SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man who killed his ex-girlfriend and her 6-year-old son when he opened fire on a car full of children last year had told several people he was fixated on hunting her down and killing her, according to newly released police investigative documents.
Some brushed off the threats to both the woman and her children as being an example of Jeremy Patterson’s “dark side,” while others unsuccessfully tried to calm him down, according to the documents released Wednesday in response to a public records request from The Associated Press and other media outlets.
One acquaintance called police hours before the slayings on June 6, 2017, but an officer investigating it didn’t connect it with Patterson, according to police records.
Rackley ended the six-month relationship on June 1, the records stated. The next day, Patterson followed her to a nail salon and confronted her and her son, one of two boys she shared with a husband she’d been separated from.
Patterson told the boy about their relationship using an expletive and threatened to kill him, then tried to run them off the road as they left. That night he posted “nude revenge pictures” of her on a social media page maintained by her son’s soccer team, the report states.
The following day she reported the stalking to police and told a mutual friend about the threats. A police officer in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy told Patterson to stay away from her and advised her to get a protective order, but didn’t treat the case as a domestic-violence call because they weren’t married or living together. Utah lawmakers are now moving to change that legal distinction.
On June 5, Patterson told his mother and sister he wanted to kill Rackley, her children and himself. They weren’t overly concerned because he “says ‘dark’ things sometimes,” they later told investigators. The couple had been in a passionate, “fight hard, love hard,” relationship, they said.
He also texted an acquaintance, saying he’d snapped and was carrying an extra clip to make sure he doesn’t run out of bullets. That woman later called police, but an officer didn’t connect the message to Patterson or the previous stalking report.
The next morning, June 6, he texted Rackley to apologize, calling her “my sunshine on the darkest days.” Later that day, though, he reached out to his brother to ask if he would help him hunt down Rackley and kill her. The brother tried to tell him to move on.
Meanwhile, Rackley met with a legal-aid group to discuss a protective order. After she left the office, she went to her two sons’ elementary school to pick them up.
Patterson was at school waiting for her. He tried to grab her in a crosswalk, but she got away and stopped at a passing car.
She asked the stranger if she could put the children inside “for their safety,” then asked if she could get inside herself. The unidentified woman picking up her own daughter immediately agreed and drove away. She tried to call 911 but got a message saying all circuits were busy, though Rackley later got through.
As the women and children made their way through after-school traffic, Patterson did a U-turn and rammed them with his truck. When the two vehicles came to a halt he stepped out, walked to the passenger side and shot Rackley point-blank. He then aimed his weapon inside the car, killing 6-year-old Jase and wounding 11-year-old Myles.
The driver looked at Patterson and asked, “why are you shooting my daughter?” Thinking the boys were dead, she gathered up her daughter and ran, only later realizing the girl was wounded in the leg.
Patterson then turned the gun on himself, leaving a chaotic, bloody scene on the suburban street.
Blood tests would later show he had no illegal drugs or alcohol in his system.
The details about the case illustrate that it’s common for domestic abusers to make multiple threats before carrying out killings, said Beth Meeks with the Washington, D.C.-based National Network to End Domestic Violence.
“People tend to blow it off,” she said. “They think you’re just mad, they don’t see the side of you that could do something that serious.”
Perpetrators also tend to hide their tracks by talking about their violent impulses with a range of people they know, making it hard to connect the dots, she said.
“When someone is talking about it respond to it,” she said. “Repeated comments and anything that indicates a plan are also big warning signs this is impending.”