Watch CBS News

Shoplifting suspect allegedly kills his wife while fleeing police

A 39-year-old man was jailed on a homicide charge after he and a woman both jumped into the driver's seat of a car while trying to avoid arrest for shoplifting.

Their car struck a police cruiser and several customer's cars as the pair tried to escape. At least one of the collisions occurred on the driver's side of their car where the woman's upper body was hanging out of the door. 

In a still image taken from the recording of a police officer's body-worn video camera, Greenwood Village Police Department officers are seen trying to gain control of shoplifting suspect Justin Kautz. Kautz's wife, Tara Cathcart, is leaning halfway out of the driver's side door. The detective on the passenger side of the vehicle was hit by the vehicle after Kautz began to drive away. Greenwood Village Police Department

The woman fell out of the vehicle after the last impact. She asked police officers for help. She was taken to a hospital where she passed away.   

In a still image taken from the recording of a police officer's body-worn video camera, Justin Kautz begins to drive forward and in reverse as Tara Cathcart, his wife, is hanging out the driver's side door. Greenwood Village Police Department

The man, Justin Kautz, got away. For the moment.

The woman was later identified as 39-year-old Tara Cathcart, Kautz's wife. 

In an image taken from the recording of a police officer's body-worn camera, Tara Cathcart is seen hanging out of the driver's side door of a vehicle driven by her husband as the pair tries to escape police in Greenwood Village shopper center parking lot. Greenwood Village Police Department

The incident happened in the parking lot of the TJMaxx and Sierra Trading Post at 5910 South University Boulevard. A manager at the store texted a detective from the Greenwood Village Police Department around 3:45 p.m. on October 19. The manager indicated two people, the man and the woman, were believed to be shoplifting. 

GVPD had officers in the area already, according to the arrest affidavit in the case. The officers were part of a "focused joint operation" to "surveil, identify, and apprehend retail theft suspects at this location."

Two officers, as described in the affidavit, confronted Kautz and Cathcart outside the store. The two suspects "had successfully stolen $404.78 in merchandise," as was determined in accounting afterward.  

In a still image taken from the recording of a police officer's body-worn video camera, an officer reacts to Tara Cathcart's injuries after Justin Kautz leaves the scene.   Greenwood Village Police Department

Kautz and Cathcart ignored the officers and ran toward a white Toyota 4Runner. Both tried to get into the driver's seat. Kautz, sitting on Cathcart's legs, immediately began driving forward and in reverse, hitting other vehicles. One officer was knocked to the ground by the vehicle while trying to get Kautz under control, per affidavit. 

Kautz left the scene driving westbound on Orchard Road. According to police radio traffic, he was briefly pursued by GVPD officers.

🚨 URGENT COMMUNITY ALERT 🚨 🔍 Help Locate Justin Kyle Kautz 🔍 We need your help in locating Justin Kyle Kautz, wanted...

Posted by Metro Denver Crime Stoppers on Thursday, November 16, 2023

On Nov. 16, GVPD identified Kautz as the suspect in the shoplifting and Cathcart's death. A $2,000 reward was offered for information leading to his arrest. 

Justin Kautz Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office

The next day, Kautz was arrested in west Denver by Denver PD officers. He was transferred to the Arapahoe County Jail where he is being held on a $1 million bond and a 1st Degree Murder charge. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.