THERESA, N.Y. (AP/WOOD) — An Army soldier from Zeeland accused of killing his wife and a New York State Police trooper was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, his mother tells 24 Hour News 8.
The mother of 32-year-old Staff Sgt. Justin Walters said her son was diagnosed earlier this year. She said he was getting treatment, and she thought he and his wife were doing well. She told 24 Hour News 8 she has “no idea” why the murders happened.
Trooper Joel Davis, 36, was shot as he approached the home while responding to the report of gunfire at about 8 p.m. Sunday in the town of Theresa, near the Canadian border, said George P. Beach, superintendent of the New York State Police.
Walters’ wife, 27-year-old Nichole Walters, was shot multiple times and found dead in the driveway, police said Monday afternoon.
A second trooper who responded to the scene heard gunfire, returned to his patrol vehicle and saw Justin Walters standing in the driveway, police said.
The trooper exited his vehicle, saw Davis lying in a ditch and drew his weapon, police said. Walters raised his hands and surrendered at that point.
Additional troopers arrived, took Justin Walters in custody and rushed to Davis’ aid. New York State Police said Davis was wearing a bulletproof vest, but they believe the single shot hit him to the side of the plate. He died at a hospital at 9:23 p.m.
Davis is the fourth member of the New York State Police Department to die from injuries in the line of duty or from a 9/11 related illness in the last year.
“This has a terrible effect on everybody. And I just want everybody here to know that it’s not, it’s not just the police who suffer a loss like this. In these communities, these state police troopers and sheriff’s deputies are literally our protectors. And they’re out here every single minute of every single day, unseen. I know they are appreciated, but they’re unseen. This is a terrible, terrible loss to this community,” said the New York State Police representative at Monday afternoon’s news conference.
Rebecca A. Finkle, who is believed to be a friend of Nichole Walters, was also shot, but her injuries weren’t considered life-threatening, police said. Finkle’s two children were also at the scene but not injured.
State police said Justin Walters was stationed at nearby Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division. Fort Drum officials said Walters, of Zeeland, Michigan, was a combat veteran who has served at the post since joining the Army in 2007. He did one-year tours in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade in January 2009 and again in March 2011.
CRIMINAL HISTORY IN MICHIGAN
Justin Walters grew up in the Holland area, where his family still lives. He has a lengthy criminal record in juvenile court in Michigan. He was convicted of six felonies and three misdemeanors before his 18th birthday, including malicious destruction of property and possession of marijuana.
In December 1999, 24 Hour News 8 reported that Walters and another student, both 15-year-old ninth-graders at Holland’s Macatawa Bay Middle School the time, were charged after compiling a ‘hit list’ of fellow students and then trying to obtain a weapon.
Both were eventually convicted of conspiracy to carry a concealed weapon and ethnic intimidation — authorities said some of their classmates were targeted because they were gay or minorities. Walters was sentenced to detention and a treatment program.
Ottawa County Juvenile Court records show he last attended Sheldon Pines School — an alternative school — in 2000.
24 Hour News 8 did not find an adult criminal record for Walters in Michigan. It’s unclear exactly when he moved to New York state.
WWNY-TV in Watertown reported Walters was clad only in shorts when he was brought to a town court around 4 a.m. Monday to be charged with first-degree murder in Davis’ slaying and second-degree murder in his wife’s death.
When the judge asked Walters if he knew why he was in court, Walters responded that he didn’t know, the station reported.
Walters was ordered held in the Jefferson County Jail without bail. He didn’t have a lawyer at the arraignment.
On Monday evening, about a dozen troopers stood at the back of LeRay Town Court as Walters was led into the room in shackles. He waived his preliminary hearing, which meant the case will go straight to a grand jury. No new court date has been set.
WALTERS’ WIFE, TROOPER REMEMBERED AS DEVOTED PARENTS
Jerry Mikels, a friend of Nichole Walters’ from their mutual Syracuse-area hometown, said she was devoted to her toddler-aged son and was always willing to help people. Nichole met Justin Walters around the time she finished high school in Mattydale, Mikels said.
“She got along with everybody,” he said. “If she knew you needed help, she would help out. She was there for my wife when she had cancer.”
State police said Davis, of Evans Mills, graduated from the Basic School of the New York State Police Academy in May 2013. He originally was assigned to the Troop D Watertown barracks before receiving his current assignment at the state police barracks in Philadelphia, New York, just outside Fort Drum.
Trooper Davis previously worked for the county sheriff’s office as a road patrol deputy. His brother, Josh Davis, is a police officer in Watertown, WWNY reported.
Joel Davis is survived by his wife and three children.
“He was a good husband and a father. He coached youth athletics… this is a terrible loss to everybody in the North Country,” said a New York State Police representative.
In a statement Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “the entire New York family grieves” for Davis.
“Trooper Davis served as a member of the New York State Police for four years and his death is yet another sad reminder of the risks law enforcement officers face each day in order to protect our communities and serve the residents of this great state,” the Democratic governor said while urging New Yorkers to keep Davis’ family, friends and colleagues in their thoughts and prayers.
Cuomo later ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff in the slain trooper’s honor.
–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean contributed to this report.