By Eric Collins and Bob Burchette, The News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)
DAVIDSON COUNTY -- When Tim Thayer grabbed a semiautomatic handgun
Sunday and fatally shot his son, his ex-wife and her boyfriend before
turning the weapon on himself, it was a ghastly finale for what had
long been a tumultuous relationship.
Tim Thayer, an ex-SBI agent who was fired from the High Point Police
Department in August 2002, blamed his estranged wife, Teresa Thayer,
for the loss of his job.
The couple fought over child support and custody of their three
children and were known by neighbors to hold shouting matches in
front their children.
Tim Thayer threatened Teresa Thayer and even fired a gun in her home
on two separate occasions during their separation -- sending her to
authorities for protective orders.
Though friends thought the couple appeared to have settled their
disagreements this year and moved on, Sunday's violent rampage proved
the pair's issues were far from resolved.
"You just never know about these things and what's in people's
heads," said Frank Brown, special agent in charge of the SBI's office
in Greensboro, who knew Thayer for years but had lost touch with him.
The Thomasville native married Teresa Thayer on July 15, 1977. They
raised three children, T.J., Paul, and Christina, and lived what
appeared to friends to be a happy life for years in a tan brick home
at 1390 Mock Road.
Tim Thayer joined the State Bureau of Investigation in 1988 after
more than four years as a reserve High Point police officer. He spent
three years in an SBI office based in Greenville before being
transferred to Greensboro in 1991, where he specialized in
white-collar crime for more than a decade, Brown said.
Court records don't detail why the couple's marriage fell apart but
they separated in August 2001 after 24 years. Neighbor Peggy Grubb,
who has known Teresa Thayer for 17 years, said Tim Thayer left his
wife, and it crushed Teresa Thayer.
After the couple separated, Grubb said, they were often heard arguing
at the home in front of the children.
"I felt sorry for Teresa," Grubb said Monday.
Brown said Tim Thayer also struggled with the separation.
In January 2002, the SBI transferred Tim Thayer back to Greenville.
In February, his wife filed for child support and custody of the
children, asking that she and her husband settle the conflict,
according to court records.
Tim Thayer resigned from the SBI and joined the High Point Police
Department on June 24, 2002. Brown said he believed Thayer took the
job to move back closer to home.
That summer, the couple's relationship took a violent turn.
In court records, Teresa Thayer said her husband entered her home on
July 23 and threatened her while the children were inside, saying, "I
have bullets for you," and discharging the gun into the floor.
On July 30, she filed for a domestic violence protective order. Two
days later, a judge granted her temporary custody of the children.
Though she dismissed the complaint on Aug. 7, her husband was fired
from the police department on Aug. 16.
The same day he was fired, Thayer was involved in a standoff with
police where he barricaded himself inside a High Point apartment, Lt.
Jim Tate of the High Point police said Monday.
The couple's divorce was final on Sept. 9, 2002, but the turmoil
apparently continued. Teresa Thayer claimed her ex-husband called and
threatened to hurt her on Dec. 19, saying he was going to "be like a
Category 5 tornado" and "she would pay."
"He accuses me of being the cause of losing his job, etc," Teresa Thayer wrote.
Tim Thayer had since remarried, to a woman named Cindy. In the
protective order request that she later dropped, Teresa Thayer asked
that Cindy Thayer be the one to bring the couple's children for
Teresa Thayer was given full custody on May 12, court records said.
There's no other record of violence between the couple until Sunday,
when Thayer dropped off his youngest children at his ex-wife's home
about 12:30 p.m.
He noticed a car in his former wife's driveway and asked her about
it. When she said it was a visitor, Tim Thayer went to the trunk of
his car and pulled out the semiautomatic handgun.
Davidson County sheriff's officials believe he fired six to eight
shots, hitting his 9-year-old son Paul in the back, Theresa Thayer in
the chest and her boyfriend, William Shelton Merritt, in the back of
the head. Merritt, 44, was from Carrboro.
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His oldest son, T.J.'s fiancee, Tiffany Peters, and 7-year-old
Christina, managed to escape unscathed.