Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Reason a mystery in apparent murder-suicide

BROOKSVILLE — In the days after Phillip Hayden reportedly shot his mother before killing himself, nearly everyone who knew the beloved 80-year-old woman asked the same question.

Why?

After two weeks of investigation, authorities say no one may ever know.

Friends never sensed a problem between Hayden, 53, and his mother, Elizabeth "Bettie" Jacobson. A stepsister said that years ago Hayden struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, though she had not seen him in the past five years. People who knew him best said he used to drink, but had quit.

Family members in Massachusetts told detectives he "had serious mental health issues," according to Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis, but that assertion still didn't reveal a specific motive. Hayden didn't leave behind a note.

Sometime between late Nov. 4 and the night of Nov. 5, authorities say, the killings occurred in the double-wide mobile home the mother and son shared in a rural neighborhood in northeast Hernando County.

Bettie's brother-in-law, William Jacobson Jr., lived next to her and Hayden. He and family friend Richard Letts saw Hayden most days, including in the hours before the shootings. Hayden had told them he needed help trucking material to a local junk yard.

He was normal that night, Letts said. He didn't seem angry or depressed or intoxicated.

Before Hayden left, he asked that someone phone him Saturday morning to wake him up. When they called, no one answered. Deputies came by hours later to break the news.

"He must have snapped," Jacobson said days after the killing. "Who in their right mind would shoot their own mother?"

Hayden had moved in with Bettie two or three years ago to help her maintain the property. He was a quiet, hard worker who seldom, if ever, showed a temper, Jacobson said. Hayden was unemployed and mostly worked around the house. He cut the grass, fixed the water heater and laid walkways. His mother cooked for him; some days, he cooked for her.

Jacobson never heard them argue.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@tampabay.com.

Reason a mystery in apparent murder-suicide 11/18/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 9:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement
  2. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete Beach beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulf-front hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests relax on the beach near the Don Cesar at St. Pete Beach. Guests at gulf-front hotels in St. Pete Beach can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas after the change was passed unanimously by the City Commission Tuesday night. Residents and other beachgoers who are not registered guests of the hotels continue to be barred from imbibing anywhere on the city's beaches.
  3. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  4. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark

    National

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    From left, Aaron Sharockman, Politifact executive director, introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, Politifact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair; and Neil Brown, Tampa Bay Times editor and vice president, at the Poynter Institute on Tuesday.
  5. Trump, McConnell feud threatens GOP agenda

    Politics

    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell has fumed over Trump’s criticism.