A man who claims he was insane when he traveled to suburban Houston and then fatally shot six members of his ex-wife’s family, including four children, clearly understood that he was doing wrong, a prosecutor told jurors at the man’s capital murder trial Wednesday.
Ronald Lee Haskell had been scheming for months to carry out the “cold-blooded execution” of the Stay family at their home in 2014, prosecutor Samantha Knecht said during closing arguments.
Authorities say Haskell wanted to hurt anybody who had helped his ex-wife following their divorce and that it was vengeance, not mental illness, that drove him to create a meticulous plan to achieve that goal. He traveled from California to Spring, a suburb north of Houston, and stalked the family of his ex-wife, Melannie Lyon, for two days before launching his attack.
Knecht said Haskell’s actions before and after the shootings demonstrate he was not insane, including wearing a FedEx uniform to disguise himself so he could gain entry to the Stay family’s home. After the shooting, he reloaded his gun and headed to the homes of other Stay family members so he could complete his plan, she said. He was arrested before reaching any other homes.
“It’s up to you all to look at him and say, ‘No, you were not insane that day. The law is not on your side. You executed (the Stay family) and we are going to hold you accountable,'” Knecht said.
Doug Durham, one of Haskell’s attorneys, told jurors that Haskell committed a terrible crime, but that he was suffering from serious mental illness that impaired his judgment.
“He did not have the ability to know the wrongfulness of his act because it was inaccessible to him due to his severe mental illness,” Durham said.
A forensic psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Haskell was suffering in part from schizoaffective disorder, a condition characterized by hallucinations or delusions.
Prosecution experts testified that Haskell had faked his symptoms. An insanity defense is rarely used in Texas and seldom successful.
Killed were 39-year-old Stephen Stay and his 34-year-old wife Katie, along with their children 4-year-old Zach; 7-year-old Rebecca; 9-year-old Emily; and 13-year-old Bryan. Katie Stay was the sister of Haskell’s ex-wife. Haskell is on trial for the deaths of Stephen and Katie Stay.
Cassidy Stay, then 15, was also shot in the head but she survived by playing dead.
At trial, Stay testified that she prayed and begged Haskell “please don’t hurt us,” but that he forced the whole family to lie face down on the living room floor before shooting them one by one.
Stay, 20, was in the courtroom during closing arguments, which were expected to finish Wednesday afternoon. The trial began Aug. 26.
If convicted of capital murder, Haskell could be sentenced to death.