Monday, December 14, 2009

Grahom, NC: Couple's relationship tense in days leading up to deaths

By Roselee Papandrea / Times-News
2009-12-14 18:31:42
In her application for a domestic violence protective order signed by a judge a few days before Janet McPherson was killed Friday, she wrote that just last month her husband threatened to kill her and himself.

While it will be up to a medical examiner to say for sure, authorities think that Stephen Derick McPherson made good on the threat Friday afternoon.

A 911 call was made from 3258 Rogers Road in Graham at about 12:38 p.m. Friday. Authorities think it was Janet McPherson, 42, who made the call, but she never spoke directly into the phone. She and Derick McPherson, 36, were both alive when the Alamance County Central Communications dispatcher sent sheriff’s deputies to that address.

Based on a recording of the 911 call, Janet and Derick McPherson were arguing, and he was threatening her. She pleaded with him. At one point in the call, she said, “You’re going to shoot me anyway.”

When deputies arrived, Janet McPherson was found dead in the living room. Derick McPherson was found in a bathroom with what authorities think was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was still alive at the time and was declared dead when he arrived at Alamance Regional Medical Center.

Autopsies were performed on both bodies Saturday, but the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Chapel Hill had not released a report as of Monday, said Randy Jones, sheriff’s department spokesman.

The State Bureau of Investigation was called in Friday and an agent has become the lead investigator. Jones said the SBI was asked to take on the investigation because Janet McPherson’s brother is a detective with the sheriff’s department.

Regardless of the circumstances, Jones said, the SBI would have been asked to assist due to the “magnitude of the crime scene.”

Janet and Derick McPherson were married 10 years. They had a 7-year-old daughter who attends E.M. Holt Elementary School.

On Nov. 2, Janet McPherson filed a civil complaint in Alamance County Superior Court. She was seeking divorce from bed and board; support and alimony; child custody and support; and equitable distribution, according to court records.

Janet McPherson accused her husband of having an “illicit affair.” She said that he failed to “regularly attend to his mood swings,” that he attempted to prevent her from maintaining a proper relationship with her family and that he subjected her to “substantial emotional distress.”

In an application for a domestic violence protective order granted Dec. 8 by District Court Judge Wayne Abernathy, Janet McPherson said that during a Nov. 12 discussion about their separation, Derick threatened that if she wasn’t fair “he would harm her and himself.”

While the protective order meant Derick McPherson wasn’t allowed to have contact with his wife and he was not allowed to make any other threats, he was allowed access to outside buildings on their property to do his job and was allowed to have contact with his child.

In his response to the Nov. 2 complaint, Derick McPherson denied making threats.

“I did not threaten to kill anyone, including myself,” he wrote in his response filed Nov. 30 that addresses both the civil complaint and the protective order.

By Nov. 17, he was no longer sleeping at the house. On Nov. 23, she found him at the house at about 5:45 p.m. when she and her daughter returned home. Janet McPherson said he wasn’t a heavy drinker, but he had about a quarter to a half a bottle of vodka and was crying uncontrollably. She called his parents, and they arrived to console him.

Janet McPherson told Derick’s parents that she was scared, but Derick promised he would sleep on the couch. Once his parents left, Janet said that she was going to her parents’ house but stayed after he promised to stay on the couch and leave her alone.

At about 3 a.m. Nov. 24, he woke up on the couch and realized that their daughter was not in her bed and their bedroom door was locked because Janet McPherson locked it. He managed to get into the room. When Janet McPherson saw him, he was holding a flashlight in one hand and she couldn’t see what was in the other.

“He grabbed me with both hands and asked me what I was doing,” she wrote. “I told him he was scaring me. He kept trying to make me talk to him and wouldn’t let me out of the bathroom.”

In his response to Janet McPherson’s complaint, Derick McPherson wrote that he didn’t want his daughter to go through emotional stress because of the tension between her parents.

“I think it would be much less emotional if I could spend some time with her playing or eating supper, etc., together in the evenings if Jan is agreeable to this,” he wrote.

He wanted joint custody of their daughter. “… I need her in my life as much as she needs me.”

He said they had a close father-daughter relationship. He wanted to be able to continue to take her to school every day and to attend school functions.

“I lay down with her almost every night and rub her head until she falls asleep,” he wrote. “Jan knows this is true. My parents are very close to her also and need her in their lives as she is the only grandchild on my side. I agree that Jan and her parents need her also.”

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