The David Trauger and Karen Barnes Jekyll Island-St. Mary’s boat murder case airs on Dark Waters Murder in the Deep: “Burned.” tonight on the ID channel. Karen Barnes and her boyfriend, Larry Ford, were murdered aboard her Premium Time yacht seven years ago. The killer was her ex-husband, David Trauger, the original owner of the boat.
Dark Waters Murder in the Deep: episode “Burned” on Investigation Discovery Synopsis
In the middle of the night, police see a flaming boat idling in the dark waters, and it’s only the beginning of a troubling double-homicide investigation that eventually links to a greedy killer.
— Discovery (@Discovery) May 3, 2019
When 50-year-old Karen Barnes met 62-year-old David Trauger online, she was ready to begin a new life with him. In just a few short months, they tied the not on New Year’s Eve and moved into David Trauger’s yacht at Jekyll Harbor Marina. Though David was a tad older, Karen was excited about finding love. At her age, she was ready to settle down, and David Trauger, a white-haired man with peachy skin and a frosty beard, was definitely handsome enough.
Her friends noted how charming David Trauger appeared to be in the beginning. He promised her they’d travel and live like newlyweds. He gave her flowers, bought her candy, and enticed her to live a fairytale life with him on the water. But investigators say David had a dark side, a fiery side that could be ignited in a matter of seconds.
His personality could go from cool and friendly to downright scary—especially when he’d drink. She’d have to shush him and tell him to calm down and go to bed since he was drunk. But Karen Barnes never could’ve imagined that she’d lose her life because of him.
Karen Barnes didn’t want to waste any more time with David Trauger. It wasn’t working out, and she had little hope the relationship would ever improve. Broken-hearted, she decided to cut her losses and file for divorce. Like in most divorce cases, they had to divvy up the properties and assets. Karen Trauger, now Karen Barnes, was awarded the Great Harbour, David Trauger’s beloved 37-foot boat. The plan was for him to move to another state to begin work. But he couldn’t forget about his boat. He didn’t think Karen was entitled to have it.
Soon, David’s resentment toward Karen grew, and as he stewed in his anger, he became obsessive and often stalked her, according to Karen. By then, Karen Barnes had taken up with another nice-looking man she had met named Larry Ford. Larry was kind and easygoing, much different than David Trauger.
Larry Ford and Karen Barnes spent a lot of time on the water aboard the boat. But David Trauger wanted his custom-built boat back. Relatives told police that Karen Barnes would come home and find evidence that someone had been aboard the yacht. Larry Ford would arrive to inspect, and sure enough, he’d find handprints and evidence that someone had damaged it.
On one occasion, they suspected that David Trauger had broken the yacht’s steering wheel, and they couldn’t move. They were stuck right there in the water. Worried that David Trauger was now invading their lives, Karen changed the locks and Larry bought a gun for himself and for Karen. They were both prepared to shoot him if he ever stepped foot on the boat again.
On August 13, of 2012, a suspicious 911 call came into the police station. No one was on the line. However, dispatchers could hear the faint sounds of what appeared to be an altercation in progress. They traced the call to a burning boat in the dark waters just off the St. Marys Boat Yard of North River near Point Peter. It was 3:20 a.m. Onboard, investigators found the skeletal and charred remains of two people, later identified as boat owner Karen Shaye Barnes, 53, and her lover, 71-year-old, Larry Ford, the Brunswick News reported.
Police detectives were on the hunt for Karen Barnes’ ex-husband, David Trauger. They knew they were on the right trail because his car was found near a truck stop, and the small boat he bought to commit the murders was found abandoned at a saltwater marsh. It was filled with cement blocks. He had tried to sink it.
Soon police got the lead they needed when a tipster called with David Trauger’s whereabouts. Police found him standing outside the Willow Way Apartments in Kingsland. He refused to cooperate and aimed a gun at them and was shot and killed by police.
According to the Florida Times-Union, David Trauger’s supporters say that Karen Barnes made up the abuse charges as a way to move on with her new lover, leaving David high and dry after he swindled the boat from his first wife. To make sure Linda Trauger, his wife of 20 years, didn’t get the boat in the divorce, he put the boat in Karen’s name. In the end, he took the boat from the first wife only to lose it to the second. Needless to say, he regretted the decision immensely.
Karen Barnes left behind her loving mother and many caring friends. Residents of the North Myrtle Beach community and her former co-workers at Calabash Nautical Gifts, where she was employed for 15 years, were tremendously saddened by her unexpected death.
Watch David Trauger and Karen Barnes’ story tonight on Dark Waters Murder in the Deep: “Burned” at 10/9 p.m. Comment below. We’d like to hear from you.
[Main image via Jacksonville & Legacy]