News and Press Releases

Man pleads guilty in role in 2001 arson that killed his 15-year-old son

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2013

St. Louis, MO - STEVEN HENRY KEMPER of St. Louis County, pled guilty this morning in connection with the November 16, 2001, arson of his family’s home in Florissant, Missouri.  Kemper’s 15-year old son, Zachariah Andrew Kemper, was trapped in the basement and killed during the fire.  Kemper pled guilty to one-count of aiding and abetting the use of fire to commit mail fraud.   He appeared before United States District Court Judge Audrey G. Fleissig to enter his guilty plea.

The 2001 fire was originally the subject of state charges in which only Kemper’s wife, Sandra Bryant, was charged with felony murder by arson.  During the ensuing trial, the judge declared a mistrial after ruling that certain evidence had mistakenly been shown to the jury.  The Missouri Supreme Court ultimately held that because the mistrial was declared over the defense objection, state prosecutors were barred from retrying the defendant in state court because of the United States Constitution’s “double jeopardy” provision.

The federal indictment charges both Steven Kemper and his wife Sandra Kay Bryant for their involvement in the 2001 arson.   Both defendants were charged with aiding and abetting the use of fire to commit mail fraud in count II of the indictment.  Sandra Bryant faces a separate charge in count I of the indictment.

Although no trial date has been set, charges remain pending against Sandra Bryant.  As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Sentencing has been set for October 3, 2013, at 10:30 a.m.  Kemper faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years up to life imprisonment for his crime.  In determining actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.

This case was originally investigated by Saint Louis County Police Department.  The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives took up the investigation after the Missouri Supreme Court decision barring the retrial by state prosecutors.  The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office also provided significant assistance.

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