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Prosecutors say murder suspect who gunned down six members of ex-wife’s family was fueled by revenge — not insanity

2019-09-26

Prosecutors have waved off the claims of a murder suspect who said he was insane when he fatally gunned down six of his ex-wife’s family members in 2014, arguing that he was instead motivated by a desire for revenge.

Attorney Samantha Knecht on Wednesday told jurors Ronald Lee Haskell had been planning for months to drive cross country and carry out the “cold-blooded execution” of his ex-wife’s sister, her husband and four of the couple’s five children.

“He absolutely knew what he was doing that day,” Knetch said during her closing arguments in the capital murder trial. “He took steps to hide, to disguise and to plan this execution.”

Haskell wanted to hurt anyone who helped his ex-wife, Melanie Lyon, following their divorce and it was that anger that carried him from California to the suburban Houston home of 39-year-old Stephen Stay and his 34-year-old wife, Katie, prosecutors contended.

They pointed specifically to the fact that Haskell purchased a FedEx uniform as a disguise so that he could easily gain entry to the Stay residence. He also made a pit stop in Utah and stole a gun from his ex-girlfriend for which he purchased over 200 rounds of ammo, Knetch said, noting both moves show a clear and intentional plan to kill.

Stephen and Katie Stay were fatally shot in the bloody 2014 massacre, along with their four children: 13-year-old Bryan, 9-year-old Emily, 7-year-old Rebecca and 4-year-old Zach.

The couple’s fifth child, Cassidy, was shot in the head but survived by playing dead. The teen phoned 911 and police arrested Haskell a few hours later.

Cassidy, who is now 20, testified during the trial, recalling how her family begged for their lives while Haskell ordered them to lie face down on the living floor before shooting them one by one.

Haskell’s attorneys have not denied their client carried out the brutal shooting but have argued that he should not be found guilty by reason of insanity. They told jurors his medical records show that Haskell had already been in a mental decline seven years before the violent slaying.

“He tried to get help for years,” one of his attorneys, Neal Davis, told jurors. “He didn’t want to be this way. He had not control.”

Haskell has alleged he heard voices telling him to kill the Stay family, which prosecution rejected as “just more lies and manipulation.”

Jurors on Wednesday began deliberation in the trial, which kicked off at the end of August, the Houston Chronicle reported. They’re slated to continue Thursday to determine whether Haskell is not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty of the murder charges.

With News Wire Services