Published: 06:17 AM, Wed Nov 04, 2009
Family tragedy: Murder-suicide shocks, saddens
By Nancy McCleary and Francis X. Gilpin
People who knew Billy Maxwell Jr. tried Tuesday to understand why the man known as a wonderful husband and father shot and killed his wife and two teenage children before turning the gun on himself.
"It's like a nightmare," said Cyndi McKinney, a business partner and close friend of Maxwell.
"It has shattered the staff and students," said Lena Scott, interim administrator of Village Christian Academy, where the children attended school. "It's just overwhelming sorrow."
Police say Maxwell, 47, shot and killed his family - his wife, Kathryn, and children, Connor and Cameron - inside their home at 314 W. Park Drive on Monday night.
Kathryn Maxwell's parents reportedly found the bodies inside the house about 8 p.m. and called 911.
Word quickly spread through Fayetteville about the fate of the prominent businessman and his family.
Shock and disbelief were followed by the question: Why?
To many, the Maxwells appeared to be a model family. They were deeply involved in Snyder Memorial Baptist Church. Billy Maxwell, a developer, coached his son's basketball team. Kathryn Maxwell was involved with the Junior League of Fayetteville and a strong supporter of her children's school and athletic programs. Connor, a cheerleader at Village Christian Academy, was a Girl Scout working on her gold award. Her brother, Cameron, was a freshmantrying out for the junior varsity basketball team.
Adam Ancherico, a family friend, said Maxwell did everything with his family.
The Maxwells regularly attended University of North Carolina football games in Chapel Hill together, Ancherico said.
Last month, the family traveled to Boone so 17-year-old Connor could see if she wanted to continue her education at Appalachian State University, Ancherico said.
"Billy was as adamant about making sure he was bringing up his kids in a Christian family as anybody I know," he said. "And he was doing that."
Ancherico said he was especially impressed with Maxwell's 15-year-old son, Cameron.
"His son is the model boy," Ancherico said. "If the good Lord said pick your son out, I'd just say: 'Make me a twin of that Maxwell boy right there.' "
Administrators at Village Christian Academy High School, where the children were students, said they learned of the deaths Monday night when they received calls from parents and students.
"We're all shocked," said the school's principal, Dr. William Warren.
Students gathered Tuesday morning for an assembly to talk about the family.
There were tears, but there also were smiles and laughter as students, teachers and former staff members remembered the family and shared stories, Warren said.
Connor was looking forward to graduation next year and going to college, Warren said.
"She was very quiet, very studious," he said.
Friends said Connor was hiding in a closet when she was shot.
Cameron "was always full of life," Warren said.
At the assembly, a former teacher recalled how Cameron and a friend made beards by taping shreds of paper to their faces, Warren said.
When the teacher, who had been involved in something else, turned around, Cameron and his friend threw themselves on the ground where the beards wouldn't be seen, Warren said.
Kathryn Maxwell was well known to students and faculty because of her constant support for the school and its sports program, Warren said.
McKinney, the business associate and close friend of Maxwell, said Kathryn had "that Southern sweetness, and she always wanted to do the right thing."
McKinney sat for a long time Tuesday afternoon in her car outside the Maxwells' spacious home on a hill overlooking a park between East and West Park drives. She wiped away tears as she talked about the family.
McKinney, like others, can't fathom what happened to Billy Maxwell, a man she described as a "brilliant businessman."
Allen Smith, a Fayetteville lawyer, played on the Terry Sanford High School basketball team with Maxwell in the late 1970s.
Like others who knew Maxwell, he was in shock Tuesday.
"I'll put it this way," he said. "If you were to line up 3,000 people and say who's the most likely to do this at random, Billy would be 2,999 or 3,000."
Monday night, McKinney's husband, John, was at the home of Bill Maxwell, Billy's father, when the phone rang. It was Bill Maxwell's daughter asking her father to come to her home immediately.
"(Maxwell) said, 'I hope nothing's happened to Billy,' " Cyndi McKinney said.
Staff writer Nancy McCleary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3568. Staff writer Francis X. Gilpin can be reached at email@example.com of 486-3587.Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Whos Killing Families?.