In a Christmas card photo taken just days before Kali Jean Randall’s death, her hand rests on her pregnant belly. Her husband, Jeremy Albert Best, holds their 10-month-old baby, Zeke, in front of the snowy Tetons.
“There was a lot of joy there,” said Mary Toft, the photographer and a close family friend. “There was a lot of pride with showing off Zeke and also announcing her pregnancy.”
Days later, in the late hours of Nov. 30, Randall was found dead of gunshot wounds in her Victor home. Her husband is now facing murder charges for her and the fetus.
Their toddler was also later found dead, though the cause is still under investigation.
In a statement to East Idaho News, Randall’s brother said the pain the family is feeling is “unimaginable.”
Loved ones on both sides of the Tetons – and beyond – are grieving the deaths, with an outpouring of posts on social media.
“To have someone like that just poof, vanish off the face of the planet, it leaves you really empty,” said former Driggs resident Zoe Buxton, describing Randall as endlessly compassionate, giving compliments to everyone around her.
“I think she left a really big sized hole, ” Buxton said.
‘She just seemed peaceful and happy’
Like many residents in the Tetons, Randall, 38, loved being in the mountains, snowboarding, her three dogs — and her many chickens.
She also had a knack for making sourdough, according to Buxton, who said Randall helped teach her to bake bread.
“So, she gave me some of her sourdough starter – her’s was named Clyde,” Buxton said.
“I’m not going to be able to make a loaf of bread again without thinking of her,” Buxton added.
Friends describe Randall as a jack of all trades. She made silver jewelry, but was also a talented writer, they say. She ferried boats in Grand Teton National Park and previously worked as a veterinary technician.
Wilson resident Aimee MacDonald said she met Randall while they were both working at Pearl Street Bagels more than five years. Though Randall didn’t work there anymore, MacDonald said she would still bring in eggs from her chickens, which she referred to as “Kali’s Mother Cluckers.”
“She loved her chickens — they all had names,” MacDonald said, going on to describe Randall as a “soul sister.”
Like many others, MacDonald said she has also been thinking about how Randall was as a mother. “Seeing Kali [Randall] as a mom is the best Kali that I’ve ever seen,” MacDonald said.
“She just seemed peaceful and happy.”
‘I’ve never once felt unsafe’
According to friends, Randall lived for the winter.
Toft, the photographer, said she spent countless days on the slopes with her at Targhee. She described her snowboarding style as “smooth” and “beautiful,” always looking like she was moving with ease.
“She always had jolly ranchers in her pocket,” Toft added.
But Toft said what started as a snowboarding friendship morphed into much more: dinners with the family, hanging out with the dogs and house sitting. She said Randall — and her husband, Best — always made her feel like part of the family.
“It always felt unbalanced,” Toft said. “I was like, ‘I’m not doing enough for you guys.’”’
Toft and others describe complete shock after learning about the death of Randall and her toddler, saying there were no signs leading up to this.
“I have sat at their dinner table, I don’t even know how many times,” MacDonald said. “I’ve stayed at their place. They’ve taken care of me when I didn’t have a home. I’ve never once felt unsafe.”
‘The most horrific crimes committed in recent history’
Best first encountered law enforcement last week hours before Randall’s death.
The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office said he was reported walking naked through the Swan Valley General Store just before noon.
Authorities called an ambulance that took him to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for mental evaluations. But shortly after, he was released.
“We are heartbroken,” says a statement from the hospital representatives, which adds the center follows specific standards of care to treat individuals with behavioral health concerns.
“Idaho law limits law enforcement, hospitals, and health care providers from placing individuals on a protective custody hold unless specific clinical criteria (are) met,” the statement reads.
Later that evening, after leaving the hospital, Best is alleged to have returned home and killed his wife.
Early the next morning, after discovering Randall, authorities issued an Amber Alert in Wyoming and Idaho for Best and Zeke, the toddler.
On Saturday, hunters found Best in a rural area east of Idaho Falls, telling Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office that he was naked and making odd statements, according to a press release.
Zeke was also found dead on the scene, sparking national coverage.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, most missing children named in Amber Alerts are found alive. In 2022, of the 181 alerts issued nationwide, only four children were located deceased.
Authorities arrested Best, and on Monday, a judge charged him with two counts of murder — for his wife and their fetus. More charges could be issued following an investigation of Zeke’s death.
Best appeared over Zoom for the hearing shirtless, covering his face with his hands as the judge announced the charges.
“The murders of Kali Randall Best and her unborn baby are arguably the most horrific crimes committed in Teton County in recent history,” said Teton County, Idaho Prosecutor Bailey Smith.
The defense recommended Best be considered for a mental health evaluation, ahead of a Dec. 18 hearing.
The 48-year-old remains in an Idaho jail without bail.
Resources to deal with trauma
As information has trickled out about Randall’s death, friends say they’re just started to process what happened.
“Everything just feels so broken,” said MacDonald.
Shock is also rippling through the wider community, according to Jackson’s Community Safety Network (CSN).
The organization’s Adrian Croke said a lot of people are seeing Best and Randall as the “stereotypical Jackson/Victor couple.”
“They’re recognizing this could have been anyone, this could have been me, this could have been my best friend,” said Croke, adding that the news can be retraumatizing for survivors of domestic violence.
She encourages community members to call in to CSN’s 24/7 helpline at 307-733-SAFE, or reach out to the Family Safety Network in Teton Valley. One22 Resource Center also offers housing and support programs to families, and Mental Health and Recovery Services of Jackson Hole offers counseling.
Croke also encourages people to turn to the community they already have.
“If we don’t talk about those things, it won’t change, and these bad things will continue happening to good people,” Croke said, saying violence against pregnant women is more common than most people think.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have reported that homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S., most often linked to violence from intimate partners and firearms.
“I would encourage people with their own families and friends to talk about this tragedy, because that’s how we change things,” Croke added.
Shannon Brooks Hamby, also with CSN, said she also wants to normalize the emotional response people are having to the tragedy.
“You’re having an appropriate reaction, whether you knew them or not, whether you’re losing sleep or can’t eat or what, however it’s showing up for you doesn’t need to be justified,” Brooks Hamby said. “It’s part of the human experience to process something that is so local in such a small, close community.”