The 33-year-old man accused of killing four children and their parents inside a suburban Houston, Texas home Wednesday attended an Alaska high school where he was voted homecoming king and class clown.
Ronald Haskell, Jr. is charged with six counts of murder after Texas authorities say he entered the home of his ex-wife’s sister posing as a FedEx delivery man. Police say he bound the family of seven and forced them face-down on the floor. He opened fire, killing all but a 15-year-old girl who survived by playing dead, police say.
Haskell lived in Alaska until at least 2004, public records show. He attended Chugiak High, a suburban public school near Eagle River, between Anchorage and Wasilla.
“He was an older peer that I looked up to, just as a funny red-headed, freckled guy with a good personality,” said Drew Nevitt, 27, a childhood friend. Nevitt said he attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with Haskell as a boy.
Nevitt said he remembered thinking of the Haskell family: "That's a hardcore family right there. They know the gospel."
Former Alaska classmates of Haskell took to social media Thursday responding in waves of shock and sadness to the shooting, some baffled by the transformation of a clean-shaven teenager to a burly man accused of a gruesome murder.
“For most who knew him then, it is hard to understand how things could have changed so drastically for him to be where he is now,” wrote Carolee Beckham, who went to Chugiak with Haskell, in an email. ”He comes from a good family who are the kindest of people. This is all-around a terrible tragedy and a story that is almost hard to believe.”
Haskell grew up in a tight-knit Mormon community in Eagle River, about 15 miles northeast of Anchorage, Nevitt said. Haskell participated in Boy Scouts. Other former classmates and friends declined to be interviewed.
Haskell graduated from Chugiak High in 1999. He was a lineman on the Chugiak football team in 1997, according to news reports at the time, and was crowned homecoming king and voted as the “class clown” his senior year.
"He was always funny. He was always cracking jokes," Nevitt said in an interview. He described the playful teenage Haskell as “the Chris Farley of Eagle River.”
In the yearbook he is quoted as saying, "Why did they pick me to be class clown? I think it's because I'm so darn good looking." In his senior photograph, he wears a simple white T-shirt and large wire-rimmed glasses with his hair neatly parted down the middle.
It’s unclear when Haskell left Alaska. State records track him applying for a permanent fund dividend through 2004.
In 2008, Haskell was jailed in Utah on assault and domestic violence charges. Haskell’s wife told police he had dragged her by her hair and hit her in front of their children. The charges were later dismissed. The couple filed for divorce in October, the Associated Press reports.
A statement Thursday from the sheriff’s department in San Diego County said that in the early afternoon of July 2 Haskell physically restrained his mother during an argument. She later obtained a restraining order, the statement said.
Haskell is in custody in Harris County and had his first court appearance Friday.