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Ex-Utahn is suspect in fatal Texas shooting

Published July 11, 2014 12:31 pm

Cache County • While in Utah, Haskell was arrested on suspicion of domestic assault, but the case was dismissed.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A former Utahn charged in Texas with killing six people had a run-in with the law while living in Cache Valley when he hit his then-wife in the head and dragged her by the hair, according to police and court records.

Ronald Lee Haskell and his wife had lived in Smithfield and Logan, where the alleged assault occurred in 2008. Haskell was arrested on suspicion of domestic assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child, though the case was eventually dismissed as part of a plea deal, according to court records.

More recently, Haskell's wife obtained a protective order against him in July 2013, a month before filing for divorce.

The divorce decree, issued in February, required Haskell to obtain a psychological evaluation and provide documentation that he was emotionally and mentally stable enough to care for his four children without supervision.

Haskell now faces capital murder charges in Texas.

On Wednesday evening, investigators say that the 33-year-old man shot and killed four children and two adults at his former sister-in-law's suburban Houston home — after demanding to know where he could find his ex-wife.

Haskell forced his way into the home, where he held his former in-law's five children at gunpoint until their parents arrived; then he opened fire, killing four of the children and the two adults, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Haskell has been charged with multiple counts of capital murder in the killings Wednesday evening at the Spring home, the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Texas said in a statement. He also is accused of critically wounding a 15-year-old girl in the shooting rampage.

According to a search of Utah court records, Haskell was charged in June 2008 with class B misdemeanor counts of simple assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child for allegedly hitting his wife. He resolved the case a month later by entering a guilty plea in abeyance to the assault charge and paying a $132 court fee. The case was dismissed after Ronald Haskell went eight months without committing any new crimes.

In July 2013, Melanie Kaye Haskell filed a protective order against her then-husband, which was lifted in October of last year. According to court records, the protective order was no longer needed because a mutual restraining order was put in place as part of their divorce agreement.

Ronald Haskell's divorce, initiated in August 2013 by Melanie Haskell, was finalized Feb. 14 in Logan's 1st District Court.

The couple agreed that the woman would have primary physical custody of their children, court records show, and Ronald Haskell initially was given supervised parent time until his therapist "can report that [Ronald Haskell] is no longer a threat to the children."

Melanie Haskell also won possession of the couple's Smithfield house in the divorce, court documents show.

The divorce case shows Ronald Haskell was living in Cache County at least as of December 2013.

Texas authorities said that when Ronald Haskell — posing as a parcel delivery driver — arrived at the door of shooting victims, he demanded the whereabouts of his ex-wife.

After the children's parents, Katie, 33, and Stephen Stay, 39, arrived home, Haskell opened fire on the family. The children killed were two boys, ages 4 and 14, and two girls, ages 7 and 9, said Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Gilliland.

Five family members were dead when police arrived. Two were transported by helicopter to a Houston hospital, where one died and the other remains in critical condition, the statement said.

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

Neighbor Verena Beckstrand, 42, choked back tears as she described how Katie Stay went to Utah last fall to help her sister escape her relationship with Haskell and make a fresh start in Texas.

"Katie's a spitfire," Beckstrand said. "She has energy to stand up for what she believes is right and true."

Documents introduced during a preliminary court hearing Thursday show the surviving 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.

Harris County Constable Ron Hickman said Haskell had showed up at the Stay home "in the guise of a FedEx driver wearing a FedEx shirt."

Hickman said that after Haskell left the home, the injured teenage girl contacted authorities telling them the shooter was en route to shoot other family members.

Law enforcement personnel located Haskell's car and a low-speed chase ensued, ending in a cul-de-sac, Hickman said. A standoff lasted more than three hours before Haskell exited the car, sank to his knees and surrendered.

Haskell had been en route to the home of his former wife's parents, where she and the children have presumably been staying, said Harris County Constable Chief Deputy Jim Sumner for Precinct 4.

Authorities said they are not sure where Haskell had been living immediately before the shooting episode. His last known address was in San Diego, although he was driving a car with Texas license plates, Sumner said.

— Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this story.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

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