Mr. Anime Loves God and His Family

Mar 3, 2016 - by Jeannette Garrett

Trey Sesler

Trey Sesler, a troubled 22-year-old, obsessed with violent impulses, murdered his mother, father and brother at their home in Waller, Texas in 2012.

by Jeannette Garrett

In the early hours of March 19, 2012, Trey Sesler asked his mother to come out to look at  his car in the family’s garage in a small Texas town called Waller and shot her to death.  The first thing that came to his mind, he would later say, is, “I just screwed myself….kind of like there’s no going back. And so just naturally I went and gave the other two people an early dispatch.”

The other two people were his older brother and his father. It happened a little after midnight, and although only the father had been asleep at the time, the first two “targets of opportunity,” as Trey Sesler called his family, had only, mercifully, seconds to take in what was happening.  “I don’t know what you’re doing out there,” Mark, who was 26, had said to his 22-year-old brother, “but it was really loud, “it” referring to the .22 rifle shots he had heard from the garage.   

In the narrative of that morning provided by Trey in one of his several interviews with    Texas Rangers, he recounted the following: “I don’t say anything to him. I just quietly walk past him, go into my room.  I pick up my Glock 9 mm that’s full of TAP FPD  hollow point rounds. And I go into the hallway and I point it at him.” Despite being shot twice by his younger brother, Mark was able to dart into the bathroom, slam the door and  lock it.    

Those shots woke up their father, who had been sleeping in his bedroom. Trey, hearing him ask what was going on, ran in and shot his father twice, leaving him sprawled, facedown, on the bed. The time was about 1 a.m. on what would have been his school teacher father’s first day back at work after spring break. Trey then went back to his brother and started shooting through the bathroom door, maybe as many as seven times.  He shot the deadbolt out and kicked the door open to see his brother lying on the floor in a fetal position, blood covering much of the floor near his body. “And I was like, ‘Okay,  I guess that’s got him,’” he told the Rangers.   

Supposedly not wanting his victims to suffer, Trey then retraced his steps with a more  powerful weapon, an AR 15, going to the garage first. “Mom hasn’t moved,” he related,  “so I’m thinking, ‘Well, she’s probably dead,’ but I pop two rounds at her just to make sure….” Then he went back to the bathroom where he shot his brother in the head and finally, the bedroom where, after shooting his father again, he said to himself, “Well, I think that’s probably got ’em.” Shortly after 2 a.m., Trey, in a calm voice, left voice mail messages on both his father’s and his mother’s work numbers, letting their respective employers know they would not be in that day. It was either before or after he made the calls that he ransacked the house: throwing over bookshelves, shooting at televisions and  light fixtures, knocking framed family photographs off walls, shooting his father’s Finches with his Glock, then throwing the birdcage against the wall, snapping the oven door off its hinges and stomping it, opening the refrigerator and throwing the contents on the floor, breaking the glass top of a coffee table, taking knives out of kitchen drawers and stabbing the cabinets, shooting two fish tanks full of water, killing his ferret with his .22. 

The hallways and floors were littered with blue, pink, and green plastic CD covers, broken vases, pictures, and dead fish. Waller Police Chief Phil Rehak described the inside of the house to KHOU 11 News as “a war zone …the crime scene was not contained to one area  of the residence. It was from one end of the residence to the other,  front to back, which is unusual." Trey then lay down beside the body of his mother in the garage and fell asleep.

The Mother       

Trey’s mother, Rhonda Wyse Sesler, the person he shot first, the person he believed loved him the most, was my best friend in high school. We had lost touch, but 40 years earlier, Rhonda and I had grown up together in Hempstead, Texas, 15 minutes down the road from where she was murdered, a town similarly ugly and small and without promise.    

I had moved to Hempstead at the start of fifth grade, from a farming community close by.  When boys started asking out my friends in the sixth and seventh grade, but not me, I was left on my own and Rhonda adopted me, much as she had adopted the girl who was “special,” rumored not to have gotten enough oxygen at birth. There were others she took under her wing, and we became a circle of plain, studious girls.Rhonda would go on tobecome our class’ valedictorian and graduate from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

I was living in Houston when the murders occurred, and had just returned after being out of town for a few days.I picked up the local paper to see what had been going on, and on the front page was a close-up of a 23-year old man with his mother’s thick eyebrows, dark hair, and direct gaze, pointing a gun at the camera. As I later wrote  to Trey, “I was struck by how much of your mother’s face as a teenager I saw in your face as a young adult.”      

In response to a Public Information Request, I gained access to the investigative materials, including video interviews by Texas Rangers and Waller police. Whilereviewing those, Iheard Trey’s answer to the question posed repeatedly by the Rangers: “Why? What made you do that?” His answer is a variation on a theme: “too much alcohol, too many drugs, and too much exposure and study of violence to where it didn’t seem like it was going to faze me to do that.” When I heardTrey’s “explanation,” I  wondered whether what he had done was attributable, at least in part, to the time he had grown up in. Hempstead and Waller, the towns Rhonda grew up in and raised her children in, had not changed much, but the times certainly had.      

As the county seat, Hempstead is a slightly more populated version of Waller, though both are rural towns and neither has ever been prosperous. Its population has actually increased from the 1,700 or so it was when Rhonda and I lived there in the late 1960s and early 1970s to a little more than 6,000, due in large part to people buying relatively cheap land an easy 50-mile drive northwest of Houston.

When Rhonda and I grew up there, Hempstead was the home of Marshall Chevrolet, at one time one of the country’s leading sellers of Chevrolet trucks and one of the biggest dealerships in the United States. It was likely the largest single taxpayer in town and, outside of county government, the largest employer. Members of the former Houston Oilers football team regularly appeared in TV ads for the dealership. A victim of the recession, it closed in February  2009, and now, where hundreds of cars and SUVs once were parked in a 40-acre lot, there are less than a dozen “pre-owned” pickup trucks and SUVs, grass growing between cracks in the concrete, an offshoot of a more prosperous dealership in a nearby town.        

In an effort to make travel between Houston and the state capitol in Austin quicker, a  bypass route was constructed to the east of both Hempstead and Waller in the mid 1990s.   

Places like DiIrio’s Fruit Stand, famous for its watermelons, and Frazier’s, which sells ornamental concrete, could relocate to land easily accessed by the bypass, but other businesses in Hempstead were not so fortunate. A Wal-Mart has largely replaced the two competing grocery stores and pharmacies that were in business when Rhonda and I grew up. The movie theater where we worked during high school, that could seat about 200,  but had only one screen, has been torn down. A small pre-fabricated building elsewhere in town serves now as the center of entertainment.  

A Student of Death and Mayhem       

Each generation perhaps thinks of its childhood as simpler, more innocent, than the succeeding generation, but for the parents of technologically savvy Millennials that were born in the mid-1980s and in the 1990s, that innocence gap may be even wider. While Rhonda and I learned to “duck and cover” in grade school, the threat then was from an enemy thousands of miles away in a country we had dutifully outlined in geography class, not from someone our own age walking into our classroom with an AK47. School shootings were unknown to us, unlike Trey, who was born in 1989, after the Cold War had ended. “What about Columbine?” -- the 1999 Colorado school shooting in which 12 students and a teacher were murdered -- Trey asks the Rangers at one point in his third interview. “I know every detail.” He then begins a chilling recitation: “April 20th, 1999, the first gun was fired at 11:15, I believe, a.m. by Eric Harris. It was a shotgun. He hit Richard Castaldo with it, and he shot and killed Rachel Scott. Then he shot Richard Castaldo again and paralyzed him. And then Lance Kirklin, Shawn Graves, and Daniel Rohrbough came out a side door to see what was going on and they both, Eric and Dylan both, turned with their  shotguns and opened fire on them….”

Trey’s detailed narrative of the shootings continues for almost five minutes until Waller Police Lt. Bruce Cantrell says, “Trey, let me stop you….” Trey acquired his arcane knowledge of an incident that occurred when he was 9 years old from watching a documentary about the shootings “about 50 times” by his own count.               

Even had there been school shootings when Trey’s mother and I were growing up, there was no Internet to research them, to learn the details, and no 24/7 news coverage on cable television. When Rhonda and I were in school, any research we did for homework was done at the county library or in our respective World Book Encyclopedias. Trey himself, perhaps attempting to deflect responsibility for his actions, cites the Internet as  having played a big role in his life. “Without the Internet,” he tells the Rangers, “I really don’t think I would be sitting here right now talking to you guys. Because the Internet was the web of information that I needed to study these events that otherwise would not necessarily be recorded.”          

By “these events,” Trey is referring not just to Columbine but to shootings with multiple victims that he could research online. Names of people like Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Kip Kinkle fall off Trey’s tongue like other people his age might list their favorite music groups. He had actually studied spree and serial killers like these for more than two years and written, at the age of 22, a 12-page “manafesto” [sic], in order “…to see where people had weaknesses in their plans and see where their strengths were and kind of fill in the holes to make somewhat of a plan that was – no plans are foolproof, but as foolproof as possible,” he explained to the Rangers. (Trey at one point casually mentioned to them that he had contemplated purposely turning himself into a serial killer, but after looking at the “requirements” -- including a cooling down period between the murders -- he decided he had too much anxiety “…to sit around at my house living in wonder every day if I was going to get arrested any second….” )      

In his study of the killers, discovered on his computer by the Waller Police Department,  Trey uses a ratings scale  of 1-10 to analyze categories such as “Brutalness of Attack,” “Effectiveness of Attack,” “Choice of Weapon,” and “Number Killed.”  Kip Kinkle, who after killing his parents at home went the next day to his high school in Springfield, Oregon where he killed two students and wounded 25, received the lowest overall score, a 3 1/2. 

“He should have waited about 3 years,” Trey writes of the 15-year-old Kinkle, “until he could rationalize better and get better weapons.” Trey related to Seung-Hui Cho, the 23-year-old senior at Virginia Tech who killed 32 and wounded 17 on campus in  2007. While he doesn’t condone Cho’s actions Trey writes that “Cho was very lonely like me and I think he was really depressed again like me….” Cho received an overall score of 7 and was deemed so effective by Trey “…cause he straight up walked up to people and just shot them.” Killers who received high scores earned them “…because they knew what weapons were necessary going into the crime to commit maximum  damage.”

An Obsession with Violence        

Violence, or the thought of committing violence, was never very far from Trey’s mind. “I don’t think a period of two or three days ever went by,” he told the Rangers, “that I didn’t think about some sort of violent act.” And it apparently was a long-standing obsession.   

He recounted to the Rangers a “very devious plan” that he formulated when he was 13.  Because he did not own a gun at the time, he was going to call 911 and complain of asuspicious shadow that could have been a person outside his parents’ home. He planned to hide in the woods across from his house with a baseball bat, club the officer and steal his gun, and then drive to a schoolmate’s house and shoot him. While this plan fortunately failed miserably, it did result in him being evaluated by a child psychiatrist. According to Trey, the entire incident was dropped by the police and nothing ever cameof it.      

As he grew older, the plans he fantasized about while living alone for most of 2011 in his  deceased grandmother’s home in Hempstead, grew more sophisticated and more potentially deadly. In his “stadium plan” he intended to open fire at the Waller High School football stadium during a crowded homecoming game. Another plan was to take place at the annual Hempstead Watermelon Festival.  “A lot of people forget,” he tells the Rangers, “that when you’re dealing with a crowd of people that a gun isn’t necessarily the greatest weapon.” He had planned to get his Blazer up to 70 miles an hour, and then “…blowing through the barricade and just letting the car run and plow over as many people as possible.” He would then get out of his car and start shooting if he hadn’t been too badly injured. The third plan, for which he had downloaded satellite images, involved ramming his car through a gate and courtyard at Waller High School into the cafeteria during lunchtime. He would then get out of his car, “…and basically do the same thing that Kip Kinkle did except that instead of a .22 rifle, it would be a more high powered rifle…”      

Though he had planned these scenarios, by contrast, the killings he did commit – that of his family – were “barely premeditated.” “If I would’ve woke up that day and y’all would’ve come to me and asked me are you going to kill your family tonight I would definitely have said, ‘No,’ ” he told the Rangers.      

Earlier that Sunday evening he had put his “anywhere gun,” a .22 rifle that had belonged to Rhonda’s deceased father, into the garage “for the intention of me bringing someone out there and shooting them with it.” By his estimate the killings were premeditated anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before they happened. Not that the lack of an elaborately plotted scheme lessens the magnitude of what happened. It did, however, bring into question for the investigators what, if anything, immediately precipitated the killings. Had there been an argument, they wondered.  Had his father, for example, said anything to set him off?   

“No, not at all,” was his unequivocal answer. According to Trey, he had problems with both his father and his brother, but neither had done or said anything that evening to upsethim. While he claims the killings were “barely premeditated,” he had, about four months earlier, “had an idea of doing something bad against him,” meaning his father. He had supposedly mentioned to a friend around Christmastime of 2011 that he had thought aboutkilling his father. Trey’s father had initially been “really upset” with him about leaving Blinn College, a community college in Brenham, 22 miles northwest of Hempstead, which he had attended, on and off, for almost two years. According to Trey though, as he got older his father “kinda calmed down,” especially once Trey began receiving psychiatric treatment. Trey believed his father had written him off “…as just like the crazy unstable son that really wasn’t going to do too much aside from regular unqualified  positions,” though he never actually told Trey that.     

“Trey, for whatever reason, could not keep a job,” his Aunt Liz said in an interview with a Texas Ranger and the Waller police chief. Among the jobs he held for brief periods  after graduating from high school: delivering pizzas, working in grocery stores, as a gasstation attendant, working at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, a campground with cabin rentals and games for kids, operating go-Karts and hooking people up to rock walls at a place called Horseshoe Junction in Brenham, doing odd jobs around his Aunt Liz’s house, and serving ice cream, also in Brenham. Probably his longest running source of   income was as a reviewer of anime, something he started around 2006 although he hadn’t reviewed any in a while. He told the Rangers he had a contract with Google, and he had his own YouTube channel where he was known as Mr. Animé.       

Although he repeatedly described himself to the Rangers as “lonely,” Trey did not appear to be a loner, nor was he bullied at school like some of the killers he studied. In junior high and the first two years of high school, he had played trombone in the school band,  like his mother before him. He dropped band eventually and joined the school’s Digital Video club. While he wasn't known to date, he had both male and female friends whom he enlisted as actors in the short films and videos he made, many of which involved comedic pratfalls on his part. In others the characters were involved in espionage anddodged “bullets” from prop guns. Trey’s male buddies visited him on occasion at the house in Hempstead, drinking margaritas and playing video games.     

Trey characterizedhis family as good people who gave him anything he wanted: buying  him a new black Mustang in 2010, paying his speeding tickets, letting him live at  homeat 22, earlier allowing him to live in his mother’s house in Hempstead so he could be closer to Blinn. He loved his family, he said, and would protect them with his life, but   “…at the same time, if anyone was gonna hurt ‘em it was gonna be me. I’d protect them.    I wouldn’t let anyone else get to them. I guess I couldn’t protect them from myself.”

That was a fear that both his father and his older brother Mark had expressed to at least two different people. Eating at a Mexican restaurant one night about a month and a half before the killings, Mark told his best friend “…don’t be surprised if you hear on the news that we’ve all been killed by Trey.” Lawton, Trey’s father, had said much the same thing to one of his sisters. 

Guns and More Guns    

If his family knew to be worried, so too did Trey. His aunt, during a phone call Trey   made from jail, asked him, “Could you tell that you had a problem deep down inside?” and he answered “Yes” without hesitation.

At some point after he was old enough to buy guns, he sold some of them, including a 12-gauge shotgun and a Russian rifle with a bayonet from WWII.  “I was kinda wondering if I ever do something and I don’t have guns, I can’t really do much,” he had said. In four separate interviews with the Texas Rangers and the Waller Police Department, Trey mentions 16 different guns he owned, from an SKS rifle that hung on his bedroom wall to a Mossburg 500 and a High Point 995 carbine. He estimated that in the two years before his arrest he had probably gone through 20 or 30 guns. He often traded them for others or pawned one or two at a time to buy street pills and then would buy them back once he had earned some money.

One of the reasons that “it didn’t click” with his older brother when Trey initially pointed his Glock 9 mm at him in the hallway outside the bathroom was because Trey walked around the  house with loaded guns a lot.  “Whenever anyone would come to the front door,” he said,  “I’d always have a gun on me….”  His parents were, by Trey’s own admission, concerned about his guns and had talked to him about maybe selling some as he had done before, and he was “somewhat in agreeance [sic] with that.” Yet he owned, at the time of the murders, at least half a dozen guns.

Drugs     

The number of guns he owned slightly outnumbers the number of drugs he mentions having taken at one time or another. They range from non-prescribed Oxycontin to Prozac to methamphetamine to marijuana. In a phone call from jail, this one with his  grandmother, he tells her that he was on medication for “a long time.”

