News 12 at 11, November 28, 2007
AIKEN, S.C. -- A double murder suicide tears a family and a community apart. Now, longtime friends are asking how this could've happened.
As News 12 found out, some answers may lie in divorce papers filed in Aiken County Court.
In the documents it's clear. The shooter, Alton Beasley, was grasping at straws to save his failing marriage; but his wife of 39 years wanted out and the couple's two daughters were helping her.
This year, 65-year-old Willa Beasley filed for divorce from her husband Alton. A 39 year marriage unraveling, Willa beasley says due to heavy drinking, credit card debt, and abuse.
In August, a judge granted a restraining order against her husband and while a few friends may have written on Alton's behalf, the couple's children did not.
Just hours after a messy divorce hearing Tuesday morning, Alton killed his two daughters, Anna and Elizabeth, shot a family friend, then took his own life.
Holly Spencer, "The floor just drops out from under you, you just don't believe it. You see it, you know it but you just don't believe it." Spencer's lived across the street from Alton and his wife Willa for more than ten years.
"This is a good family and good people and something went terribly terribly wrong here for this to have taken place."
Spencer says willa was living in North Carolina with Anna, her husband and two young children. She often spoke with Anna by phone about her mother. "She said she was doing well, she seemed happy up there."
Back at home, things did not seem happy for Alton. Emails between Alton and Anna show a tense relationship. Anna often siding with her mother, and just a week and a half ago, accusing her father of trying to make her and her sister feel guilty; calling him "devious" and "selfish".
Her father answering with "you have never had any sympathy for anyone. This is just your personality."
It's this side of Alton that Spencer says she never knew. "Something horrible happened with that man and i don't know what it was. I am just so sorry that this happened to them. I just hope they can get through this and come out the other end with some sense of peace."
For every one of Willa's claims of physical and mental abuse, as well as her husband's drinking problem and financial struggles, Alton beasley adamantly denied every allegation. He wrote he believed his wife was being influenced by her attorney.
Willa Beasley was at the home at the time of the attack, but she was not injured.