Ron Lee Haskell went to a suburban Houston home Wednesday night looking for his estranged wife, but her teenage niece refused to let him in. He broke down the door and began a rampage that ended in the shooting deaths of six people, officials said Thursday.
Haskell, 33, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on a charge of multiple murder. He was arrested Thursday, hours after a slow-speed pursuit by law enforcement officers through Spring, Texas, and a tense three-hour standoff with the SWAT team that ended in his surrender, authorities said.
“It’s a horrible situation. It’s the worst thing I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Jim Sumner, chief deputy of Harris County Constable Precinct 4, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. “I’ve seen multiple homicides. But that many innocent persons is pretty horrific.”
Police were still investigating Thursday and trying to piece together the life of Haskell, who has refused to talk to authorities. Initially authorities said they believed the shooting rampage was tied to Haskell’s disintegrating family situation.
They also praised the 15-year-old girl, the family’s sole survivor, as a heroine for trying to keep her uncle out of the house and for directing authorities to other relatives who might have been in danger.
The girl’s maternal grandfather, Roger Lyon, identified her as Cassidy and said she would recover. He hailed her courage and called her survival a miracle.
The wife of the man charged with killing the Texas family once had an order of protection filed against him and he was considered a threat to their children, according to court records. NBC News first reported on the documents.
Haskell and his estranged wife, Melannie, were living together in Cache County, Utah, when, in July 2013, she petitioned a court for an order of protection. The order was granted, and Melannie Haskell filed for divorce the next month.
In October, the protective order was dismissed when the couple agreed to a mutual restraining order in the divorce and custody arrangements involving their children. The judge also said Haskell’s visits would be supervised by a psychologist, according to the NBC report.
Texas authorities said it remained unclear whether the divorce had been completed. Haskell’s last known address was in San Diego, where he was working in January for a contractor employed by FedEx, Texas authorities said.
On Wednesday, police said, Haskell went looking for his wife in Texas and, dressed as a delivery man, went to his estranged relatives’ home in Spring. Inside were two boys, 13 and 4, and three girls, 7, 9 and 15. The two adults, Stephen Stay, 39, and Katie Stay, 33, arrived shortly after.
Haskell allegedly tied up the family, police said, and asked for the whereabouts of his estranged wife. When he received no satisfactory answer, Haskell shot each member of the family in the back of the head, officials said.
Despite her injuries, 15-year-old Cassidy called authorities, who arrived about 6 p.m. She told them the shooter was en route to the home of other relatives.
Officers located Haskell's car and a slow-speed pursuit lasted about three hours, Sumner said. SWAT officers used armored vehicles to trap Haskell in a cul-de-sac, where he eventually surrendered.
The teenage girl remained in critical condition Thursday.
“The girl is considered a heroine,” Sumner said. “She supplied officers with information and helped when the officers actually got there.”
Lyon, her grandfather, said in a statement: “We are shocked and devastated by this tragedy that has taken these precious souls away from us.” He asked for privacy and thanked all who had sent prayers and well-wishes.
Especially, he said, “we send our unending gratitude to law enforcement and first responders whose quick actions saved many lives.”
“Cassidy Stay, 15, who survived the attack, is expected to make a full recovery,” Lyon said. “We are grateful for this miracle. We are in awe of her bravery and courage in calling 911, an act that is likely to have saved all of our lives. She is our hero. More information will be forthcoming in the days ahead about her heroics, but right now we want to concentrate on getting her well.”
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Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.