'Pyramid of lies' alleged
BY NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Saturday, June 28, 2008
6/28/08 at 12:36 PM
Also from Saturday's Tulsa World: Suspect made big promises: He had pledged to fund several causes, including an endowment fund of $2 million, at Webster High School.
Slide Show: Watch a slide show and listen to audio from the police press conference after the arrest.
Document: Read the police affidavit against John Kastner. Editor's note: Graphic material is included.
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Teacher jailed on a murder charge
A Tulsa high school teacher who police say was under financial pressure and had "built a pyramid of lies" that collapsed around him was arrested Friday morning in the shooting death of his wife.
John Kastner, a 50-year-old Webster High School teacher and former co-athletic director, had told his family that he was a member of the Israeli special forces. He said he had access to millions of dollars from an Israeli charitable organization and a private plane chartered by the group, a police affidavit states.
Detectives investigating the homicide of Lori Kastner, 44, early Wednesday said Friday that they could find no evidence to confirm these claims.
An entry in John Kastner's journal dated three days before Lori Kastner was killed in their home foretold events to come, according to police.
It stated: "Wow. Intense pressure. She was right. I do put some things off hoping that problems will cure themselves. Unfortunately, time has not slowed, stopped or gone backward. There is no next week ..."
Police said Kastner's lies continued on the morning of his wife's slaying, when he said an intruder killed her.
"There was no home invasion, and Mr. Kastner lied about that. It was proven early on that he lied about that. I think he is in part responsible for creating some concern among the citizens of Tulsa about their safety by saying that someone in fact broke into his house, shot his wife and shot himself, when that was clearly not the case,'' Police Chief Ron Palmer said at a press conference Friday.
Police see 'red flags'
Police were called at 4:07 a.m. Wednesday to the 3800 block of South Union Avenue to investigate a shooting. When they arrived, they found John Kastner with a wound to his left hand and his wife dead in her bed. She had been shot in the head multiple times.
Two of their children, ages 9 and 15, were in the home when the shootings occurred but were not injured.
Kastner told police that an intruder had broken into their home and shot his wife with Kastner's gun and that he was shot in the hand during a struggle with the killer, police said.
He also told police that the intruder asked about the location of their 19-year-old adopted daughter, who was not there at the time. He said the intruder demanded money and fled with a bag containing $5,000 from the dining room table, as well as the family's passports, a gold ring and a watch that was in the bag, according to the police affidavit.
But police said he gave conflicting statements as to the intruder's description and what transpired during the confrontation.
"As soon as we got there," officers saw some "red flags," Sgt. Mike Huff said.
"This did not fit the pattern that we see in that type of home invasion-type crime. We felt that we were getting some untruthful statements," he said. "The red flags just continued to build."
The gun believed to have been used in the killing, a .22-caliber miniature revolver, was found in the living room. Kastner told police he had bought the gun months ago, but police later determined it was purchased last week, the affidavit states.
Detectives believe that Kastner staged the scene by shooting himself in the hand and placing the passports on the sidewalk leading up the front door to make it appear that his wife was shot by an intruder, the record states.
A witness told police that Kastner test-fired his newly purchased gun about 24 hours before his wife's slaying, leading police to believe that he not only was firing the weapon for function but also trying to determine whether other people could hear it discharge, according to the affidavit.
Following the shootings, police said they were investigating many angles to the case.
After serving search warrants, they forwarded information to the District Attorney's Office, and a first-degree murder count was approved. Kastner, who was treated for a wound to his hand and released from the hospital Wednesday, was still wearing bandages on his hand when police arrested him Friday morning.
Kastner under pressure
A motive for the killing is still being investigated, Palmer said, but he says it appears that Kastner may have thought he was about to be discovered as a fraud and believed he had no other way out.
"As the affidavit states, there was evidence of a journal that indicated he felt that his world was crumbling around him," Palmer said. "My take on it, in my years of experience, is that I don't think he thought he had another way out of this other than to do what he did."
Kastner recently came under intense pressure as a result of financial promises he made to family members, friends and co-workers, according to the police affidavit. Detectives also determined he was in significant credit-card debt.
"Kastner built a pyramid of lies — a house of cards, as it were — that was coming down around him. He had made promises of financial contributions to Webster High School, taking his family to Israel, doing a host of things that were never based in fact,'' Palmer said.
Police said Kastner told his family that he was a member of the Israeli special forces and that he had access to millions of dollars due to a charitable corporation — the "713 Corporation'' — associated with the Israeli military.
Lori Kastner left her job as an Oklahoma Supreme Court attorney in May, believing she was going to take a job with the 713 Corporation, the affidavit states.
The Kastners were active in the local Jewish community, and John Kastner had led his family to believe they were leaving Wednesday for a trip to Israel on a private plane chartered by the corporation. Police determined that no such flight was scheduled for that date and time.
Police say Kastner made several financial promises to the school and claimed that he was going to inherit millions of dollars from an invention his father had created for printing presses. He said the money would be available after July 1, the record states.
Huff said detectives found no evidence that the 713 Corporation exists.
The couple were well-known by many people in the community, and Huff said several people who knew them were interviewed during the investigation.
"I think as people started to have their own suspicions, it really kind of sank into them that they were betrayed in that manner," Huff said.
Nicole Marshall 581-8459