Stay family shooting suspect was high school prom king in Alaska

By The Associated Press , Courtney Zavala , Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter
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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - The man accused of killing six members of his ex-wife's family, including four children, in Texas this week is a graduate of a suburban Anchorage high school, where he was voted class clown and prom king.

The Anchorage Daily News reports Ronald Lee Haskell Jr. lived in Alaska until 2004. He attended Chugiak High School, and was part of a tight-knit Mormon community in Eagle River, about 10 miles north of Anchorage.

Drew Nevitt attended the same Mormon church as Haskell. Nevitt says Haskell was an older peer he looked up to, "just as a funny red-headed, freckled guy with a good personality."

Nevitt described him as "the Chris Farley of Eagle River."

Nevitt and other former classmates struggled to understand how things changed so dramatically for Haskell.

Haskell collapses in court

The man accused of killing six people in a mass shooting appeared before a judge Friday morning and collapsed in court while hearing the chilling evidence against him.

Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, was brought into the courtroom with his hands and feet cuffed and wearing a jailed issued orange jumpsuit. This was his first appearance before a judge where he heard the capital murder charge and the evidence against him. Deputies say on Wednesday he shot seven family members of his ex-wife, killing six of them.

As the prosecutor read the calculated details in the probable cause documents, Haskell's knees started to buckle and he collapsed to the floor. Deputies helped to keep him standing, but he collapsed again. Haskell was then placed in a chair and rolled out of the courtroom.

Sources tell Local 2 he's been an uncaring, uncooperative suspect the last two days, which is in stark contrast to his collapse in court Friday.

"Maybe reality is finally setting in. This is not TV this is not fiction. He is facing his consequence," said Assistant District Attorney Tammy Thomas.

Haskell's public defender says he is a troubled individual who was off his medication.

"The focus of my defense with Mr. Haskell is his mental condition. Our laws say a person suffering from mental illness is not criminally responsible," said his attorney Doug Durham.

He says Haskell is being treated with a cocktail of medications in jail. Durham also says he's consulting with mental health experts on how to proceed with the case.

Haskell heard details about the horrific crime he's accused of, how he came to the Stay family home two times posing as a FedEx delivery man, carrying a small package. Cassidy Stay, the oldest daughter who was home with her two sisters and two brothers, answered the door and Haskell asked for her parents, who had gone to the bank and weren't home. Haskell left, but later returned.

Cassidy, 15, told Haskell she would take his number and have her parents call when they returned. She says she went to get a pen and Haskell followed her in the house, saying, "I know your parents."

Cassidy told investigators his beard was a disguise and she didn't recognize him at first. He then pulled a semi-automatic weapon from his waistband and ordered her to get her siblings. They waited for their parents to return.

Once Katy and Stephen Stay returned, all seven members of the Stay family were ordered to the floor. Cassidy told investigators her mother looked at Haskell and screamed, 'No,' and she was shot first. Then Haskell went down the line shooting everyone twice.

Katie Stay, who is the sister of Haskell's ex-wife, her husband Stephen Stay, and four of their children -- Rebecca, 6; Emily, 9; Bryan, 13, and 4-year-old Zachary Stay -- were all killed.

Cassidy, the lone survivor, provided emergency responders with valuable information about Haskell's description and where he was headed next, deputies say.

Authorities were able to intercept Haskell at Cassidy's grandparents' house, and after a long police chase and SWAT standoff, Haskell surrendered.

Cassidy suffered a skull fracture and lost a finger when she held her hand up during the shooting. Investigators say her hand deflected the bullet just enough to change the trajectory and save not only her life, but the lives of her grandparents and Haskell's ex-wife and children.

Investigators are collecting a mountain of evidence from Haskell's vehicle, which was parked around the corner from the crime scene. Sources say receipts and records are providing a paper trail illustrating Haskell's meandering trip from California to Texas.

Local 2 Investigates has learned Haskell went from his mother's house near San Diego to Nevada to Utah, where he once lived with Melanie and their four kids, then on to New Mexico and finally the Houston area.

Local 2 Investigates has learned the former deliveryman did spend time in a mental facility, as well as jail for a prior domestic violence conviction.

A gofundme site has been set up to help raise money for the Stay family.

Read more: Who is Ronald Lee Haskell?

Read more: Stephen Stay's parents speak out

Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.