"Both Natasha Matern and Merkley said they had never known Justin Matern to be violent. Natasha Matern said her father had a concealed carry permit because the family used to live in what they thought was a dangerous neighborhood in Salt Lake City."
Money problems put stress on couples, and Justin and Melissa Matern were one of those couples.
Melissa Matern was constantly trying to find rent and grocery money, one of her former co-workers said Saturday. Justin Matern's daughter said he pawned pool cues and his wife asked him to sell more.
Even Justin Matern's final text message to his surviving family discussed money.
"My dad's never been a horrible guy," said Natasha Matern. "He just snapped."
Justin Matern on Thursday shot and killed his wife, Melissa, then murdered their sons, 6-year-old Gabriel and 4-year-old Raiden. Matern, 36, then killed himself.
The killings occurred at the West Jordan apartment Melissa Matern and the boys moved to after leaving her husband. Justin Matern left a note at work discussing his plans and sent text messages after the killings.
Natasha Matern, a 16-year-old daughter from one of Justin Matern's previous relationships, said her father sent his sister a text message saying he killed them and he was next. The text also said his sister could expect a check to pay for the funerals, Natasha Matern said. It was unclear whether Justin Matern was discussing an insurance policy or something else.
"Nobody knew what he was going to do," said Natasha Matern. "Everybody was shocked. A lot of people even talked to him that day or the day before and he was laughing."
Melissa Matern told Jennifer Geneile Merkley, one of her former co-workers, there were problems in the marriage. Merkley said Melissa complained her husband was not home often enough to help with parenting and chores.
Instead, Justin Matern would hang out with his friends and stay away from home, Merkley said. Meanwhile, Melissa, a certified nurse's assistant, worked two jobs and a total of 60 to 70 hours a week, Merkley said.
Merkley, who worked with Melissa at Woodland Park Care Center in Salt Lake City, said Melissa would leave the third shift there to go to work at another nursing home.
"She was constantly trying to put together rent money or grocery money," Merkley said.
Justin Matern "wasn't the greatest of men," Merkley said. "He didn't put his family ahead of anything else."
Court records show the state placed a tax lien against Justin and Melissa Matern in 2004 and again in 2008. In 2006, a judge issued a $700 judgement against the couple in a debt-collection case. Records show the family had at least four addresses since 2003.
Natasha Matern said her father also worked two jobs. He was a tattoo artist at a parlor in Salt Lake City and also loaded freight for a shipping company. The shipping company recently laid him off, she said.
Justin Marten was a good pool player and collected cues, his daughter said. He pawned some of the cues to raise money, and Natasha Matern wanted her husband to pawn his hunting bow, too, she said.
"Even though she knew my dad didn't have that much money, she still tried to get him to pawn his own things," she said.
Natasha Matern lived with her father and stepmother for many years and watched her brothers for several hours a day, the teenager said. Natasha Matern said she grew tired of baby-sitting so much.
"I tried to talk to them about it," she said, "but they would tell me if I wanted stuff I would have to baby-sit so they could earn money."
A few months ago, the teenager moved in with her mother in Ogden.
Merkley said Melissa Matern threatened to leave her husband several times, but stayed. Merkley does not know what finally persuaded Melissa Matern to leave.
Natasha Matern said her father was distraught over the separation. Last week, he checked himself into LDS Hospital for depression and remained there a few days, Natasha Matern said. When he left, the hospital prescribed an anti-depressant, she said.
Both Natasha Matern and Merkley said they had never known Justin Matern to be violent. Natasha Matern said her father had a concealed carry permit because the family used to live in what they thought was a dangerous neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
Merkley said she's angry at Justin Matern and her one comfort is her belief that anyone who commits suicide "burns in Hell."
"How could you look at your own flesh and blood and pull the trigger on a 4-year-old?" Merkley said.
Natasha Matern said she thinks her father decided to kill his wife and himself and killed the boys because he did not want them to grow up in a foster home. She does not believe the murders were justified, but understands what he was thinking.
"I'm mad but there's also nothing I can do," she said.