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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Shot dead his wife and two sons hours after going to church because he dreaded the thought of Obama winning the election
Number of victims: 3
Date of murder: September 23, 2012
Date of birth: 1955
Victim profile: His wife Kathleen, 52, and their two sons, Matthew, 16, and Christopher, 13
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Fairfax County, Virginia, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
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Pictured: 'Beautiful' family slain hours after church by 'mentally ill father who was tormented by the prospect of Obama winning the election'

  • Albert, Kathleen, Mathew and Christopher Peterson were found dead Tuesday in their Herndon, Virginia home

  • Police say Albert shot dead his family before turning the weapon on himself

  • A friend of the family says that Albert suffered from debilitating paranoia, exacerbated by the upcoming election

  • 'He just did not want his kids inheriting this mess,' the friend said

By Emily Anne Epstein -

September 28, 2012

Albert Peterson shot dead his wife and two sons hours after going to church because he dreaded the thought of Obama winning the election, a family friend has revealed.

A confidante of the family for the past 25 years has spoken to MailOnline about the strength and grace of the Peterson family, as well as the torment that plagued Albert which drove him to shoot dead his wife Kathleen and his two sons Christopher and Mathew at their suburban home in DC on Sunday.

A history of mental illness, the loss of a dear uncle, and a growing fear of Obama winning a second term in the White House took its toll on the mind of Mr Peterson, a wealthy defense contractor, the friend said.

'He just did not want his kids inheriting this mess,' Maggie L, who did not wish to reveal her last name, told MailOnline. 'Sometimes we thought he might take his own life when he was so depressed. We never thought he would take Kathie's.'

Albert, 57, Kathleen, 52, Matthew, 16, and Christopher, 13, were found Tuesday just after noon inside their home in Herndon, Virgina. Co-workers reported to police that they were concerned that Mr and Mrs Peterson had not reported to work for the past two days.

Mr Peterson was a defense contractor and Mrs Peterson worked at Blackbird Technologies, a company that specializes in defense, law enforcement and intelligence work.

Chris was an eighth grader at Rachel Carson Middle School and Matthew was a sophomore at Westfield High School. Both were avid soccer players and active at their church.

The preliminary police investigation indicates that Albert Peterson killed his wife and their children before taking his own life. Each of the deceased died of gunshot wounds to the upper body.

Maggie had been a friend of the family for the past three decades.

'I've known Kathie since I was 21. She's been like a sister to me,' Maggie said. 'If she knew her husband would have done this to her, she would have protected those boys till the end.'

Albert and Kathleen Ortiz were married some 25 years ago, Maggie said, and met over a mutual love of fitness.Mrs Peterson, who was Puerto Rican, had an indomitable spirit, always active and pursuing adventure, Maggie said.

'That girl had such a zest for life,' Maggie sad. 'She was a consummate planner. She never wanted to waste an ounce of life.'

She continued: 'If I was having a crappy day, she would come. If I needed advice, I said, "Kathie, what do I do? What do I say?" and she always set me straight. She always had advice. She was always there.'

But as time went on, Mr Peterson's paranoia and the demons from his past prevented him from enjoying life, his friends and his family.

'He's had difficulty his whole life,' Maggie said. 'He had a rough time with paranoia.'

At a young age, Maggie said, both his father and his uncle committed suicide.

'His dad suffered from alopecia and it was something he couldn't live with,' Maggie said.

After Mr Peterson's Uncle John killed himself, Maggie said that both Petersons were unnerved as they had frequently sent their children to his home to spend time with him.

'When Uncle John died, [Mr Peterson] kicked himself and said "God, what would have happened if our sons were there when it happened?"' Maggie recalled.

Thinking back on the eerie precursor, Maggie is still dumbfounded.

'It just never crossed our minds,' she said.

Mr Peterson's life was punctuated by bouts of paranoia that became so severe, he wallowed in his depression, gained weight, and contemplated taking his own life.

In one dark episode, after his mother died five years ago, his wife had to pull him from the brink of suicide.

'Kathie was a strong person and she probably put her foot down, like she did five years ago,' Maggie said. 'Kathie couldn't believe the way he was acting and how he thought.'

'She wanted to be out doing something - biking, hiking, tubing and I know that frustrated Al. She just wanted to be living life and he took that from her,' she said.

