The suicidal man who gunned down his estranged wife and their 10-year-old son at the boy's baseball game had spent the previous week researching murder-suicides on the Internet, police said Tuesday.
Matthew Toland Sr. may have killed his son Monday night because the boy had not properly confided in him about the strained relationship between the parents, police Chief Joe Mokwa said.
"He wanted the boy to confide information and the boy did not," he said.
According to authorities and witnesses, Toland showed up at Penrose Park, pulled out a .357-caliber automatic pistol and fatally shot estranged wife Carmen Anderson as she sat in a car. He then shot Matthew twice, and the boy died at the scene in his black-and-gold uniform.
Some witnesses said Toland "embraced his son earlier, minutes before this transpired," Mokwa said.
After the gunfire that sent players and parents scrambling, the elder Toland drove off. Police found him 10 miles away in a gold Cadillac parked on a freeway's shoulder, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Toland, who held an unspecified master's degree, had no previous run-ins with police and had shown no evidence that he would turn violent, Mokwa said.
But he said Toland had been online to plan "the demise of his family" since at least July 9.
Friends and acquaintances were stunned.
"It's disbelief, horror," said Jacqueline Turnage, chief of the private school Matthew attended as an honor student. "We loved both parents, and especially my baby, my young man, a very special young man.
"None of this makes sense."
The boy's death came in front of at least three classmates who were on the team. Anderson was watching Matthew from the car when she saw her husband approaching, police said. She screamed for Matthew to hurry into the car, but he never made it off the field before Toland opened fire.
"We heard gunshots and we looked up and we saw him down and saw the mother's windshield shattered, and she was gone and he was gone," said Warren Scott, the boy's coach.
Scott, who did not return telephone messages Tuesday, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Matthew considered it a treat to see his father at his baseball games, where the boy often ran to hug the dad who embraced any chance to see his son.
Scott said the boy's mother had been seeking a restraining order to keep her husband from her son.
At the 200-student Storman-Stufflin School, the slain boy "was an excellent student, straight A's, a gifted young man on test scores and everything," Turnage said. "Nothing but top notch."
Turnage said she was close to both parents. The elder Toland attended the child's camps the past two years, and the boy's mother was active in the local parent club.
"I'm sure every parent thinks their child is exceptional and bright," Turnage said. "He was a very loving dad, very patient. The way he spoke to his child was always in patience and love."