On September 10, 2017, a man named Spencer Hight opened fire in a Plano, Texas home, killing 8 people. He was later killed by police.
Spencer Hight had met Meredith Lane while they were both students at the University of Texas at Dallas and they married in 2011. They purchased their home, the home the shooting would eventually take place in, in 2015. They didn't have any children, and Meredith's mother said that he had been abusive to Lane in the past.
When the home was purchased, Hight lost his job at Texas Instruments. The couple's relationship became rocky and in March of 2017, they stopped living together, and she filed for divorce in July because her husband was abusive and an alcoholic.
Before the shooting, he became isolated and would drink alcohol heavily as he was not able to find work.
"We just had this fire, this chemistry," Hight told his friend about meeting Meredith in college. Meredith had transferred from a school in Georgia, and the 2 were neighbors at a college apartment complex. Friendship quickly bloomed into romance, and the 2 were inseparable.
Hight started as a loving husband. The couple documented their happy first years of marriage on Instagram. Cooking meals for one another, attending concerts together, snuggling up to watch Game of Thrones on Sunday nights.
But Meredith's mom, Debbie Lane, said that she started to notice something was up with Hight. When she'd visit, he would go to his room and play on his computer. She didn't think much of it, but would learn later that it was because he was struggling with alcohol.
The love wasn't fake at the beginning. He was "head over heels" for Meredith, a friend of Hight's who briefly dated him said. But he was also a party animal who drank a lot and had a short temper. And on top of that, he owned guns on top of his affinity for knives and swords.
A perfect marriage began to crack when Hight lost his job doing contracting for Texas Instruments shortly after they bought their home in 2015. Meredith was working for Coca-Cola in Fort Worth and was shouldering their mortgage and expenses by herself. But it was okay. She was giving Hight time to get it together, as any couple would do when facing hardships. "She took her marriage vows very seriously," her mother said.
So when she filed for divorce in July of 2017, her parents were surprised. And that is when she told her parents that, at least twice, he was violent against her. Once, he slammed her face against a wall. She had never reported the incidents to the police.
Meredith, who loved to cook, often had people over and entertained guests with her husband. The Dallas Cowboys watch party she hosted on September 10 was the first party she would be hosting since leaving her husband. A few days before, Hight was messaging a friend online. She remembered that he seemed lonely, and she advised him not to turn to drinking or drugs, and to make good choices.
She said he kept repeating one thing, something that continues to run through her head now: "How can the one person you're supposed to love more than life itself end up being the person you hate more than life itself." But his feelings weren't really rational. He was drinking all the time, he had abused her, he was making no contributions financially to their life. Filing for divorce was more than reasonable.
And she didn't file a restraining order or anything against him. "She wasn't afraid of him," her mother said. "I wish she had been."
Before he went on to murder 8 people, he had gone to a bar where he was over-served. In 2019, the bartender responsible for over-serving him was arrested. There was videos of him at the bar, clearly drunk, playing with a knife. "He's being drunk and weird," a friend texted another friend in reference to his behavior at the bar. "He just keeps saying he has to put someone in his place."
And then, totally drunk and enraged, he went to his wife's home where she was hosting friends and coworkers of hers and the couple's, and killed 8 people. All of the victims were adults in their 20s and 30s. 2 had been in the Hight wedding, one best man and one groomsman.
Some of the victims were found in the backyard, and others were inside of the house, but it all happened on Meredith's property.
You are certainly not surprised to hear that, yes, Meredith Lane was the target of the shooting. Another sad, alcoholic, abusive loser who couldn't find a job, and decided to take it out on the wife who chose to leave him. And with her, he took 7 of their friends.
Darryl Hawkins is remembered by his sister as a role model and a protector. "He was the sweetest, most kind-hearted person I knew. He was my best friend." Even when he was working in Plano and he was at school in San Marcos, they stayed close.
He had just received a promotion at his job as a car salesman at David McDavid Acura, and his sister remembered cars being his passion.
He and his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Faulk, were beginning to rekindle their romance in the months before he was murdered. They immediately clicked when they began dating. They loved riding bikes together. They had planned to see each other over the weekend, but they postponed so he could attend the Cowboys watch party in Plano.
"A little piece of my heart is gone," Sarah said. "I'll never be able to get it back."
Tony Cross was a man who loved hot yoga and off-roading his Jeep. "The thing is, Tony was the complete opposite of hate, which makes it even more devastating that he's gone," his cousin, Clara Dutton Griffey, wrote. He loved life and was always positive.
"Tony was amazing at setting goals. I remember one year he set a bunch of goals for himself and he just kept meeting and exceeding them," his childhood friend Lucas Libonati remembered. He said he hoped that the loss of Tony helped to shed light on the gun epidemic in America.
Tony worked at his dream job as a motion capture animator for Motus Digital, a Plano-based animation studio. He wanted to do that type of work since he was a kid, and had been doing it for 9 years.
Rion Morgan was a groomsman in the Hight wedding, and he had just visited with Hight the day before the shooting. He was working for his alma mater as a manager for the help desk at the University of Texas at Dallas.
"He was my longest friend that I had," said Matt Ontiveros, his friend since age 7. "To say he was a wonderful human being and friend is an understatement."
He is remembered as always being happy, cracking jokes, and smiling. Ontiveros said he came from a loving family that raised him to be a great man, and he loved them very much. "Rion was one of the greatest men I've ever known," he said.
Caleb Seth Edwards was the "kind of guy you could rely on during tight situations," said a former coworker of another slain man. She said that everybody enjoyed being around him because of his humor and gentle spirit.
"He was the kind of person to laugh at a joke even if it wasn't funny, because he cares about everyone's feelings and making you feel awesome," said Shellie Wetherington, a friend and coworker of Seth's.
Myah Sade Bass worked at a barber shop in El Paso from 2014 until 2017 when she and her husband moved to Dallas. She was a cosmetologist and cosmetology instructor, and hoped to one day open her own shop.
"She was a very high-spirited person, very serious and very focused, but very playful at the same time," said Tracy Alexander, whom she had worked with for 4 years in El Paso. "She was amazing, driven, and just enjoying her life," said another El Paso colleague, Celina Butt. The 2 had matching tattoos, one saying "to infinity" and the other saying "and beyond". They were the best of friends.
Her husband was Marcus Bass, a wheeled vehicle mechanic sergeant in the Army.
Olivia Deffner had graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2015 with a marketing degree. She got a job at Texas Instruments after graduation, where she worked with Hight.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of TIer Olivia Deffner," her place of employment released in a statement.
James Dunlop was Hight's best man in his wedding. He was close friends with the couple. Hight had even crashed for a few weeks at his home after the divorce filing.
And lastly, the target of his rampage, Meredith Lane had recently filed for divorce from her husband, but they had a happy marriage at the beginning. They celebrated their wedding on a cruise in Jamaica, and they had planned a European cruise for their 3rd anniversary.
She studied applied mathematics at the University of Texas at Dallas. She also had some modeling experience. She was a huge fan of the band 311 and saw many of their concerts. "There are few people on this planet that I have met who's light immediately shined through like yours," a friend posted of Meredith.
I wish every month didn't bring another story like this one, but like clockwork, it is always there. A man who is at fault for his marriage crumbling taking out his rage on his wife, and a bunch of other innocent people. Of course, supporting a spouse through a lost job is something you're expected to do when you take a vow to stick with someone through sickness and health. But when you're abusive, and drinking constantly, and not contributing to the marriage in any way, getting out is a completely reasonable thing to do. And a completely unreasonable thing to do is go get drunk and then murder 8 people.
Gun violence and the normalization of male rage yet again combine into a horrific cocktail, and people are dead because of it. People who brought light into the lives of others, people who were working at their dream jobs, people who brought smiles and jokes and optimism and loyalty and a hard-working nature. Innocent people, dead because a man couldn't get over the fact that his wife was able to be successful and happy without him. Be sad, yes. Don't bring a gun to a party and end the lives of everyone there.
James Dunlop's father said 1 year after the shooting that day 365 wasn't any easier than day 1 without his son. I hope that 3 years later, those who loved these victims taken too soon have begun to find peace in the wake of loss.