Maggie said that this spring, Mr Peterson lost his Uncle Bill to an infection, whom he looked up to as the family patriarch. 'He felt like there was no one left in his family,' Maggie said.

Mrs Peterson's family never fully warmed to Mr Peterson, Maggie said.

'I know that Kathie's brother hates him right now. Kathie's brother didn't speak to Al,' Maggie said. 'He saw something in Al that probably didn't sit well with him.'

Recently, Mr Peterson began writing paranoid emails to his friends and family about politics on a daily basis, sometimes even more frequently, Maggie said.

'I got emails and the emails stopped all of a sudden last week,' Maggie said. 'He felt that our God-given rights were being taken away. He didn't like where the country was going.'

Mr Peterson, also mentioned pressures at work that troubled Maggie.

Explaining his increasingly erratic behavior, she said: 'He said he wanted to expose something at work. He also got the impression at work, that if they didn't vote for Obama and get him elected, they would lose their jobs,'

'We don't know. Maybe she put her foot down Sunday night and told him "Al get it together,"' Maggie said, noting that both Kathleen and Albert had security clearances.

'When Al was here last time, he was pretty worked up,' Maggie said. 'They were very well off people and they saved a lot of money. He couldn't understand how the government could be so irresponsible and he thought it would be on the backs of his boys.'

Police have confirmed Mr Peterson's feelings toward politics were unusually passionate, but declined to speculate what precipitated the tragedy.

'We donít know the motive in this tragic case,' Lucy Caldwell of the Fairfax Police Department said.

'We are aware that the father had strong political opinions but cannot speculate as to how those opinions related to this case. We will, most likely, never know exactly why this occurred.'

As close as she was to the family, Maggie still cannot come to grips with what happened.

'To think that their father could do this to them...' Maggie said, weeping. 'The boys were so beautiful.'

Matthew was born premature, Maggie said, and she remembers how small he was- tiny enough to fit in the palm of her hand.

'This boy was something special. Matthew didnít have a mean bone in body. He protected kids that were bullied in school,' she said.

Last weekend, Maggie, Kathleen, Matthew and Christopher attended a Mitt Romney rally together.

That's when Matthew told Maggie his plans for college.

'I asked him where he wanted to go to college. He said Liberty University. He was so excited about going,' she said, weeping.

Mr Peterson never made it to the rally. He got stuck trying to park the car and since his knees were bad, he couldn't walk to the event.

'Those boys were raised by one of the best Moms. Kathie knew every minute where her boys were. Those boys were never in trouble.'

Students at Rachel Carson Middle School and Westfield High School wore black to school on Wednesday to mourn their classmates. On Thursday, they wore white as a sign of peace.

Defense contractor 'shot wife and two teenage sons while they slept before turning gun on himself' in affluent D.C. suburb

  • Albert and Kathleen Peterson and their two teen sons found dead at home

  • Parents' employers alerted police after they failed to show up for work

  • Family was last seen at community picnic on Sunday night

  • Neighbors knew of no family problems or financial difficulties but Peterson was on heart medication that made him 'dizzy'

September 26, 2012

A defense contractor and his family have been found dead in their home in an affluent Washington DC suburb after he reportedly shot them dead before taking his own life.

The bodies of Albert Peterson, 57, his wife Kathleen, 52, and their two sons, Matthew and Chris, were found in their Herndon, Virginia home around noon on Tuesday.

Police had gone to check on the family after the couples' employers had contacted authorities to say neither had turned up for work. The boys, who attended a nearby middle and high school, had also been out of classes.

Sources told the Global Dispatch it appeared as if Mr Peterson had shot his wife and sons as they were still in bed and then killed himself.

Police have not confirmed the identities of the family nor their causes of death, leaving neighbours bewildered as to the fates of the seemingly happy group last seen on Sunday at a community picnic.

But their names were revealed by local minister Reverend Tom Berlin on Tuesday evening as he organised a vigil.

'Everyone is feeling a great deal of grief over this loss and are searching for answers that are not known at this time,' he said.

'While the names of the family members have not been released by the police or press at this time, this is the home of Al and Kathie Peterson, who have two sons, Christopher and Matthew. Many of you will know this family.'

Kathleen Peterson owned the local office supply store, KOPS or Kathie's Office Products and Supply, Inc., while Albert Peterson worked in defense for various local companies.

