Decades later, the 44-year-old "Cinderella" finds herself locked up, not in a metaphorical closet, but in a Smith County Jail cell, where she sits on a capital murder charge that could lead to Texas Death Row.
Ms. Cargill's winding path from young adult to a capital murder charge is paved with tumultuous relationships, bitter divorces and child-custody fights.
Mental-health professionals have chronicled disorders, depression and explosive fits of rage. During a two-decade span, they testified in family courts that without treatment, the mother of four posed a threat to others.
She is accused of killing Cherry Walker, a mentally challenged babysitter of her 4-year-old son, and setting her body on fire. Ms. Walker, 29, was scheduled to testify in a child-removal hearing in which state officials were to present police reports containing child-abuse allegations against Ms. Cargill.
In the killing's aftermath, many of those who have crossed paths with Ms. Cargill wonder why, in her decades' worth of dealings in the legal system, she never was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Family and friends said attempts were made to get Ms. Cargill help through the years, but she refused to follow with treatment.
Though at times she denied having psychological problems, she told a clinical psychologist during a 1993 court-ordered evaluation: "My own bad temper has been a big cause of my own troubles."
Kimberly Diane Cargill was born Nov. 30, 1966, in Laurel, Miss., a town of about 18,000 residents, records show.
Former friends, relatives and court records revealed a rocky life path that led from childhood to her Smith County Jail cell.
According to a court-ordered psychological evaluation dated July 15, 1998, Ms. Cargill's problems could have started in her childhood. She told the psychologist that she was misled about her biological father's identity.
Ms. Cargill was given the last name of her mother's husband, Kenneth Pitts, but Ms. Cargill later learned that Pitts was not her biological father.
In the 1970s, her family moved to the Dallas area, where she began school and eventually attended Richardson Berkner High School, where she joined the drill team.
Friends said Ms. Cargill lived for dance, and she practiced for hours before heading to her parents' furniture store in the Dallas area to work after school.
During these years, Ms. Cargill described to friends that her parents were overbearing, calling her mother a "horrible person."
After high school graduation in 1984, Ms. Cargill dabbled with college classes, but it was 15 years before she attended the Dallas Institute of Nursing, earning her vocational nursing license.
Ms. Cargill in June 1988 married Michael West of Dallas during a ceremony in Hawaii. She had her first son in 1990. The nuptials ended just two years later, marking the start of her child-custody battles in family courts.
After the couple separated in October 1992, Ms. Cargill began a five-week day hospitalization in the Minirth-Meir Clinic in Dallas, where she underwent mental-health treatment. A month later, West was appointed primary caretaker of the couple's child, with Ms. Cargill granted visitation rights.
West, who still lives in Dallas, recently declined an interview but did point out the location of court documents regarding his past with Ms. Cargill.
Rockwall County court records detail court battles, arrests, court-ordered psychological evaluations, abuse accusations, violence, a planned kidnapping and even murder thoughts.
Citing hospital records, clinical psychologist Sandra Craig, following a court-ordered evaluation, noted that Ms. Cargill told doctors that she had "angry and explosive outbursts where she would break glass windows, doors and car windshields."
In her 1993 report, Ms. Craig stated that Minerth-Meier evaluators diagnosed Ms. Cargill with anxiety disorder with symptoms of major depression, intermittent explosive disorder and borderline personality disorder.
Ms. Cargill's diagnosis was indicative of chronic and "severe maladjustment in interpersonal functioning," the report noted.
In her evaluation, Ms. Craig stated that Ms. Cargill clearly loved her child and would protect him from outside dangers, but testing showed the woman's psychological problems had intensified.
She reported that the problems could be grouped into two major categories: a tendency for emotional outbursts and a narcissistic personality disorder with histrionic features.
Ms. Craig stated that Ms. Cargill easily could explode or act out her feelings and that the woman was self-absorbed and, when challenged, could become vindictive.
Ms. Craig suggested in a Collin County court in February 1993 that West be given full custody of the couple's child and Ms. Cargill continue with her treatment.
