Houston killer of six demanded to know where to find his ex-wife

Man, wife and four children shot, execution-style, Houston court is told

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 9:03pm


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

The lone survivor of the attack, the slain couple's daughter, 15, suffered a fractured skull when a bullet grazed her head. She played dead and called for help after Ronald Lee Haskell left the house, prosecutors revealed at a court hearing in Houston, Texas.

After entering the house Haskell tied up the other four children, two boys aged four and 13 and two girls aged seven and nine, with parents Stephen Stay, 39, and Katie Stay, 33.

Haskell then shot each member of the family in the back of the head execution-style, court documents showed. The daughter told authorities the gunman was planning to shoot other relatives, prosecutors said.

Police cornered Haskell's car in a cul-de-sac near where other family members lived, where a stand-off lasted more than three hours before Haskell surrendered.

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

He had been jailed in 2008 in the state of Utah over assault and domestic violence. His wife told police he dragged her by her hair and struck her in front of the children. Those charges were later dismissed as part of a plea deal.

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

Documents from Thursday's hearing show that the girl who survived attempted to close the door after telling Haskell her parents were not home, but he kicked it in.

Haskell was wearing a FedEx shirt at the time of the attack, but authorities seemed uncertain whether it was a deliberate attempt to deceive. He had worked for FedEx but not since January.

A divorce decree issued in February shows that Haskell and Melanie Kaye Haskell were married in 2002 in California. They separated in June last year.

A judge granted joint custody of the four children ranging in age from three to 11, with Haskell's wife getting primary custody.

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-storey home. A couple with a child left a framed photo of the family with the inscription "Faith, Hope, Love."

"I don't think any of us will ever be able to see that house the same again," said Viri Palacios, who lives across the street. "I just want the word to get out they were a really, really good family."

Stephen Stay, was a real estate broker. The mother was a helpful presence around the neighbourhood, planning Halloween and Christmas parties for children, Palacios said.

At Lemm Elementary School, principal Kathy Brown tied multi-coloured ribbons around trees in front of the building and encouraged parents to do the same.

"It's to have positive bright thoughts about the family," Brown said, noting that two of the slain children had attended school there and a third had graduated from Lemm.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse