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The Sacremento Bee
By Kim Minugh and Chelsea Phua, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Saturday, Jul. 18, 2009 – 12:00 am
What triggered violent chaos in a Folsom condominium Thursday night remained a mystery Friday, as family members and neighbors struggled to comprehend how the courteous, happy couple they knew could end up dead in what police describe as a murder-suicide.
Michael Christopher Rogers, 41, opened fire on his ex-wife and current girlfriend, 39-year-old Erin Delee Scarlett, late Thursday in the Wales Drive condominium they shared before turning the gun on himself, according to Folsom police.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Police were not clear Friday what prompted the violence, but Officer Jason Browning said police had responded to a domestic issue at the address a month before.
Browning and Scarlett’s family confirmed that the couple had been married at one point, but divorced. They later reconciled and were living together on Wales Drive.
Neighbors said they were shocked by the news, describing Rogers and Scarlett as a nice couple who surrounded themselves with friends and family during holidays and celebrations.
They frequented the condominium complex pool with Scarlett’s 9-year-old daughter – who was not home at the time of the shootings – and accompanied her to soccer games, said 55-year-old neighbor Lori Holmes.
“These are the last people I would think this would happen to,” she said.
But even before the gunfire erupted, Thursday appeared to be a tough day for Scarlett. Holmes and another neighbor, 60-year-old Pauline Williams, said several complex residents worked with Scarlett at Health Net Federal Services in Rancho Cordova, and that she was among employees notified that day that they might lose their jobs.
She already had been experiencing financial troubles, according to court records. In March, Scarlett filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, listing $207,154 in assets and $295,731 in liabilities.
Though Scarlett is listed as the sole petitioner, Rogers is listed in paperwork as a “co-debtor.” The paperwork also mentions that Scarlett had a fiancé, though he is not named.
Scarlett had been a registered nurse for Health Net for five years, the petition states, and she made almost $66,000 in 2008. She took home an average of $6,934 per month over the last six, while her unnamed fiancé contributed an average of $1,403 a month to household expenses, according to the paperwork.
She also was owed $70,000 in unpaid child support, the petition states.
That turmoil, however, was never visible to neighbors in the 28-unit Cobblestone Place, composed mostly of two-story stucco buildings with dark brown trim, brick accents and small but well-kept lawns.
“I never saw any problems,” said Williams. “They were very polite, very nice, very friendly.”
Williams said she was home Thursday night when she heard what sounded like three gunshots. She shut off her lights and then received a call from a neighbor, who said her son had heard a woman screaming, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, someone help me” before the gunfire.
A fourth, fainter gunshot was heard sometime after 11 p.m., Williams said.
Browning, the police spokesman, said four rounds were fired at once, and then a fifth one some time later.
A witness told police she had seen a woman try to leave the condominium on the second-story patio before being pulled back in, Browning said. The witness described a man wrapping his arm around the woman’s neck in a chokehold and pulling her backward into the home, Browning said.
The SWAT team was summoned to the scene along with hostage negotiators. Attempts to contact the people inside were unsuccessful, and officers eventually entered the condominium to find the two bodies.
Scarlett was found downstairs, and Rogers upstairs in the master bedroom on a bed, police said. A gun also was recovered from that room.
“We’re all in a state of shock,” Holmes said. “We’re very overwhelmed.”
Shawn Scarlett, Erin Scarlett’s 50-year-old brother, said she was the youngest of five siblings in a tightknit family. She was inspired by an older sister to become a nurse, he said.
“She had that Florence Nightingale syndrome,” Scarlett said.
According to Sacramento Superior Court records, Rogers pleaded no contest in 2008 to driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit.
Bee research also showed that he had a criminal record in Oregon, mostly traffic-related offenses.
Shawn Scarlett said Rogers had been on antidepressants, and doctors recently changed his medication. But he said it was out of Rogers’ character to hurt his family.
Scarlett said he had known Rogers for 15 years and worked with him at a manufacturing plant in Folsom for five. Rogers was the type of worker who “showed up every day on time and did his job.”
Recently, Rogers had been working as a machinist for a Rancho Cordova manufacturing company, Scarlett said.
He said the reunited couple seemed happy as recently as last month.
“He wasn’t a psychotic psychopath,” Scarlett said of Rogers. “I can’t believe this happened.”
Call The Bee’s Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. The Bee’s Bill Lindelof and researcher Sheila A. Kern contributed to this report.