Float Trip Murder: Widow in Mourning After Meramec Shooting, Says "He Was My Rock"

via KSDK (video below)
Loretta Dart.
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."

See also:
- Homeowner Mad at Urinating Man on Meramec Float Trip Shoots, Kills Paul Dart
- Wife, 69, Charged in Stabbing Death of Ivan Mullenix, 76, in Town & Country
- Mario Shackelford Killed in Kiener Plaza Over Spilled Beer, Cops Say (Homicide 56)

Here's the full post she published on Sunday after her husband died from his gunshot wounds.

via Facebook

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.

James Crocker, 59.
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."

Loretta and Paul Dart.

"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.

via Facebook

via Facebook

Here is video of KSDK's heartbreaking interview with the widow, followed by the full news release from Crawford County Sheriff Randy Martin:

Press Release

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someone on stltoday said the shooter was known to be harassing floaters in the area for a while with his gun.  They also said high on meth, but who could possibly know that

Matt Ferch
Matt Ferch

Steve, I don't care if he took a dump on the man's shoe, that doesn't warrant getting shot in the head.


This dude would've been dead long before he got a chance to pull that trigger if my friends were on that float. Don't buy a house next to a known floating area or public road if you don't want to see strangers pass and stop next to your property.

Steve Froemel
Steve Froemel

Just my opinion.....I would never grab a mans arm if he was holding a gun. What he did was wrong. Read the Post Dispatch article....there were several other factors involved that were not mentioned here. Let's see.... Most likely beer drinking going on....stopping on a gravel bar that was posted.....signing a waiver before float trip about being on private property.....a cousin picking up several rocks........and so on. If a man with a gun told me to leave....Myself,I would have....no argument here. I am not taking sides here. All facts should be made available....(AGAIN..read what was in the Post Dispatch this morning). I am sorry for her loss......Just my opinion.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Mr. Crocker's land ought to be made into a public campground for floaters as a memorial.

Brian Blood
Brian Blood

I feel so bad for this woman. I couldn't imagine ! I hope this Crocker guy gets what's coming to him.


@ruylecj  ohh your a real bad ass, lol , i have land to the thread on the icicle wa state. 

i deal with trespassers all summer, my land has been in my family sense 1966 well before commercial floating, please come to my property and piss and argue about weather i own my land or not, then throw some rocks at me, i carry a gun on my land all the time because i have a few bears that live on my property,also i run trespassers off my land too, any where from five to one hundred drunk idiots that don't want to leave, so you saying your going to kill me fist ? bring it, you phuck.

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