PHOENIX — The man who killed his child, wife and brother-in-law Tuesday night in Phoenix before turning his gun on himself, once drove his family into the desert, forced them to the ground and threatened them with a gun, according to court records.
“It all ends now,” the 53-year-old Michael Sanders told his terrified wife and daughter, 51-year-old Carol Sanders and 14-year-old Audrey as they cowered on the ground, according to a restraining order petition filed by the woman in October.
The document depicted Sanders as erratic and prone to violent outbursts.
“He kept remarking what a nice day it was,” she wrote. “We strongly believed he was saying ‘nice day to die.’ We believed he planned to kill us all.”
The incident, which started with an argument between Michael Sanders and his daughter during a family outing, was one of numerous episodes in which he threatened his family members, according to Carol Sanders.
On one occasion, he raged at his wife because she purchased some fish at the grocery store and forgot it in the car, according Carol Sanders’ account in the document. When she arrived at home, Michael Sanders screamed expletives at her, threw the remaining groceries around the house and punched several holes in the wall of the family’s garage.
Later, he told his wife that she had “30 days” to get money from her mother to pay off the home or he’d “burn it down with me inside.”
The threats became a reality Tuesday when Michael Sanders fatally shot Carol, Audra and Carol’s brother, 49-year-old Tom Fitzpatrick at their home in northeast Phoenix, police said. He then turned the gun on himself, police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said.
Police believe he contacted his wife as she was gathering her belongings from their house.
The victims were found scattered throughout the property. Carol Sanders was found on fire in the backyard, Audra Sanders was found dead inside the home and Carol’s brother was found in the front yard.
Michael’s body was found in the alley behind the home, Crump said.
Just seven hours before the killings, Michael and Carol Sanders appeared at an order-of-protection hearing in a Maricopa County courtroom at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Michael, an unemployed Phoenix man, was challenging the restraining order his wife got in October. She had filed for divorce Oct. 14, citing domestic violence.
The judge declined to lift the order, Carol’s attorney Leslie Satterlee said. Another judge that day had just authorized supervised visits between Michael and his daughter Audra.
“After the judge entered the order, there was nothing to indicate that he would react in this way. He did not blow up. He did not storm out. There was no indication that this was coming.”
Police first started receiving calls about 4 p.m. Tuesday with reports of shots being fired in the residential neighborhood, Crump said.
Police dispatchers could hear gunshots in the background while the neighbors were on the phone, he said.
Investigators now believe Michael Sanders forced his way into the home as his wife was removing belongings with Audra and her brother, police said.