SANDY, Utah (AP) — After hearing screams and pounding at her front door, Kathy Peterson found a hysterical woman and three young girls cowering, one of the girls covered in blood. She heard gunshots nearby in the middle class Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy as she opened the door and brought them inside to safety.
“He’s killing everybody and he’s trying to kill us,” the terrified woman told Peterson through tears.
Just outside the home, police said Wednesday, Jeremy Patterson had shot and killed Memorez Rackley and her six-year-old son and critically injured her 9-year-old son.
The shooting came three days after Rackley called in a harassment report to police Saturday morning and asked them to tell Patterson to stop contacting her, said Sandy police Sgt. Jason Nielsen. He declined to say what the outcome of that conversation was, or detail the nature of the harassment.
Authorities said the two were or had been in some sort of relationship and that the killings they described as targeted happened Tuesday afternoon just after Rackley picked her boys up from elementary school.
Rackley was walking about six blocks from the school when she flagged down a driver — the same woman who showed up at Peterson’s door.
The unidentified female driver picked up Rackley and her boys but her car was then rammed by a pickup truck driven by Patterson, who got out and opened fire. Also shot and injured was the driver’s daughter, said Sandy police Sgt. Jason Nielsen. Patterson then killed himself.
The extent and nature of Rackley and Patterson’s relationship and the motive for the shooting remained unclear Wednesday as detectives probed leads, Nielsen said.
Rackley was married to another man but Nielsen did not provide more details. Patterson was not the father of her children, he said.
Rackley family spokesman Jeff White said he didn’t know the exact nature of the relationship between Rackley and Patterson. He declined to elaborate on the state of the Rackley’s marriage but said “they both loved each other very much and they were husband and wife.”
Rackley’s husband is doing as well as can be expected for someone dealing with the loss of the mother of his children as well as his youngest child, with another son fighting for his life, said White, who has been a family friend for 30 years.
“She was an amazing mother, she’s beloved by all her friends and family … just totally adored by the whole community,” White said about Rackley.
Nielsen said investigators are still trying to determine if the woman who picked up the family just happened to see them or knew them.
Peterson said the woman who showed up at her door said she was driving her two daughters and another girl home from the same elementary school when Rackley flagged her down asking for help.
After getting the woman and children inside, Peterson said she said a prayer and gave the girls teddy bears until paramedics arrived to take the mother and her daughter to the hospital. The girl was shot in the leg and was hospitalized Wednesday stable condition, Nielsen said.
The suspect lived in the nearby suburb of Draper, where neighbor Patricia Briennieson described him as a muscular man who looked like a body builder and had a mixed-martial arts sticker on the back window of his pickup truck.
Court records did not show previous criminal charges or requests for protective orders filed against Patterson.
In the quiet neighborhood with winding roads and homes nestled near mountains, the shooting happened on the day before the last day of school.
On Wednesday at the Brookwood Elementary School attended by the children who were shot, teachers tried to keep the final day before summer as normal and festive as possible.
But there was a significant police presence and a sign fashioned out of blue and red plastic cups on the school’s outside fence offering love for the boy in critical condition.
The injured boy was a 5th grader and missed his graduation Wednesday — so the students, teachers and parents read his name aloud and gave him a standing ovation, said classmate Chloee Walker.
Counselors were at the school to help students and parents deal with the aftermath of the shooting.
Toni Linsenmeyer said Rackley and her husband had been separated but that both attended all of their 6-year-old son’s soccer games in the spring.
Linsenmeyer’s daughter was in the boy’s school class and played on the soccer team, which was coached by Rackley’s husband.
“It breaks my heart,” Linsenmeyer said.