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Murder-suicide leaves many searching for answers

Posted September 28, 2013
Updated September 30, 2013

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— A former Fort Bragg soldier and father of two who police say fatally shot two of his neighbors and their dog Saturday night before turning the gun on himself suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, his wife said Sunday.

"I feel that it was just eating him alive," Danica Thomas, told WRAL News. "I am truly and deeply sorry for the families that suffer because of this."

Lt. Todd Joyce of the Fayetteville Police Department said police responded to 7905 Gaza Court in the Farmington subdivision in Fayetteville around 8:15 p.m. Saturday after Thomas called 911 asking for help because her husband, Allen Thomas, was in their front yard firing a handgun.

While responding to the call, police were notified about a nearby shooting at 6713 Potters Court, where they found Ann Awaldt, 68, dead and her husband, Todd Awaldt, 48, seriously injured.

He was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where he later died.

About a half-mile away at Christina Street and Hoke Loop Road, investigators later found Allen Thomas, 29, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"It is a random act," Joyce said. "Detectives believe the suspect did not know the victims."

But unclear is what exactly prompted the shootings.

Danica Thomas said her husband of nearly three years and father of her 5-month-old and 3-year-old girls recently retired from the U.S. Army after serving several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where, in March 2010, he was injured in a suicide bombing that caused both his lungs to collapse and left him nearly 90 percent disabled.

He had been diagnosed as having severe PTSD, Danica Thomas said, but everything appeared fine with her husband on Saturday until she heard him firing the gun.

"It went from zero to 100 within seconds," she said. "My husband was such a good person. He just snapped."

Robert Casper, who lives on Potters Court, said he heard what he thought were firecrackers going off and was on his way to ask his neighbors to keep it down when he saw Allen Thomas running from a garage.

"A guy runs outside, turns right back around and goes back inside the house for less than a minute," Casper said. "He comes back outside running full-tilt and he gets to the center of the cul-de-sac."

Then, Casper said, a neighbor confronted Allen Thomas.

"All of a sudden, he shoots at the neighbor and hits his truck, and then (Thomas) runs across the street in between two houses and then out of sight."

Neighbor Phil Reilly said he was inside watching TV when he heard a rapid fire of what he thought to be five or six gunshots.

"It gives you pause for thought," Reilly said. "Because it could have been us. Whoever this person was, it could have been our house."

Ann Awaldt had a civilian job at Fort Braggm and Todd Awaldt worked the last 11 years as a maintenance employee for Cumberland County Schools.

"Todd and Ann were amazing and generous people," his sister-in-law, Janet Awaldt, said in an email to WRAL News Monday. "(They were wonderful people who would do anything to help someone else. The Awaldt family is small and very close-knit, so losing these two beautiful people is beyond tragic."

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  • kaipia4 Oct 1, 2013

    I still can't believe you guys are gone. You will be missed by me and my whole family.

  • btneast Sep 30, 2013

    The way war is waged now is much different than in WWII and this is a different type of war. Also, many of the young men and women who are fighting now are on multiple tours of duties in a short amount of time. He was also injured in a suicide bombing, which increase the severity of the trauma he experienced

    I'm not doubting that this guy suffered trauma, or that PTSD is real, but I really am curious about why we didn't see this after WWII. You need to talk to some WWII vets that saw combat, because there was lots of trauma in that war, some really bad stuff. As far as multiple tours, many of the WWII guys were overseas for years. They might rotate back to a non combat area for a brief period, but then back to the lines. I truly am curious as to why we didn't see wholesale PTSD then?

  • knk1553 Sep 30, 2013

    Yes, I know. I had an uncle that had it from WWII....he would go off on a binge , wild car chases at high speeds, pulling guns on his wife....then he would go for years and be ok. Speaking of WWII, why weren't there droves and droves of people acting out like that after that war ended. Proportionally, there were waaaaay more people in combat than our current "conflict".
    btneast

    The severity of PTSD that someone experiences is associated with how traumatic the event was and how many times they were exposed to traumatic events throughout a set time period. The way war is waged now is much different than in WWII and this is a different type of war. Also, many of the young men and women who are fighting now are on multiple tours of duties in a short amount of time. He was also injured in a suicide bombing, which increase the severity of the trauma he experienced. Its an extremely sad case but PTSD is very real and our system of care for the mentally ill is sub-par.

  • mewuvbb Sep 30, 2013

    Mental Illness is a Disease, and there should be more research and proper care for ones with the disease.

  • mewuvbb Sep 30, 2013

    Praying for answer to what happened to our service men were women that were in these wars, and what they were subjected to Prayers for all of the families

  • btneast Sep 30, 2013

    PTSD is very serious esp for those who served in war and they could snap any moment due to their mental illness.

    Yes, I know. I had an uncle that had it from WWII....he would go off on a binge , wild car chases at high speeds, pulling guns on his wife....then he would go for years and be ok. Speaking of WWII, why weren't there droves and droves of people acting out like that after that war ended. Proportionally, there were waaaaay more people in combat than our current "conflict".

  • btneast Sep 30, 2013

    Really, think we still don't need more control over who owns what guns?

    I think the control is there for the most part, its getting people diagnosed and into the system expeditiously that is an issue. People with mental illnesses don't typically go to a Dr on their own.....it takes a family member to do it more often than not, and even then it's an uphill struggle.

  • sweetlyght Sep 30, 2013

    Bartmeister
    _______________________

    Disregard won't help the situation. These young poeple join the military before their old enough to drink, and are sent to wars where they're lives are in danger 24 hours a day. They watch friends die, they kill strangers, and some suffer life long injuries, mental and physical. We can't trivialize what we ask them to do for us

  • sweetlyght Sep 30, 2013

    ================================================

    Sorry dude, I'm not sad for him. Our "leaders" aren't the problem here as you put it. I have zero feelings for this guy and what he did. The innocent are his family left behind and the people he murdered. They are the innocent.

  • My Two Cents Sep 30, 2013

    Lets see. He had a gun. He was suffering from PTSD which IS a mental illness. Now three people are dead. Really, think we still don't need more control over who owns what guns?

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