Haskell collapses in Texas court as details of murder read

by Reuters
Friday, 11 July 2014 17:03 GMT

(Adds details on crime, quotes)

By Erwin Seba and Terry Wade

HOUSTON, July 11 (Reuters) - The man accused of killing four children aged 4 to 14 and their parents after entering their suburban Houston home while looking for his former wife collapsed when details of the crime were read in court on Friday.

Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, who is being held without bond, was in court for a hearing after being charged on Thursday with capital murder and multiple murders of the relatives of his former wife. Capital murder can bring the death penalty in Texas.

Haskell, dressed in orange prison attire, said to the judge "Yes, sir" after his rights were read and then fainted as details of the crime were listed. Bailiffs had to pick him up and wheel him out in an office chair.

Haskell is accused of fatally shooting two boys ages 4 and 14, two girls ages 7 and 9, and their parents Stephen Stay, 39, and Katie Stay, 33. Five of them were found dead and one of the children died after being flown to a hospital for treatment.

Cassidy Stay, their 15-year-old daughter, survived the attack on Wednesday afternoon, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said.

On Friday, a lawyer for Haskell said his client suffers from mental illness.

Harris County prosecutor Tammy Thomas told the judge that Haskell methodically executed the family, tying up each member and then firing two bullets into them, starting with the mother.

Haskell, disguised as a delivery man, entered the home when Cassidy told him to wait while she got a pen to take down his name and number, Thomas said.

The teen only recognized her uncle, who had grown a beard in recent months, after Haskell told her his name, Thomas testified. He then pulled a gun and ordered her to assemble the other children in the living room before tying them up as they lay on the floor, Thomas added.

Their parents were confronted when they returned from a trip to the bank, according to the prosecution.

When the family was together in one room, Haskell began to kill them in a brazen attack that showed elements of planning, said Thomas, who appeared distraught after reading details of the crime to the court.

"Maybe reality is finally settling in," she told reporters afterwards when asked what prompted Haskell to collapse.

"It makes no difference to me if he understands how much trouble he is in. We'll get a jury to do that for him."

Doug Durham, Haskell's public defender, said his client had been in and out of hospitals in Utah and California with a history of mental illness and that he was not taking prescribed medication at the time of the shooting.

"The evidence will show he was suffering from a mental illness at the time of this incident," said Durham.

A neighbor previously told Reuters that Haskell was angry at the family for facilitating the divorce.

The suspect's former wife did not live at the house and was not harmed in the incident.

Cassidy Stay, left for dead, called police and alerted them about the shooting and that Haskell was on his way to the home of more relatives of his former wife. Police intercepted him before he got to the home.

Cassidy is expected to make a full recovery from a gunshot wound to the head, her relatives said in a statement.

Haskell and his then-wife lived in Logan, Utah, from 2006 to 2013, local police have said. Authorities there once arrested him for domestic assault and violence, but the charges were dropped after he accepted a plea deal, according to police. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney and Susan Heavey)

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