Local News

Records: Orange County Man Sought Help Before Triple Murder-Suicide

Posted May 23, 2003

— There is new information about an Orange County man who murdered three people before killing himself. Hospital records show the man was suicidal and deemed a threat.

Orange County sheriff's investigators said 56-year-old Roderick Farb shot his wife Erin, his stepdaughter Ashley Thomas, 9, and family friend David Cooley, 49, in a Mebane home Monday.

Two weeks before the killings, Roderick Farb went to a walk-in clinic at UNC Hospitals, complaining he was suicidal over a marital conflict and planned to shoot himself with his own gun. When he left the clinic before getting treatment, doctors had a sheriff's deputy find Farb and return him to UNC Hospitals.

Doctors there determined Farb was mentally ill, dangerous to himself and others. They cited traumatic brain injuries suffered in 1999 when Farb, admittedly high on marijuana, crashed a plane in Chapel Hill. A psychiatrist eventually called for a magistrate order to have Farb involuntarily committed.

Hours later, Farb was given an unconditional discharge and walked out of the hospital. Thirteen days later, detectives said he murdered three people, then shot himself.

UNC Hospitals declined to talk specifically about why Farb was released, but in a statement administrators said:

"Unfortunately, sometimes a patient with suicidal wishes says and does all the right things to indicate that the danger has passed, nonetheless commits acts of violence."

"It is impossible, even for highly trained professionals to predict with complete accuracy if and when such events might occur."

After Farb's release, UNC did not contact sheriff's investigators to raise any further safety concerns. Other than the written statement, UNC administrators were not taking questions about Farb's treatment.

Medical records are usually confidential, but Orange County Judge Joe Buckner agreed to release them after WRAL filed a motion in court.

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