Weeks later, the court issued an emergency restraining order against Ms. Cargill when a former friend told the judge that Ms. Cargill planned to kill West and take the child to a country with no extradition to the United States.
The couple spent the next several years fighting in court over the child, and Ms. Cargill was arrested at least twice for assault and destruction of property.
Ms. Cargill kicked her son's babysitter in the stomach while dropping him off at his father's home, according to court documents.
Ms. Cargill eventually stopped visiting her oldest son, and West said his life became somewhat normal.
But West would not be the only man to face Ms. Cargill's wrath when it came to children. Her second husband said she called the police on him at least a dozen times and fought him bitterly for their son, even claiming he kidnapped the child - an accusation she would make again with the father of her third child.
Sitting in a booth of a sports bar in Dallas, Ms. Cargill's second husband, Brian Cargill, reflected on the bitterly stormy relationship with his ex-wife.
"I never foresaw anything like this, but it didn't surprise me when I heard the news," he said of the capital murder charge Ms. Cargill faces.
The 6-foot-1 architect said he first met Ms. Cargill on a blind date in late 1993.
"We went to see 'So I Married an Ax Murderer' with another couple, and I guess that should have been some kind of omen," he said.
Cargill said Ms. Cargill told him after they began dating that she could not have additional children due to a complicated pregnancy, but months later, when he planned to end the relationship, she told him she was pregnant.
Cargill said his former wife had an explosive temper, and something as trivial as salt not being cooked into her eggs could set her off.
"Sometimes she would punch me right in the face in order to get some kind of response," he said. "Her behavior was extremely erratic from one moment to the next. One minute she was great, and the next she was throwing dishes."
The list of people who have witnessed Ms. Cargill's erratic behavior over the years include ex-lovers, fellow members of her Dallas school, law-enforcement officers and friends and family.
Ms. Cargill's mother, in a 2003 letter to former District Judge Diane DeVasto, wrote: " Kimberly has had a long history of tumultuous relationships with her family, her spouses, neighbors, employers, landlords, co-workers and anyone else who comes in contact with her for any extended period of time."
Ex-husband Cargill said he has kept in his thoughts the woman whom Ms. Cargill stands accused of killing.
"The person here that has suffered the most is Ms. Cherry Walker and her family," he said. "That woman was a martyr for the rest of us. It's tragic this had to happen for the rest of us to have somewhat of a normal life. My heart goes out to Ms. Walker's family."
Cargill said his ex-wife was skilled at working the system.
"She learned how to fool the psychological test after the first couple, and she was good at convincing people to do anything for her and see her as the victim," he said. "If one of those courts she had been in had listened to what we had to say, then maybe this wouldn't have happened."
District Judge Carol Clark, who oversees Smith County's family court system, said she could not comment on pending cases. She did say her power in family law cases is more limited than in Child Protective Services cases.
Judge Clark said that in CPS cases, the parties must follow the court's orders, but in family court, there are variables. In 80 percent of the cases, she said, the parties settle their custody issues through mediation.
She added that psychological evaluations are common and are evidence in a case. A judge must look at all the evidence and not just an evaluation when determining children's best interest.
"I cannot make people modify their behavior like I want," Judge Clark said. "All I can do is try to protect the children."
While West and Cargill got their lives in control after years of court cases with Ms. Cargill, Matthew Robinson and Forest Garner were being arrested for crimes they say they didn't commit.
The reason they were jailed and faced long prison sentences was a common denominator - Kimberly Cargill.
Shortly after Robinson and Ms. Cargill had their son, drama unfolded, and Robinson chose to not marry her.
On April 22, 2003, Robinson was arrested on a charge of kidnapping his son and placed in the Smith County Jail. The charge later was changed to interference with child custody, and Robinson's mother, Nancy Oakes, said that if not for her and her husband, her son still would be jailed.
Mrs. Oakes said that for 11 years her son was dragged through Smith County courts and painted as a criminal for something he did not do.
"The Tyler police called him and told him to come get his son," she said. "Later he was charged with kidnapping. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but she got him arrested."
Smith County sheriff's deputies arrested him. They declined to comment because the case is pending.