Pictured in crime scene photographs taken at the home in Waller are bottles of pills prescribed to Trey: Seroquel (a common prescription for bipolar disorder as well as schizophrenia) and Xanax (often prescribed for anxiety). He had been in at least one psychiatric hospital and had been  seeing a psychiatrist who, according to Trey, “would just prescribe one [medication] after the other. I’d try it for a week and it would fail and he’d put me on another one.”  

On his mother’s phone, discovered after the murders, was a text message Trey had sent her at 12:28 Friday afternoon the week-end of the killings: “Make a psych appointment for me asap, ill [sic] ask off from work.” It is unclear if Rhonda was able to make the appointment, or what it was that prompted Trey to seek one so urgently, but  in less than 60 hours she would be dead.

"Help Me Someone"      

It was not a difficult crime to solve. Inside the house, above a door, the presumed killer  had printed:  “I love God and my Family. What have I DONE  I LOVE my Brother, Mother and Father! Forgive me.” Scrawled on the inside of the door itself were the words: “I will Never forgive myself, I don’t know why I did this. God help Me!” On a wall above a light switch he had written: “Why would my grandpa Die”. (Trey was very close to his fraternal grandfather who was terminally ill at the time of the killings and who died, at the age of 88, four days after his son was murdered.) On a wall in the living room, above a set of maroon  curtains, he had printed, “HELP ME Someone.” On the front of the refrigerator: “I love My family.”

Similar messages were scrawled throughout the rest of the house. Such expressions of love and requests for forgiveness were not uncommon to Trey. It was a reaction he often had when he killed any of his pets. Months earlier he had shot his three-month-old kitten at the house in Hempstead. He had come home in a bad mood from a long shift at work he said, kicked it, and when it kept coming back to him, slower each time, he grabbed his great barrel 20-gauge shotgun and shot it, basically in half, with buckshot. 

He buried the kitten in the backyard, with a note that  said, “I’m sorry I did this.” As he had told the Rangers earlier, “It almost seemed like with all these shootings I could go through with pulling the trigger, but the after effects were instantly upsetting to me.” His statement did little to answer a question I never heard asked by law enforcement: Did you know what you were doing was wrong, and  did you try to stop yourself?       

Trey’s court-appointed attorney did not pursue an insanity defense. Pleading not guilty  for any other reason would have been futile. Once he was captured, about 48 hours after   the killings, at a friend’s house in nearby Magnolia, Trey confessed in his first interview with the Texas Rangers, crying on and off as he sat huddled under a blanket they had provided him in the interrogation room.           

When I heard about the killings, I drove the 50 or so miles from Houston to Hempstead, to the house Rhonda had grown up in, a white brick ranch style next to the former football field where we used to play soccer in our green snap-up PE uniforms and where we practiced in the marching band for Friday night games. A man who rented out the dilapidated wooden building behind the house, which had served, decades earlier, as thesign shop for Rhonda’s father, was outside repairing a lawnmower. I asked him about Trey and if he had ever seen him. “Oh, yeah,” he said, shaking his head, and he went on to describe someone whom he considered odd, almost from the first time he had seen himaround the house as a kid with a frog hanging from a string when Trey’s mother came  to collect the rent or his father to mow the grass. It was an impression that only grew with time and was sealed when Trey lived there for almost a year and would come in around10 a.m. after having been out at night “prowling” as Mr. Scroggins described it, “out of his head on drugs.” 

Prowling   

It later turned out that during Trey’s “prowling” he would drive his black Mustang and shoot at abandoned buildings, the window of a church, the coach’s office at Waller High School, an Ace Hardware store in Hempstead, and the Hempstead Library. But the main   targets of his “nightly ritual,” as he described it, were cows and horses, dozens of them by his own count, found up and down the rural roads outside Waller and Hempstead.

This was after he had decided that there was no way he could kill people in a serial fashion. “I was thinking, well,” he said, “I can go after some sort of animal and, Waller County, there’s a lot of cows you know and a lot of horses….I can easily go into a pasture and fire a high velocity rifle at a cow.”  He went to extraordinary lengths not to be caught, using a single shot stalker to insure that the shells were not dispensed on the road. He would take the shells, crush them with a wood vise, and drop the crushed shells into an empty beer can, which blended in with all the other beer cans in his trash. “I had studied police procedures and FBI procedures,” he told the Rangers. “They think people are creatures of habit. So it was like I’m not going back to the same hunting ground over and over and it worked. No one ever found me.” He also set the occasional fire on his drives, once burning down an unoccupied house.    

