POLK CITY ~ A ex-husband's bitterness over his divorce ended in the violent deaths of a former Polk City couple and two other people, authorities said.
Robert Lanham, 35, on Wednesday shot and killed a customer and an employee at the McComb, Miss., bank where his ex-wife worked. He then kidnapped Rachel Lanham, 37, whose body was found later.
Initial reports said she was shot and dumped out of a vehicle. But officials in the southwestern Mississippi community later said she may have been trying to get out of the car and was ejected when it hit a tree, according to reports from The Associated Press.
Robert Lanham Jr. later shot himself.
Also killed were bank customer James Fayard, who tried to protect Rachel Lanham from her ex-husband, and Ronnie Larrimore, an employee of the Regions Bank.
Robert Lanham, who had threatened his ex-wife in the past, was angry about the couple's divorce settlement, said Rachel's brother, Ira Lee Wilson of Polk City.
"He didn't want to move," Wilson said. "This Monday, she got the deed to the property. He never wanted to leave."
Wilson said the couple grew up in Polk City and attended Auburndale High School. Her father and three brothers still live in the Polk City area.
Rachel, who was a cheerleader at Auburndale High, graduated in 1989.
When her parents divorced in 1994, her mother moved to Mississippi and later married Robert Lanham Sr., which made Robert and Rachel stepsiblings.
Wilson said Robert Lanham moved to Ohio after high school and had children from a previous marriage.
Rachel moved to Mississippi about 10 years ago to be near her mother and took a job as an investment officer for the firm of Morgan Keegan, which has an office in the Regions Bank branch.
Robert and Rachel Lanham married in 1999 and their divorce was finalized in August, Wilson said. The divorce settlement gave the couple's 53-acre property to Rachel. She was to pay Robert $60,000 as a settlement for his share of the property.
"My sister paid the land off to get him gone and now she's dead," Wilson said.
In the past few years, the couple's marriage had been rocky. Frustration was added to the situation when Robert, who was not employed, began taking occasional week-long jaunts to the Mexican border to volunteer on armed patrols looking for illegal aliens, Wilson said.
"My sister was always the one to find a man that didn't have a job ... and she'd try to change him," he said.
Tension grew as Robert tried to be more controlling and showed signs of violence.
"A month before (divorce papers were filed), he stuck a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger. But it didn't go off," Wilson said. "After that, she was out of there."
Rachel moved back to Polk City for a time last summer, while Robert was served with divorce papers, Wilson said.
After her return to Mississippi, she moved out and found a place of her own while divorce proceedings continued. Things stayed relatively quiet and the divorce was finalized, Wilson said.
Since the divorce, Rachel had been working to pay off the $60,000 settlement, making trips back to Florida nearly impossible. But she called family members often, and seemed to be happier and getting on with her life.
But several weeks ago Robert began showing up unexpectedly at her home, pounding on her door, demanding to be let in to talk.
"I could hear him on the phone," Wilson said. "I said, 'Call the cops, call the cops.' The cops would come, but by that time, he was gone. End of story."