WAHOO – A judge denied bond for a man suspected of murdering his fiancé in the small village of Malmo last week.

Judge Andrew Lange denied bond for Kolton Barnes, 25, during a hearing Monday morning in Saunders County Court. Barnes is being held at the Law Enforcement and Judicial Center in Wahoo.

Barnes has been charged with first degree murder in the killing of his fiancé, Kayla Matulka, on July 15. He is also charged with two counts of child abuse because Matulka’s two children, ages 6 and 11, were in the home at the time of the incident.

The Saunders County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a deceased woman found in her home about 9:30 a.m. on July 15. Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz said the victim’s 11-year-old son found his mother and ran to a friend’s house nearby to get help.

“He told her he thought his mother was dead,” said the sheriff.

The adult went to the home and found Matulka and called the police. Matulka had suffered multiple stab wounds.

Stukenholtz called the Nebraska State Patrol to assist with the investigation, which included processing the crime scene in Malmo, conducting a search in Blair and searching Barnes’ vehicle. He said the NSP has more forensic capabilities and investigators than the sheriff’s department.

“Having more manpower and technology to assist us was greatly appreciated,” Stukenholtz added.

Barnes was quickly ruled a suspect as the investigation got underway, according to Stukenholtz.

“There were a number of things that pointed to him right away,” he said.

Barnes was not at the residence when law enforcement arrived on the scene, but he returned during the investigation, the sheriff said.

The couple was engaged to be married on March 15, 2020 and had applied for a marriage license at the Saunders County Courthouse on July 7. Their wedding date had been set for Oct. 10, 2020 at Edensburg Lutheran Church in Malmo with a reception in Wahoo, according to a website the couple had created about the event. Matulka had posted engagement photos on a Facebook page she shared with Barnes just a few days before her death.

Prior to moving to Malmo a few months ago, the couple lived in Lincoln. Stukenholtz said they did not have any ties to Malmo that he knew of, however, Matulka’s mother, Tammi (Milenkovich) Matulka, has ties to Saunders County. She grew up in Yutan and now lives in Blair. Matulka’s grandmother still lives in Yutan. Matulka’s father, Joseph Matulka, also lives in Blair, as do her two sisters, Rachel Kuhr and Heather Hansen.

Barnes is not the father of Matulka’s two children. Her obituary lists their father as Anthony Griesen of Lincoln. Stukenholtz said the children are now with their father.

A family pet, a black Labrador retriever named Diesel, had also been killed. Barnes has been charged with intentional cruelty to animals for killing the dog.

The family’s cat became traumatized because there were numerous people in the home during the investigation and ran away, Stukenholtz said. The children were very worried about the cat because their mother was very close to the animal.

“That was a big concern for the kids,” Stukenholtz said.

The sheriff’s department reached out to Saunders County Lost Pets (SCLP) in Wahoo. The organization quickly sent people to help located the cat, which was delivered safely to the children that night, Stukenholtz said.

In a post on the sheriff’s department Facebook page, Deputy Chris Lichtenberg posted that along with SCLP, several residents and businesses in Malmo stepped up to offer information and provide refreshments as the officers worked on the case on July 15 and 16.

“While we never want to see tragic situations like this happen in Saunders County, actions shown by citizens remind us of the great support that we have and we certainly appreciate everything that you do for us,” Lichtenberg wrote.

Additional charges against Barnes include tampering with physical evidence. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Saunders County Court on July 30 at 11 a.m.

Visitation for Matulka will be held at Reichmuth Funeral Home in Elkhorn on July 24. The funeral service will be held the next day, July 25, also at the funeral home.

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