Trey’s criminal “prowlings” were a far cry from the drives that Rhonda and I had taken, after we had successfully completed Driver’s Ed in high school. Since her father worked at home, she often had the use of her parents’ black 1960’s Buick, which she had nicknamed “Black Beauty.” She would drive us around town after school to the Tastee Freez for ice cream, to the drug store for cherry root beers, or to visit a friend who lived out in the country. Probably our biggest adventure was slipping in through an unlocked window at our high school and placing anti-war and “Yippie” slogans that we had surreptitiously printed at home on colored construction paper, into our classmates’ lockers, a prank for which we were never caught.    

When I told Mr. Scroggins that I had spent a lot of time in the house when I was growing   up he said, “You wanna go in?” He let me in to a house unchanged from the ‘60s and ‘70s except for the large flat screen TV that sat upright in the living room and the layers of grime on the linoleum floor. The electricity was off, but from the light coming through the blinds that Trey had broken out trying to get inside the night of the murders to retrieve his can of 4 Loco, I saw the book cases where volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia were still shelved where they always had been. There were the kitschy owls the family had collected through the years, since their last name was Wyse. The bottom left cabinet door of the bookcases was missing, and on the shelf inside was a 1963 edition of the  board game “Password,” a Magnetic Drawing Set of the same vintage, a packet of decades old invitations to baby showers, weddings, and graduations, bound with a rubber band so worn that it broke when touched.       

“Oh my God,” I whispered to the 79 year-old stranger standing next to me. “It’s just like when we were growing up.” “Yeah, it’s a mess ain’t it?” Mr. Scroggins asked. I bent down to look inside a box on the floor and flipped through Life magazines from more than 40 years earlier. On top was a November 4, 1966, edition with Lyndon Johnson on  the cover, titled “The President’s Trip,” which was to Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. On a side table was a ledger with “1974” written on the front, a receipt book showing fees paid to Mr. Wyse for sign work done decades ago. The floor was littered with newspaper, the random lottery ticket, underwear, an unmatched sock, a flyswatter. In the middle of the room plastic-seat covered chairs were wedged against an old computer and a new smoker.     

We went inside the kitchen, and in the pantry closet were mason jars of preserves that    Mrs. Wyse had put up decades earlier, now sitting in brown sticky stains on the shelves.  On a nail hung two sweaters, one green and one blue, as if she might come back and resume her work. The kitchen curtains had fallen and lay partially in the sinks. The countertops were covered with dishes, paper plates, plastic bags, a can of bug spray that stood next to a can of Pringles potato chips and a jumbo sized yellow mustard container.        

The front room, where the family had put up its Christmas tree, was crammed almost to the ceiling with broken end tables, cans of paint, an old Lie Detector game, two guitars, more Life magazines, benches, potting cans, boxes, wrapping paper with ribbons and bows attached, a brown purse from the 1940s, a stash of old bank statements, Easter baskets piled one into another, leaning precariously. Mr. Scroggins told me thatRhonda’s mother, who had died in 1997, used to comb the streets near her house picking  up the odd bit of trash and bringing it inside.     

During the time he lived in the house, Trey had used his mother’s old bedroom, a place where Rhonda and I had sat on the floor reading stories aloud from True Confessions, listening to the Jefferson Airplane on the radio, and where Rhonda had hung pictures of her favorite football player, Joe Namath. Now there was a set of mattresses with nosheets on them, a glass dish with PMC ammunition in it (its online slogan is “Creating a Legend…One Shooter at a Time”), a large tan plastic chair with wooden arm rests, a horse’s head stitched in the seat back, over which some sheets were draped. The floor was cluttered with crumpled paper, fabric scraps, pill caps, plastic bags, clumps of dust, and a box filled with old Simplicity patterns and unknown objects wrapped in yellowed newspaper.     

After Mr. Scroggins had locked up the house, and we started out the back door, he told me to watch myself, to avoid the hole dug in the backyard by Texas Rangers. Under a pile of un-chopped wood they had found where Trey had buried what was left of the gun he had used to shoot the cows and horses, the one he had meticulously broken down and burned in a grill so just the metal was left.