Chris was an eighth grader at Rachel Carson Middle School and Matthew was a sophomore at Westfield High School. Both were avid soccer players and active at their church.

Neighbors said the family had lived in the neighborhood for 28 years - living in the same house since it had been built - and called them a 'fixture' in the community.

They added that they knew of no immediate family problems or financial difficulties, but that Mr Peterson's father had tried to commit suicide in the past.

Alvaro Lopes told CBSthat Mr Peterson had also been taking heart medication that may have altered his moods.

'He seemed dizzyÖ just different,' Mr Lopes said. 'Hearing about what happened today made me think that could have something to do with it.'

Another neighbor, Ed Swanson, said the community is in shock.

'He was a good neighbor, a good guy, a good family,' Mr Swanson told the Washington Times. 'Itís a shock ... How do you react to something like this? Itís terrible.'

Sherry Webster, who lives near the Petersons, told the Washington Examiner they were a friendly couple. She called Mr Peterson a 'big, burly guy' and his wife 'always full of energy and talkative'.

A minivan, bearing a soccer sticker, sat in the driveway of the corner brick home and a blue pickup truck was sitting in front of the house.

Police are not disclosing any details on the deaths but have said they do not believe there is a threat to public safety.

Fairfax County police said the deaths are being investigated as suspicious. Autopsies will be conducted by the office of the medical examiner to determine cause of death, they added.

They are also investigating when exactly the apparent murder-suicide occurred.

'The individuals were reported not being at work yesterday and today, so we're looking at that time frame,' Lucy Caldwell of Fairfax County police told WRC-TV on Tuesday.

The church will be holding a candlelight vigil at Floris on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. so that the community can come together to express their grief.

Classmates of the boys also plan on wearing black to mark their mourning for the family.

Herndon is a suburb in Fairfax County, Virginia - 25 miles away from Washington, D.C.

Family of 4 found dead in Fairfax County

By Scott McCabe and Taylor Holland -

September 25, 2012

The family who lived in the corner house of the cul-de-sac near Frying Pan Farm Park was known as the neighborhood greeters, with the parents waving hello to passersby and the two sons often kicking around a soccer ball.

On Tuesday, the four members of the Peterson family were found dead in their home at 13391 Point Rider Lane in Herndon in an apparent murder-suicide, a law enforcement official said.

"They were your typical American family," said neighbor Jeremy Wilcox. "They were quiet, friendly, very friendly."

Officers were called to the house at 10:30 a.m. after co-workers asked authorities to check on the family after one of the parents hadn't shown up for work on Monday or Tuesday, said Fairfax County police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.

Police entered the home around noon and found the four bodies.

Police declined to identify the family members, but The Washington Examiner has confirmed through neighbors and public records that the family was Albert and Kathie Peterson and their two sons, Matt, a sophomore at Westfield High School, and Chris, a Rachel Carson Middle School student.

Police would not say how the family was killed, but they said nobody in the neighborhood was in danger, and authorities were not testing for carbon monoxide or any other poisonous gas.

"Detectives feel that the situation was contained within the house," Caldwell said.

Wilcox said he last saw the Peterson family at a neighborhood picnic at 5 p.m. Sunday, where the father spoke with residents while his two boys played soccer with other children before Kathie drove them home.

On social media, classmates were expressing shock Tuesday over the death of their schoolmates.

"Matt rode my bus and I never paid much attention to him. really wish I did now," said someone with the Twitter handle @madiemasonn.

"Life can change in a second appreciate it," said another, @DSosa10.

Neighbors said the Petersons moved into their house more than 20 years ago and were always pleasant to speak with.

The family was always working in the yard, on the porch waving at cars or barbecuing, neighbors said.

Sherry Webster, who lives near the Petersons on Point Rider Lane, said they were a cute couple and described Al as a "big, burly guy" and called Kathie "always full of energy and talkative."

Albert, 57, worked in the information technology business, and Katie, 52, once ran an office supply business out of her home, neighbors said.

Whenever it would snow, the father would strap a plow onto the front of his pickup truck and drive around the block to ensure his neighbors could get to work.

Police did not release the family's cause of death because the investigation was ongoing.

Ed Swanson, who lives several houses down from the Petersons, said he never saw any trouble with the family.

"This is a nice, quiet neighborhood," Swanson said. "The police are never called out here. This is tragic."



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