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Suspected killer commits suicide; children found safe

Posted January 2, 2009

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— A man still sorting through a divorce committed suicide early Friday after killing his ex-wife, a renter and neighbor and abducting his children, according to the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office.

The children – Haley and Hayes Heatwole, 10 and 6 – were safe in police custody Friday morning.

Richard Douglas Heatwole, 45, took his children to a cousin's house in Alexander County, where authorities found him early Friday. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a standoff with police, detectives said.

Investigators began their search for Heatwole on Thursday night after finding his ex-wife, Angela Heatwole, 49, dead in a Candler home. Authorities said he also killed Divina Gracia Agulto, 44, who was renting a room at the home, and Lesley Curtis Moore Keogh, 43, who lived next door.

Lt. Ross Dillingham, a spokesman for the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, said Heatwole and his wife had been divorced for about a year and were in the middle of settling property issues. But he said it still wasn't clear what drove him to kill.

"Who knows what could possess someone to do something this crazy?" Dillingham said. "I don't even want to speculate on any motive, and I don't know that we'll ever know now that they're both deceased."

Dillingham said Heatwole fled Buncombe County with the children to a cousin's house near Taylorsville in Alexander County, about 90 miles northeast of Candler. An

Amber Alert plea for help from investigators triggered a public tip, and authorities surrounded the home early Friday. When deputies asked Heatwole to surrender, authorities heard one gun shot.

It was another four hours before the cousin and two children came out of the home. Dillingham said he didn't know why it took the cousin so long to come out, but authorities do not believe he was involved in the killings.

Dillingham said deputies went to a home on Old U.S. Highway 19-23 in Candler looking for the children’s mother, Angela Heatwole, after a family member reported her missing around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Her car was parked outside the residence when deputies arrived around noon, but no one answered the door.

"Based on the victim's vehicle being outside, they made entrance," Dillingham said.

Dillingham said once inside, deputies found Angela Heatwole and another person dead. The second victim isn't being identified until relatives are notified, Dillingham said.

Through their investigation, officials found another person dead in a nearby home. Dillingham said that person also is not being named until relatives are notified.

Dillingham said Richard Heatwole was the only suspect in the slayings.

Neighbors said Richard Heatwole operated a golf driving range. Clyde Curtis lives across the road from the homes where the bodies were found and said Richard Heatwole "seemed friendly enough."

"You never expect anything like this in your neighborhood," he said.

Investigators had said they considered Heatwole armed and dangerous when they were hunting him and the children. He was on probation for drug possession in Pinellas County, Fla., records show.

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  • xchief661 Jan 2, 2009

    How totally sad that these children have lost mother and daddy so tragically. They will always want to know "Why" and they will never know. My heart aches for them. They are forever changed. God love this family and these little babies. Our prayers and our hearts are with you.

  • TheAdmiral Jan 2, 2009

    "till doesn't change the fact that mental instability was the ultimate cause for what the man did,"

    A perfectly stable person can be driven to the edge by another person. That does not mean that he was instable.

    It could mean that he was put in a corner and the person who shoved him there would not give him a way out.

    A perfectly stable dog put into the corner will attack if they are not given a way out. Human nature is the same.

  • teklc Jan 2, 2009

    At least he spared the State the cost of a trial and prison. It is sad though that these girls will never again see either of their parents and will live with the horror of their Daddy killing their Mommy. hopefull they didn't see anything up close

  • Alexia.1 Jan 2, 2009

    "Who knows what could possess someone to do something this crazy?" Dillingham said. "I don't even want to speculate on any motive, and I don't know that we'll ever know now that they're both deceased."

    I'll place my bets on child support and alimony costs. I have no idea what he was required to pay, but in my own experience, the child support system is totally broken and the amount of support required for two children is ridiculous.

    My ex-wife just blows the money on herself: she has no rent, no car payment, my daughter is not in daycare, etc. Even my daughter complained to me about her mother wasting the money on herself (which really made me wide-eyed when I heard her say that).

    Between the economy in horrible shape, budgets being tight all over, it is a wonder to me that there are not more of these kinds of reports.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jan 2, 2009

    Praise Zeus and Allah for sparing the children. But, why didn't you spare the mother too?! Didn't you see how cute those girls were in that picture? Now they've got a decade of foster care ahead of them...or are ya gonna knock them off too later? Sheesh. Can you just lay off the blood-thirst once in a while? ...ummm...with all due respect, that is. ;-) LOL

  • slick rick da troll whisperer Jan 2, 2009

    "Slick Rick - You said "regardless of what the underlying cause was, the only thing that made this man kill three people in two different locations was mental instability of some sort"

    All I can say is that in the case of a reasonable person dealing with an unreasonable person, it will drive someone to mental instability. I have seen perfectly normal persons driving to insanity by another."

    still doesn't change the fact that mental instability was the ultimate cause for what the man did, and it's not cool to attempt to lay blame on the mother when nothing at all is available to substantiate that claim. the only available information at this point is that the man killed three people at two different locations, one of which was the mother. even if the mother was abusing the children, there were better ways to handle the situation that would have been less traumatizing for the kids.

  • Mom of two Jan 2, 2009

    Thank God this ended with the children safe.

  • TheAdmiral Jan 2, 2009

    All I can say is:

    The Amber Alert system was used to find the kids. No one found the kids except the cousins.

    The Amber Alert system DID NOT prevent the kids from being threatened or hurt. Thank god they were not.

    There is not a camera on the face of the earth that would have prevented this situation. Much like the camera that taped the guy who took the little girl raped and killed her.

    Only those who are decent in heart are threatened by the cameras. All of you folks who pitch for the cameras and these stupid alert systems need to understand that there is no end that justifies them.

    Slick Rick - You said "regardless of what the underlying cause was, the only thing that made this man kill three people in two different locations was mental instability of some sort"

    All I can say is that in the case of a reasonable person dealing with an unreasonable person, it will drive someone to mental instability. I have seen perfectly normal persons driving to insanity by another.

  • slick rick da troll whisperer Jan 2, 2009

    i take that back, in my father's case, i don't know what the heck the court was thinking. he never should have had custody, but they granted it to him anyway because he (and his court appointed lawyer) fought a hard battle of trying to show how he was a good father, and a better parent than my mom could be. the man was horrible. he still is. does he STILL think he is better fit to be a parent than my mom? yes. he sure does. 25 years later. funny thing is, he stopped paying child support when i was 18. i paid my through school. i went on to grad school. i am a cpa. my other brother graduated from college also.

    my dad THOUGHT he was wronged in the custody hearing. does that mean that he actually was? no. absolutely not. in just about any court case, one part is going to THINK they were wronged, and there is not much you can do about it. it's life. get over it. deal with it the best you can. killing three people and yourself is NEVER the way to deal with it.

  • slick rick da troll whisperer Jan 2, 2009

    yeah, you're right twc. i have tunnel vision, and you are the sane one here that once considered murdering your childen and killing yourself because you didn't think they should be with their mother.

    i still stand by my original point. without knowing the full story, you have made a lot of assumptions that point at the mother's responsibility. you don't even know if this had to do with custody issues. yet, you seem deadset on there being a bad call by a judge, or spite by the mom, underlying this event. talk about tunnel vision? yeah bud.

    i'll tell ya this. when i was growing up, my father kidnapped me. given the opportunity, my father would have killed my mother in a heartbeat because of his belief that she was unfit to be a mother. he never gained custody. do i think the courts should have done anything different? no. even through all of that, he was still granted once a month visitation. wanna talk about hell? the few times when he showed up was the perfect example of hell.

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