Just as he was afraid of being caught for shooting livestock, he was “extremely paranoid,” he said, that someone might break into the house in Hempstead and come and get him. He had motion-censored alarms on every door, small silver bells tied to a bathroom window so he could hear if anyone tried to open it, surveillance cameras positioned at various points outside the house, all of which looked real, but none of which were actually hooked up. At times he had even gone so far as to tie the back door to the front door with extension cords. In one of the small ironies of his story, he told the Rangers about rigging a shot gun from the ceiling fan in the living room pointed  at the front door to fire when the door opened. “I took it down,” he told them, “because I was afraid that my parents might accidentally come in one day and get hurt.”       

It was while he was living alone in this house that his mother had grown up and had inherited,  with her sister, that Trey said the isolation got to him and his “…mind really ran away….” It was here that he started writing his manifesto about spree killers, that he used the front hall as a shooting range, watched  documentaries about Columbine, Son of Sam, and other killers countless times, and hatched his plans. It was here that his fascination with violence  was fed, unfettered. As he told the Rangers, “…there were no checks and balances for me. I had free range of whatever I wanted to do.  I could sit in the house and drink alcohol and do drugs and I was unchecked.”       

Though he had moved to the house in Hempstead in part because it was 15 minutes closer to Blinn College than his parents’ home in Waller, he had found it difficult to be a full time student. “I just wasn’t cuttin’ it…I don’t know, I had a hard time concentrating,” he said during one of his interviews with law enforcement. He had taken a course in criminology, buthe had dropped out of Blinn and was living back home with his parents when the killings took place.

It appeared that the Mr. Animé YouTube critic, who wanted to major in sociology because he was interested in human behavior and who liked to make short films with his friends and also wanted to be a film maker was going to take yet another “menial” job, returning to a position he had had before. “I was supposed to be working at Jellystone Park, but I’m here instead,” he said in one of the interrogation rooms. While there may be menial jobs for him in prison, where he will spend the rest of his life, just weeks after the murders, while he was still in the Waller County Jail, he had started writing a book, he confided to the Rangers. “It’s about a guy that lives in an apartment with his two kids and his wife. He has a bad attitude all the time. He always says smart ass things to his kids. That’s where the comedy comes from,” he told the Rangers during his last interview with them.   

 A Son Outside His Mother's Grasp       

Trey never answered my letter asking him to share his thoughts about what it was like growing up with his mom, so I am left to try to understand her life, 40 years later, at a distance.The weekly Waller Times, for which she worked delivering papers among other things, wrote in a tribute three days after the killings that, “Rhonda had a very warm and friendly personality and everyone loved her gentleness, her kindness and her unassuming character….Rhonda had a quick wit and could always make us laugh.”

I met with a mutual friend from high school, and we reminisced over iced tea at the Ranchito Taqueria in Waller. Though they lived in the same town, she had not been to Rhonda’s home, but they would run into each other about once a week in town, often at a thrift store they both frequented. “Rhonda never said anything really personal,” Gloria related. “She was private about her life.” She had seen Rhonda just a week before the killings, at the post office. “Looking back on it,” Gloria said, “she didn’t seem her usual self. There was a sadness about her.”In the last two years, she had observed that Rhonda, always tall and thin, had lost a lot of weight. When they hugged, Gloria could feel almost every bone in her friend’s body.Rhonda’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Sesler, described her to the Texas Rangers as “motherly.”  “…what I knew, if Trey had any problems, or whatever, Rhonda was right there taking her motherly care, in however, in whatever Trey needed at the time. Rhonda  was right there.” You can hear her off camera in one of her son’s home videos, gamely playing a crotchety old woman hiring a young man to do household chores and bamboozling him on the payment.

Among all the horrible photographs of the crime scene, there was one poignant one, taken at the house in Hempstead. It shows a yellow sticky note apparently written by Rhonda in her always precise penmanship:  Trey  - Enjoyed our time together last nite watching PAWN SHOP.  Got you some groceries & supplies in town…but the Xanax can’t be refilled until Oct. 30 – only every 30 days. Sock is in microwave to heat up for your elbow. I filled up the Bird [probably the white Thunderbird he sometimes drove] & here is some extra $$ for gas, food, etc. Here is your wallet – it was in Bird door.”A mother looking after a troubled son, whose needs were far beyond her reach.       

 

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