WALLER, Texas – A 22-year-old man accused of murdering his parents and older brother studied serial killers to the point of grading their work and researched mass-shootings prior to opening fire on his family, investigators said at a press conference Thursday.
Trey Sesler tearfully confessed to killing his family during a jailhouse interview with investigators Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The bodies of his parents, Lawton and Rhonda Sesler, and his brother, 26-year-old Mark Sesler, were found in their Waller home on Tuesday. Trey Sesler was arrested at a friend’s house near Magnolia later that evening.
At a press conference Thursday, investigators called Sesler a "classic example" of a killer who starts with small crimes and builds up to the unthinkable.
Sesler has reportedly confessed to committing a series of other criminal offenses in the Waller County area over the past several years, including killing animals, shooting at buildings and setting fires.
"It’s a classic example that we’ve seen in our past, in our careers and training – he started as a young person killing pets and some of his own animals that were given to him. He progressed to being able to get weapons and started shooting at buildings. Then he started setting a few fires. It’s a progression that, unfortunately, we’ve seen," Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith said.
Smith said Sesler, who’s facing capital murder charges and was being held in the Waller County Jail on $5 million bond, considered himself a loner and was involved in some drug use. He often posted videos of himself shooting weapons and reviewing anime cartoons online. Smith said Sesler also spent a lot of time playing video games.
"He’s had a massive amount of time studying violence, acting it out, just like on Facebook. And I think that built up, and it certainly started with these other minor offenses that he’s committed. I think he was building himself up," Smith said.
Investigators on Wednesday said Sesler was preparing for a Columbine-style attack, possibly at a local school.
Smith said Sesler researched mass shootings and was looking at everything from schools to grocery stores to other places where crowds might gather – wherever would have the biggest impact.
"We prevented something horrific from possibly happening. I think I can say that with pretty high confidence," Waller Police Chief Phil Rehak said of Sesler’s arrest.
Still, Rehak said, investigators were not letting their guard down.
Smith said authorities have been working closely with both Waller and Hempstead ISD officials, and that Harris County deputies have stepped up their security efforts on Waller campuses.
Though they have no "factual evidence" that Sesler had any accomplices in his plans, Rehak said they still want to talk with anyone who knew him, used to know him or played video games with him.
"Because if we’ve got somebody else out there who is thinking along these same lines, we need to know who it is. We have not found that person, but if that person is out there, then we’re going to spend the time to find them," Smith added.
Investigators said Sesler had a gun on him and one in his car when he was taken into custody Tuesday, and they’ve found other weapons in subsequent searches of his grandmother’s Hempstead home and his parents’ house in Waller.
Smith said Sesler had stockpiled about a half-dozen guns and a considerable amount of ammunition.
Police also seized Sesler’s personal computers and some journals from the scene of the murders.
"We’re going to see exactly what he was studying and supposedly what he was writing to himself," Smith said.
Data from the forensic analysis of those computers should be back in the next three to five days, Smith said.
As for Sesler’s demeanor behind bars, Smith said the former Blinn College student has shown the full range of emotions and has been placed on suicide watch.
"His demeanor is quiet. I don’t want to use the word ‘pleasant,’ because there’s nothing pleasant about this. But respectful, cooperative the whole time," Smith said.
During the eight-hour interview Wednesday, Smith said Sesler ate two meals and took multiple bathroom and water breaks.
"He did cry more than once… He’s had the full range of emotions. I guess you could call it remorsefulness – he’s certainly fully aware of what he’s done," Smith said. "The killing of animals, shooting at empty buildings, setting fires and things like that are serious offenses that shouldn’t go on, but then taking a human life and looking at what you did afterwards … it might have affected him more than he thought it was going to affect him."
Still, investigators – and residents of Waller County – could only guess as to why Sesler might have been motivated to kill.
"This act of violence that he actually committed – was that the end of it? Did that stop it? Did that satisfy his need? Things like that will never be known," Smith said. "This wasn’t a fight over a TV show or what he ate for supper – this was something that built up in this guy’s head over a significant amount of time."
Smith said Sesler had some tension with his father, a fifth-grade teacher in Cy-Fair ISD, but nothing out of the ordinary.
"He had certainly had issues in the past with his father … He’s a 22-year-old living at home, doesn’t have a real job and things like that – basics that can cause family conflicts," Smith said.
Sesler will have an attorney appointed on Thursday, but it could me as long as a month before he appears in court.
In the meantime, Sesler will undergo medical and mental-health evaluations while investigators work to paint a clearer picture of exactly what happened -- and what plans he may have had.
"This investigation is far, far, far from being over. We have a lot of information that we’ve received and we have to go through and analyze," Rehak said.
"This man is going to--and should be—punished," Smith said.