Mary Ann Holder wanted to see her married former flame one last time as their bitter love triangle threatened to open a new and potentially costly chapter in court.
The meeting ended with Randall Lamb, 40, being shot and Holder, 36, taking her own life Sunday. Later, police found that Holder gunned down five children, including her two sons and the older boy's girlfriend. Two of the five died, and three others were listed in critical condition Monday.
Investigators were trying to unravel the violent chain of events and understand why Holder took out her rage on children. Holder left notes taking responsibility for the shootings and apologizing for the pain she was causing, Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes said. The notes also indicate Holder was angry about how her relationship with Lamb ended.
"They were obviously shot for the purpose of killing them. You can call it an execution, you can call it a shooting, you can call it whatever you want. The result is the same," he said. "We may never know exactly what her thoughts were and why."
Investigators said Holder and Lamb had been having an affair for almost four years and it was grinding to an acrimonious end.
In February, Lamb's wife, Jennifer, sought a court order to keep Holder away from her and her husband. Jennifer Lamb stated in the complaint that Holder would constantly call and text their cell phones and that Holder also sent nude pictures of herself. In June, Holder filed restraining orders against Lamb and his wife, saying they stalked and harassed her and that Lamb constantly drove past her house.
Authorities said Lamb agreed to meet Holder at a community college parking lot around 9 a.m. Sunday. His wife was about to file an alienation of affection lawsuit against Holder. North Carolina law allows a married person to sue the person with whom his or her spouse had an affair.
Holder shot at him multiple times and hit him once in the shoulder, the sheriff said. Lamb called his wife, who reported the shooting to 911 dispatchers. He was in stable condition on Monday.
Holder then drove off to pick up her 14-year-old son. Phone records indicate that about 45 minutes later, Zachary Smith was sending a text message thanking his hosts for letting him stay over the previous night.
Nearly half an hour later, a sheriff's deputy on the lookout for Holder's black SUV drove past it and turned around after seeing what he thought was a puff of smoke inside the vehicle. Holder was found dead inside with a gunshot to the head, and Zachary critically wounded was in the SUV's back seat. Deputies recovered two handguns inside the vehicle, one in Holder's lap, the sheriff said.
The officers then went into Holder's home in the Pleasant Garden community south of Greensboro and found her son, 17-year-old Robert Dylan Smith, dead. Smith's girlfriend, Makayla Woods, 15, and Holder's nephew, Richard Suttles, 17, were also shot inside the home and were in critical condition Monday. Holder's niece, Hannaleigh Suttles. 8, died Monday.
The victims appeared to have been shot while they slept in a bedroom and the home's living room, said Barnes's chief deputy, Col. Randy Powers.
Holder's decision to take in her dead sister's children appeared to add to the pressures of what appeared to be a life in turmoil, neighbor Teresa Scott said.
"Why would you take them children, keep them children, when your life's rocky, up and down?" said Scott, who said Holder began renting the home across the street about four years ago.
Holder's children were kind and vigilant toward the elderly couple across the road, Teresa Scott said. They volunteered to help with yard maintenance and inquired about the health of her husband, Joe, who has had recent health problems.
In the past, Lamb also appeared to like Holder's children, Teresa Scott said. "They'd pack up things and go places together," she said.
But it was also clear the affair between Holder and Lamb had become rancorous, Teresa Scott said. Robert Smith posted no trespassing signs on trees in the front yard this year in response to the rising level of tension between Holder and Lamb, Scott said.
No one answered the door at Lamb's home or at the homes of neighbors at the end of long driveways.
The multiple shootings stunned law officers, Barnes said.
"We've got death. We've got drama. We've got a situation basically no one could ever imagine," Barnes said.