Couple divorced over boat they lived on

Suspect in boat arson, killings shot to death by police

ST. MARYS, Ga. - Karen Barnes and a friend are believed to have burned to death Monday on a sailboat in a fire that police believe her ex-husband, David Trauger, started.

Wednesday night, Trauger -- named as a suspect in a double killing -- was shot to death by police officers when they say he raised his gun and fired at them.

Barnes and Trauger viewed their divorce that was finalized earlier this year with different perspectives, according to their court documents.

Barnes said their marriage was broken and she was afraid of Trauger.

Trauger said they were still living like a married couple, and the only reason they got divorced was so Barnes could take ownership of the boat to keep his previous wife from getting it.

Those who knew both of them say things escalated to an unimaginable ending. Investigators say Trauger, 67, was the suspect in the deaths of two people whose remains were found on Barnes' charred boat. Trauger was shot and killed by police Wednesday evening after he fired at officers, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

A picture shows Trauger and Barnes in happier times. The two spent their days at the Jekyll Island Marina living on their boat.

But after Barnes filed for divorce in April, the marina Capt. Jesse Marerro says, Trauger became threatening. So when he became a primary suspect in the boat arson and double killing, Marero had only one thought.

"That he did it finally. That he kept his promise. 'Cause he'd already promised to kill her," Marerro said.

Barnes filed for divorce after about two and half years of marriage, saying their marriage was "irretrievably broken." But Trauger told his attorney the divorce was all about his boat, the one the couple lived on.

Trauger's previous wife put a lien on it in February, and Trauger's lawyer, Crystal Ferrier, said he told her Barnes came up with a way to keep the woman from getting it.

"Mr. Trauger said that she's the one that came up with the plan," Ferrier said. "Did he go along with it? Yes, he did to get divorced, and in the divorce she would sign the boat over to him and they would just continue living on happily ever after."

That didn't happen. The divorce went through, and when Trauger tried to go see Barnes on the boat, the locks were changed.

"When they escorted him off the boat, as he was leaving he says, 'This is my boat, and I will kill you guys,'" Marerro said.

Trauger then tried to set aside the divorce, saying he and Barnes continued to act as husband and wife. But Barnes painted a different picture, saying she cut off communication and went into hiding with her friend, Larry Ford.

"I was talking to Larry Saturday, and I asked, 'Why don't you just stay out of this?'" Marerro said. "He said, 'I'm afraid it's too late. I've got to help her.'"

According to a police report Barnes filed, Trauger was bipolar, off his medication, and stalked her several times before incidents in June and July. Barnes said Trauger hadn't revealed that information to her before the divorce, according to the report.

She was set to talk with him about it Monday, but he didn't show up.

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