Cary Michael Landers, 51, and Katherine Landers, 41, were found shot to death in their Woodberry Court home, along with a .380-caliber handgun believed to be the weapon used, said Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives are still investigating, but Baker says “No clear motive has been established, and it is possible that we will never know definitively why this happened.”
The fatal incident made the wife the victim of Cherokee County’s first homicide of 2014 and counted as the county’s first deadly domestic violence event of the year, Baker confirmed.
The family, though, said they didn’t see the tragedy coming.
Vicki Karraker, who is married to the Katherine Landers’ brother and made the grim discovery Friday, said family members are stunned by the deaths.
“Mike talked for hours about wanting to make his wife’s dreams come true,” Karraker said Tuesday. “He was a man who was always telling his wife how beautiful she was and how much he loved her, and he was very encouraging and supportive of her. We were completely taken by surprise. The man I knew as Michael Landers — I loved him, and he would never have done this.”
Karraker said she saw the couple regularly and knew them to have a loving relationship. They stuck together when the husband became disabled after breaking his neck and back at work, and they stuck together when Katherine Landers grappled with drug use, the sister-in-law said.
The sister-in-law said the couple’s relationship had its troubles, like “every marriage,” but things were mostly good. She said news reports have incorrectly painted the couple as having a violent history together.
The reports have cited a March incident, when Katherine Landers, a former optician, was arrested and charged with battery.
According to a police report, Katherine hit Michael over the head with a lamp in the heat of an argument about a debit card. The report says Michael told police he was wary of giving her the card, which she wanted for a dentist visit, because she used methamphetamine. Instead, he suggested he’d call the dentist’s office and pay over the phone after her visit, the report says.
Police said they weren’t immediately aware of any other violent incidents with the Landers.
Karraker also said it was the only violent encounter she knew of in the decade the couple was married. She added the event served as a wake-up call for Katherine Landers to put down drugs for good.
“Kathy was happy,” Karraker said of her sister-in-law at the time of her death. “She was looking for a job. She was excited. She was looking forward to whatever was going to come next.”
When Karraker found the bodies, she had come to the house to help her sister-in-law with her resume.
In April, Karraker accompanied the couple on a trip to Savannah and took pictures of them happily posing in each other’s arms by the water on River Street. The wife had lost weight, had a new haircut and smiled in a way that made her scarcely resemble her mug shot from the month earlier.
Memories from the trip — and Karraker’s other observations since March — only serve to compound the family’s difficulty understanding the apparent murder-suicide, Karraker said.
Though the Landers may have reconciled, the two were not allowed to have contact because of the conditions of the wife’s bond from the incident in March, according to police.
Lt. Col. Ron Hunton, a veteran of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, said the fact the Landers went against the condition wasn’t uncommon.
“We see that many times,” he said Monday. “Bond conditions, protective orders, many times the victim in these cases will allow the offender back in. In this case, it looks like the victim in the March incident allowed the offender back in.”
Police being called to a home previously is also common of domestic-violence-related deaths, Hunton said. He added the fact Cherokee County’s first homicide of the year was domestic-violence-related was also typical, as the county has very few “stranger-on-stranger” homicides.
While police can see some similarities in the Landers’ case and others, Karraker said the family just can’t add it all up.
“Nobody has a clue what could’ve happened ...” she said. “No one knows.”