Since Ms. Cargill's arrest, Mrs. Oakes said her 11-year-old grandson is adjusting to his mother being behind bars, and each day is better than the one that precedes it.
"This whole thing has taken a toll on all of us," she said.
Ms. Cargill's mother, Rachel Wilson, came to Robinson's defense, writing the judge and stating that her daughter was vindictive and "had become very clever in manipulating the judicial and welfare system to her own advantage."
Mrs. Wilson pled with the court to drop the charges against Robinson, give him custody of the couple's son and restrict Ms. Cargill's time with the child. She stated that she feared for the child's safety.
Mrs. Oakes said it took thousands of dollars to get the Smith County District Attorney's office to drop the charges against her son, but Forrest Garner, Ms. Cargill's third husband and father of her fourth child, was not so lucky.
Garner faced felony charges from Tyler police after he was accused of beating his wife and endangering his young son. His mother, Bonnie Weaver, said police treated her son "like scum" and would not listen to his story.
Mrs. Weaver, like Mrs. Oakes, rushed to her son's defense, as did Garner's first wife, who said Garner was a good father and not a violent person.
"My son did not beat that woman, but she did everything to terrorize him, our family," Mrs. Weaver said. "And the police bought every word she had to say. If they would have just listened then we wouldn't be here today."
Tyler police have said Ms. Cargill had bruises on her when they arrived at the home. Garner's arrest was based on those bruises and Ms. Cargill's statement, they said.
Chief Gary Swindle said earlier, "If I am correct, the suspect in the case pleaded guilty, so I feel the arrest was warranted."
After being arrested several times and harassed at his home by Ms. Cargill, despite a protective order, Garner gave in and pled guilty to a reduced charge, Mrs. Weaver said.
"He didn't feel like he could beat her," she said.
In a letter to Dallas Institute of Nursing staff dated 1998, Ms. Cargill's classmates noted disruptive behavior, harassment and abuse of classmates, reckless and dangerous behavior and inappropriate behavior in clinical studies. She allegedly yelled obscenities and racial slurs at Children's Hospital.
The letter concluded, "For one student to be able to control the dynamics of this school and terrorize other students is outrageous and needs to stop."
Mrs. Oakes said she has repeatedly heard similar stories about Ms. Cargill's behavior.
"She's really good, and she actually would spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thinking what she could do next," she said. "If you cross paths with her, you better look out."
The partially burned body of the victim, Cherry Walker, was found June 18 along County Road 2191, also known as Oscar Burkett Road. Investigators have said she died of "homicidal violence" but have offered no further details.
An arrest affidavit states that detectives found pornography, burned paper, pieces of vegetation and red soil in Ms. Cargill's home and human hair in the front passenger seat of her 1999 Mitsubishi Montero.
Ms. Cargill awaits grand-jury findings. Her court-appointed lawyers, Jeff Haas and Brett Harrison, said they cannot comment in the case.
The Smith County District Attorney's Office also declined to comment on whether the death penalty would be sought.
"We will decide that if she is indicted," District Attorney Matt Bingham said. "We cannot do anything before that."
BEYOND THE BARS
Even with Ms. Cargill behind bars and facing a capital murder charge, those who know her still live in fear.
"I know she's in jail, but we're all still scared that she will somehow beat the system and get out," Mrs. Oakes said. "I don't put anything past her."
Brian Cargill said the fear was reinforced when a woman, acting on directions from Ms. Cargill from jail, was arrested in late July for disposing of evidence in the case. Two other people remain under investigation for their alleged roles in destroying evidence or assisting in obstructing the case.
"She can convince people to do all kinds of things, and we're all worried about her, even though she is in jail," Brian Cargill said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Cargill's profile still is available for viewing on a popular dating website.
On the site, Ms. Cargill says she is looking for a "nice and normal" man who is that special someone. She also states on the site she is open to having additional children and that she is multi-faceted, but "when it comes to my kids, I am very conservative and traditional."
When asked whether his ex-wife should face the lethal needle, Brian Cargill rubbed his forehead and pondered the question before answering.
"If that is what she is given then that is what she must face," he said.