Tempe, Ariz., police are calling the death of five family members on October 18 a murder-suicide. According to police, Glenn Baxter, 27, deliberately drove his estranged wife’s silver SUV into Tempe Town Lake, after midnight, with his wife and three children inside.
“We still don’t know what happened inside that vehicle, but what we do know is Mr. Baxter took deliberate action in driving his family into that lake,” said Lt. Mike Pooley of the Tempe Police Department during a press conference. “This was not an accident.”
According to surveillance video and eyewitness accounts, Baxter drove the silver Nissan Armada down the walk way on the northeast side of the lake near Rural Road Bridge. During the press conference, Poole said that Baxter drove down the embankment, got out of the SUV walks towards the lake, gets back into the SUV, backs up then drives forward down the path at a high rate of speed and makes a sharp left and flips the vehicle upside down into the lake.
Witnesses on the south side of the lake saw the incident and called 911. The witnesses then drove around the lake and jumped in pulled out Baxter’s wife, Danica, 25. Police and fire personnel pulled Baxter and two of the children out. The third child, 3 year-old Reighn, was not discovered until later, still strapped in his car seat in the last row in the vehicle.
News reports indicate that Glenn and Danica were having marital problems and were living separately, because of the Glenn’s severe anger issues before the tragedy. A makeshift memorial of candles, stuffed animals and wilting flowers line the site where the vehicle plunged into the lake. SUV skid marks are still visible on the low concrete wall.
According to reports, Baxter was distraught and spiraling into dangerous depression, over his wife’s plans to divorce him and had previously made threats, saying he would kill his family if she left him. The couple had been married for three years. No one knows why Danica agreed to meet with Baxter late at night. She had considered dropping the children off at an aunt’s house, but changed her mind. Authorities are not sure if her husband led her to change her mind.
“I believe he forced her to go with him,” said Monika Nathan, a longtime family friend and Danica’s high school counselor. The two remained close and Danica considered Nathan her second mother. Nathan even officiated the couples’ wedding.
“There was no way she would have left that late at night with the babies,” Nathan said.
Baxter drove his car over to Danica’s townhome and they were in her SUV when the incident happened, according to Nathan. A gun was found in the vehicle, but according to Poole, was not discharged.
She noted that Baxter needed help and although the couple had been separated since the beginning of the year, no one really got involved until it was too late, Nathan said.
“People need to be taught what love is and what it is not,” said Nathan. “Danica was a beautiful person. She did everything for those children.”
According to Tamika Franklin, Danica’s niece, Glenn could be very moody at times, but the family didn’t have any indication about the level of abuse that may have occurred. “They hid very well,” Franklin said.
The murder-suicide incident has sent shock waves across the country, with domestic violence and crisis organizations calling on individuals to seek help and take threats seriously.
A vigil was held at Tempe Beach Park Sunday afternoon to remember the slain mother and children.
A heartbreaking tragedy like this affects families and friends on both sides, leaving love ones to wonder what they could have done to prevent such a horrific incident from happening.
While many in the Black community believe that suicide is a “White person’s issue,” more and more research is finding that suicide rates among African-Americans are on the rise, especially among young Black men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among African-American males between ages 15 and 24, behind homicide and accidents. Suicide death rates among Black men are five times that of Black women. There are several resources available to those contemplating suicide and violence.
Services for the Danica and the children are scheduled for November 3 at Berean Church, 3102 N 29th Avenue, Phoenix, Ariz.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help cover funeral expenses for the family.