Man guilty of killing 6 members of his ex’s family in Texas, faces death sentence

Man guilty of killing 6 members of his ex’s family in Texas, faces death sentence

By Phil Helsel, NBC News

A Utah man was convicted Thursday of killing six members of his extended family in Texas and faces the possibility of a death sentence.

A Harris County jury found Ronald Haskell, 39, guilty in the July 2014 killings of six members of the Stay family: Stephen and Katie Stay, and their children Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 7 and Zach, 4.

“We are grateful for the jurors’ rapt attention over the last many weeks to every piece of evidence in the case,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “There was never a reasonable doubt that Haskell meticulously planned and carried out the slaughter of the Stay family.”

Police have said that Haskell traveled from California to the Houston suburb of Spring and ambushed his ex-wife’s sister, her husband and their five children in their home.

The Stays and four of their children were fatally shot in the back of their heads, and a fifth child, who was 15 at the time, survived. That teen, Cassidy, was grazed in the head by a bullet and played dead.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the capital murder case, but jurors will decide whether Haskell should receive a death sentence or life in prison.

At trial, the defense argued that Haskell was insane and heard voices that led him to kill the six people, NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston reported. After the verdict was read Thursday, he hung his head.

“I think he took it as best as you could expect,” said Doug Durham, one of Haskell’s defense attorneys, according to the station. “He was aware that this was a strong possibility.”

The sentencing phase begins Monday. Haskell defense attorney Neil Davis III said his team will work “to save his life. That’s our job,” according to KPRC.

The sentencing phase is expected to last around 2 ½ weeks, the station reported.

Cassidy testified at the trial and was surrounded by family members. She appeared to be praying before the guilty verdict was read Thursday, according to KPRC.

At a 2014 memorial for her family, Cassidy thanked the community for its support and said that she was comforted knowing her parents, two brothers and two sisters are “in a much better place, and that I’ll be able to see them again one day.”

Haskell was disguised as a FedEx delivery driver when he went to the Stay home, apparently looking for his ex-wife, who is Katie Stay’s sister.

He forced his way inside and tied up Cassidy, officials said. When the rest of her family returned minutes later, Haskell tied them up and demanded to know the whereabouts of his ex-wife. They said they didn’t know, and they were each shot in the back of the head.

Cassidy, who was wounded, played dead until Haskell left, and was able to identify him to police. She told officials he was planning to drive to her grandparents’ home and kill them. But police tracked down Haskell, and he was arrested after a 20-minute police chase and a three-hour standoff.

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