National News

Man Charged in Fatal Crash at Restaurant Had Sought Help for Depression

Posted May 21, 2018 4:05 p.m. EDT

The Rev. Austin Rammell had just said farewell to the last of the 11 a.m. worship crowd at his Venture Church in Dallas, North Carolina, on Sunday when he saw his wife running toward him.

He first thought she was going to tell him that Roger Self, a longtime member of the church who had recently struggled with depression, had killed himself, he said Monday.

But then Rammell learned what he described as “the most horrific thing you could ever imagine.”

Self, 62, intentionally drove his vehicle into the Surf & Turf Lodge where his family had gathered for a meal, killing his daughter Katelyn Self and daughter-in-law Amanda Self, and injuring three family members, officials said.

Rammell said that when he heard the news he erupted in anger, screamed at the top of his lungs and threw an object into the churchyard. Then he was incredulous, he said at a news conference Monday.

“There is no way the man I knew 16 years could do this,” the pastor said. “We are going to figure out how to love him and help him.”

The deaths shook the small community of Dallas, about 24 miles west of Charlotte, where Self worked at the investigations company he founded, Southeastern Loss Management Inc., and where he attended church services and activities for more than a decade.

The deaths also rippled through the law enforcement community.

Roger Self worked in the Gastonia Police Department at one time. His son Josh followed him into law enforcement as a patrol officer with the Gaston County Police Department and Katelyn Self was a 26-year-old deputy at the Gaston County jail.

Two of the people who were injured were in critical condition in the hospital Monday, Rammell said.

The authorities had little to say about Self’s motive. Locke Bell, the Gaston County district attorney, said the investigation was continuing and Self was to appear in court Monday afternoon. He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

In the close-knit church community, Rammell seemed to struggle for answers: What made a man who had been an active member of his church use his vehicle allegedly as a fatal weapon against his own family?

Rammell, who has been in close touch with the family and designated as a spokesman, provided a general timeline of events leading up to the crash Sunday.

On Saturday night, he exchanged texts with Self. The next morning, he saw Self and his family in church. The family had planned a meal together after the service. Katelyn Self made the reservation for the gathering, which included Josh Self and his wife, Amanda, their 13-year-old daughter and Roger Self’s wife, Diane.

It started with smiles, drinks and appetizers. Then Self got up and walked out to his car. The family at first did not think much of it because Self would often get anxious around people.

Then they noticed the car in the parking lot. And then it came through the windows.

The pastor said that about 2 1/2 months ago, Self contacted family members and church members and shared his struggles with severe depression and anxiety as he was going through transitions in his life and business.

He was an “empty nester,” with one daughter newly married and another about to marry. His business was going through unspecified changes. Self was referred to psychiatrists and saw his family physician, the pastor said.

As he began to make his mental illness known to a wider circle, many rallied to his side. A former drug dealer associated with the church who had been helped by Self visited him at his home. “The intervention came, and it came big, from a lot of people,” the pastor said.

Self told others he was prescribed medication. He did not disclose the kind of medication or indicate whether he was actually taking it.

At one point, family members became deeply concerned after Self told them to take away his firearms.

Rammell said there were concerns Self would commit suicide, but it was possible he intended to die Sunday with his family in a murder-suicide.

“It was a roller coaster, and the last few days it went from bad to really bad,” he said.