Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Gunman who killed six demanded to know ex-wife's whereabouts

SPRING, Texas — A man charged with killing four children and their parents forced his way into the family's suburban Houston home, tied them up and shot them in the back of the head when they refused to tell him where his ex-wife was, authorities said Thursday.

The lone survivor of the attack, the slain couple's 15-year-old daughter, suffered a fractured skull when a bullet grazed her head. She played dead and called 911 after Ronald Lee Haskell left the house, prosecutors revealed at a court hearing. In the call, she told authorities the gunman planned to shoot other relatives, police said. They located Haskell's car and took him into custody late Wednesday after a three-hour standoff.

A day after the slayings, investigators slowly built a picture of Haskell, who was the couple's estranged brother-in-law.

The 33-year-old man is accused of killing his ex-wife's sister, Katie Stay, and her husband and the children ranging in age from 4 to 14, after binding them and putting the family face-down on the floor of their home.

Haskell had a handful of run-ins with law enforcement in Utah, where he had lived with his wife. Neighbors said the Haskells' marriage was so rocky that Stay went to Utah last fall to help her sister escape the relationship and start a new life in Texas.

Stay "was very instrumental in helping her sister get here so she could have a fresh start. Katie's a spitfire. She has energy to stand up for what she believes is right and true," said Verena Beckstrand, a neighbor who choked back tears as she talked about the family.

Haskell had been jailed in 2008 in Logan, a community about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, on charges of assault and domestic violence. His wife told police he dragged her by her hair and struck her in the head in front of their children.

Haskell was also served last year with a protective order from his ex-wife. It was dismissed in October after the couple filed for divorce, court records show.

By Thursday morning, a small memorial with three candles and a plant had been set up at the front door of the family's two-story white-brick and brown wood-trimmed home. A couple with a child left a framed photo of the family with the inscription "Faith, Hope, Love."

"I just want the word to get out they were a really, really good family," said Viri Palacios, who lives across the street.

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