Houston shooting: Four children among six dead, ex-uncle charged with murder

Houston shooting: A man is accused of killing a Texas couple and four of their children during a violent attack in a Houston suburb.

By , Associated Press

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    Law enforcement officers surround a Houston shooting suspect Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Spring, Texas.
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Updated at 1 p.m. Eastern time:

A gunman charged Thursday in the killing of four children and their parents was dressed as a FedEx delivery man when he arrived at the suburban Houston home where the family was shot to death, officials said.

Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, is charged with multiple counts of capital murder in the killings Wednesday evening in Spring, Texas, Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman said early Thursday. He also is accused of critically wounding a 15-year-old girl in the shooting rampage.

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"I have not personally in 40 years seen a tragedy in one family that is this horrific," Hickman said.

Documents introduced during a preliminary court hearing Thursday show the 15-year-old girl attempted to close the door to the home after telling Haskell her parents weren't home, according to a report by KPRC-TV in Houston. But he kicked in the door.

Haskell was estranged from a woman related to the couple, Hickman said. Authorities said earlier that Haskell's wife lives in another state. Hickman corrected preliminary accounts given by law enforcement personnel Wednesday night that Haskell was the father of the slain children.

The children killed were two boys ages 4 and 14, plus two girls ages 7 and 9. Their parents were Katie and Stephen Stay, according to court documents. The father, a real estate agent, was 39 and the mother was 33, according to Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Gilliland.

The teenage girl was able to call 911 and later warned deputies that Haskell planned to go to her grandparents' home to kill them, Gilliland said.

The sheriff's department said precinct deputy constables were called to the house in the northern Houston suburb of Spring about 6 p.m. Wednesday and found two adults and three children dead. Another child later died at a hospital.

"It appears this stems from a domestic issue with a breakup in the family from what our witness has told us," Assistant Chief Deputy Constable Mark Herman of the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office told reporters. He did not explain further.

Gilliland said the teenager was in "very critical condition" at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston late Wednesday night.

Authorities said the teen's information also helped them to intercept the suspect, who led nearly two dozen deputy constables' patrol cars on a chase that ended in a cul-de-sac shortly before 7 p.m. There, the suspect's boxed-in vehicle remained for hours. Finally, about 10 p.m., after hours of waiting and negotiations, the man emerged from his car, raised his hands and sank to his knees as deputies arrested him.

During that time, Gilliland said authorities constantly talked for two hours "with a man armed with a pistol to his head and who had just killed six people."

Gilliland described the man as in his 30s with a beard "and cool as a cucumber." He said that when he and other officers first approached, the man was "just sitting in his car looking out at us."

Following the shooting rampage, Haskell sank to his knees in surrender after a three-hour standoff, police said.

"This concluded the way we wanted it to," Gilliland said after the surrender.

Said Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman: "He was in the car for 3½ hours. He was worn down like the rest of us. He came out of the car without resistance."

The Houston Chronicle talked to several people who lived or worked near where the shooting took place. A woman who said she lives across the street from the house described the family as "close-knit."

"It was a Mormon family," she said. "They were very sweet and their kids were very shy. This is a sad, sad day." The woman, who asked not to be identified, said five children and two adults lived in the house.

John Barros, a real estate agent, said one of the residents of the home where the shootings took place was a broker with whom he worked.
"It's a great family … very religious," Barros said. "They pray every day."

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