GREENVILLE, SC - A broken marriage and the custody dispute that followed may have been the motive behind the deaths of two children, their mother, and a 28-year-old Greenville woman, authorities said Friday.
Harper Edens, 4, Hayden King, 9, and their mother, Jessica Edens, 36, of Easley, were found dead inside a black SUV Thursday night at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway off State 124, the Pickens County Coroner’s Office said.
The Jeep was backed up against a chain link fence. The doors were locked, and the engine was running when deputies arrived and saw three unresponsive people inside.
Each had been shot once near the head or neck area, Coroner Kandy Kelley said.
At a news conference Friday, Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller named Edens as the suspect who killed Meredith Leigh Rahme, 28, in the parking garage of the Main + Stone apartment complex the day before.
Rahme was getting out of her Honda CRV when she was shot once in the head with a 40-caliber handgun, Miller said.
He said police are working with the Pickens County Sheriff's Office and talking to family members to "try to understand the why behind what happened."
"I don't know if we'll ever fully know," Miller said.
Investigators do know Edens was separated from her husband, Ben Edens, and that the two were going through a custody dispute over their daughter, Harper, Miller said.
He said Ben Edens, also a Main + Stone resident, was acquainted with Rahme but wouldn't comment on the nature of their relationship.
Pickens County authorities on Friday also confirmed that the Speedway homicide investigation and the Greenville apartment shooting were connected.
Investigators believe the motive and connection between the shootings stems from a broken marriage and the “domestic challenges associated with the break up,” said Creed Hashe, Chief Deputy for the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
In a news release, Hashe said a description of the suspect's SUV in the Greenville shooting was provided to the Sheriff's Office earlier Thursday.
"A witness provided the description of the suspect vehicle to Greenville Police to include a license plate number that provided additional leads linking back to Pickens County," Hashe said.
"As the investigation continued throughout most of the night, it was determined that the adult female is the mother of the two deceased children whom have different biological fathers," he said.
Miller said police had no indication that Edens was planning to inflict violence on herself or her children until after their bodies were discovered.
In the weeks leading up to the shootings, however, Miller said police received three calls about Edens.
Both Rahme and Edens' estranged husband had called police about harassing text messages and social media postings with "derogatory material," Miller said.
He said Edens' estranged husband called police again two days before the shootings asking for a welfare check on the children at their mother's home in Easley.
One of the children, Hayden King, attended Forest Acres Elementary School.
"Hayden always had a smile for his teachers and friends," the school said in a Facebook post Friday afternoon. "He will be remembered as happy, caring child who was full of joy.
Harper Edens was supposed to start kindergarten at Forest Acres next month, the school said.
Miller said that chaplains were called into the police department to assist the fathers whose children were killed.
“One of the fathers took advantage of that,” Miller said.
The chief said the last homicide to take place in the city of Greenville was last November or December. “We had gone a long time without a homicide in the city."
The Greenville News