long-term."
The strategy for now is to keep Sarah and Sam busy to distract them from painful memories. A month after the shootings, Sarah and Sam started taking tae kwon do lessons from Mabrey's husband, a martial arts instructor. The family also takes frequent weekend road trips to a summer house at the Lake of the Ozarks to go swimming and boating.
Sarah and Sam don't say much about what they witnessed in February, but they see therapists regularly, Mabrey said. Sarah recently returned from a five-day grieving camp in Dittmer for teens coping with the death of loved ones.
Mabrey says she has forgiven her brother, but it hasn't been easy for Sarah and Sam to let go of their anger.
"I tell them to hate the act and not hate their father because he was mentally ill," she said. "If you allow this to fester, then he wins. Don't let him win."
On Father's Day, Mabrey took the kids to visit their father's grave in St. Louis County and asked if they had anything to say to him. Not yet, they told her.
"One of these days, maybe they'll forgive him," she said. "Maybe. I hope."
'HOW TO LIVE AGAIN'
Five months after the shootings, Klos is back at home in Troy, Mo., with his mother, stepfather and siblings, who have helped watched Chloe throughout his recovery. Klos spent nearly four weeks in the hospital and had four surgeries to patch bullet wounds to his abdomen, repair nerve damage in his hands and arms and remove a bullet from his shoulder.
His parents help with Chloe as he juggles classes at St. Charles Community College, tutoring math students and attending twice-weekly physical therapy. He says he is regaining strength in his back, arms and hands, but he avoids lifting heavy objects or holding Chloe for long. Nerve damage in his left arm still makes clenching a fist a challenge.
"I'm still learning how to live again," he said. "I couldn't even dress or feed myself at first. Physically, I've come a long way."
Reminders of what Klos lost are around and inside him. A bullet is still lodged in his back. A plastic container on the fireplace mantel holds the bullet doctors removed from his shoulder. Next to that, above a pile of Chloe's toys, sits a framed photograph the last one taken of Klos and Liza together.
Sometimes, before Klos goes to sleep, he calls her cellphone number just to hear her voice on the voicemail greeting.
Klos says his Baptist faith has played a significant role in his recovery, and he draws comparisons between his life and the story of Job in the Bible. "If I didn't have faith, I would be a wreck," he said. "I think maybe this happened because God wanted to use me as an example and show me what faith can do."
For now, he's simply focused on Chloe.
"I don't know what the future entails or how the story ends," he said. "This was a sad event and it has changed things, but I just can't use it as an excuse as to why I can't be there for my daughter."
Chloe doesn't yet have the words to ask what happened, but her father has already thought about some of the answers.
"She knows Mommy is gone," he said. "I'll make sure to tell her, 'Mommy went to heaven, and she loves you.'"