Ronald Lee Haskell, accused in the shooting of his former relatives in Texas, collapsed in court Friday as he faced charges that he broke into the family’s Houston-area home seeking his ex-wife and killed two adults and four of their children execution-style.
Authorities said Haskell had left a trail of family-related violence in three states, ending in the rampage in the Houston suburb of Spring.
Haskell, 33, briefly appeared in court and was taken away in a wheelchair and returned to the Harris County Jail, where he was being held without bond, spokeswoman Tramesha Randall told The Times.
Haskell faces one count of capital murder/multiple murders, and prosecutors will present the case to a grand jury, said Jeff McShan, a spokesman for the Harris County district attorney’s office. The office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty, he said.
A court-appointed defense attorney said Haskell had a history of mental issues and was not fully aware of his actions, McShan said.
Haskell is accused of breaking into the home of Stephen Stay, 39, and Katie Stay, 33, and their five children Wednesday evening, authorities said.
He apparently was looking for his former wife, Melannie, who was not at the house. One of the children, Cassidy, 15, tried to keep her former uncle out, but he eventually broke in, holding the children at gunpoint until their parents returned, police said. He tied up the children and shot the family members in the back of the head, police said.
Cassidy is being hailed as a heroine for playing dead and calling 911 after Haskell purportedly left the house. She remains in critical condition with a fractured skull but is expected to make a full recovery, her family said.
Last week, Haskell argued with his mother at her home in San Marcos, in San Diego County, and physically restrained her, according to a statement from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Karla Haskell, 62, alleged in court papers that her son tied her to a chair on July 2 and tried to choke her.
By the time deputies were called, Ronald Haskell was gone.
Deputies searched for Haskell over the course of several days but were unable to find him. The argument was purportedly sparked by Haskell’s anger over his mother being in contact with his former wife.
Haskell had several run-ins with law enforcement in Utah, where he had lived with his wife. He was jailed in 2008 in Logan, 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. Those charges were later dismissed as part of a plea deal, according to information released by Logan authorities.
Haskell’s former wife served him with a protective order last year. It was dismissed in October after the couple filed for divorce. A divorce decree issued in February shows that the couple separated in June 2013. A judge granted joint custody of the couple’s four children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, with Haskell’s wife getting primary custody, according to court documents in Texas.
Officials said it was unclear when Haskell arrived in Texas. His last known job was in San Diego working for a contractor employed by FedEx.
When authorities arrived about 6 p.m. Wednesday, Cassidy told them Haskell was the attacker and that he had left, planning to shoot other relatives, police said.
Authorities located his vehicle and gave chase over three hours, ending in a cul-de-sac. Haskell surrendered after a standoff lasting several hours, officials said.
In a statement issued Thursday through the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Katie Stay’s father, Roger Lyon, said his hospitalized granddaughter was expected to make a full recovery.
“We are grateful for this miracle,” Lyon said. “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.”