Family photo

The family of Bob Gray, top left, was shot Thursday morning in Temple. Sherry Gray, top right, and Shelly Splittgerber, bottom left, died from gunshot wounds allegedly fired by Splittgerber’s husband, Matthew Splittgerber. Shot and in critical condition is 4-year-old Cord Fidler, bottom right.

A Belton schoolteacher was granted a protective court order against her estranged husband the day before he shot and killed her and her 64-year-old mother and seriously wounded her 4-year-old son in a Temple double murder-suicide.

Shelly Splittgerber, a teacher at Miller Heights Elementary in Belton, cited family violence as a reason for the protective order issued Wednesday against Matthew Splittgerber by Bell County Judge Paul LePak. The order application listed stalking and harassing text messages as evidence of a “clear and present danger” to the teacher and her son, Corden Fidler.

Copies of the order were sent to the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and Temple Police Department, according to the document obtained by the Telegram. Temple Police Cpl. Shawana Neely confirmed the victim was granted a temporary ex-parte order.

Matthew Splittgerber, Cord’s stepfather, shot and killed his estranged wife and wounded Cord in the front yard of a home at 110 W. Virginia Ave. Wednesday morning. Former Copperas Cove teacher Sherry Gray — Shelly Splittgerber’s mother and Cord’s grandmother — was found dead inside the home.

Gray and Shelly Splittgerber were pronounced dead at 6:08 a.m. by Bell County Justice of the Peace David Barfield.

Matt Splittgerber, 36, reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at 9:13 a.m. by Barfield.

The court order requested that Matt Splittgerber “seek help for mental issues.”

He was also ordered:

• To not commit any act against either person that would result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault or threaten or cause anyone to fear imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault.

• To not communicate with them in a threatening or harassing manner or have anyone else threaten them.

• To not go within 200 yards of 110 W. Virginia Ave., Shelly’s workplace or a Troy address.

• To not have a firearm or ammunition.

• To not go within 200 yards of Cord’s residence or school.

• To not stalk, follow or engage in any way that would harass, annoy, harm, alarm, abuse, torment or embarrass them.

• To not take Cord from school, a child-care facility or the mother’s possession.

• To not interfere with Shelly at Miller Heights Elementary School.

A court hearing was ordered at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 in the 264th District Court.

The Bell County Sheriff’s Department attempted to serve the order at the address listed, but was unable to locate Matt Splittgerber, Maj. T.J. Cruz said Friday.

The finding said the evidence showed there was a “clear and present danger” Matt Splittgerber would commit acts of family violent that would cause Shelly, Cord or other adults named “immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage, for which there is no adequate remedy at law.”

An affidavit filed Wednesday listed times Matt Splittgerber allegedly hurt or threatened to hurt her.

On Dec. 14, Matt Splittgerber reportedly followed Cord’s bus at 6:10 a.m. after they had moved out of the residence, and she said, “I told him I wanted to be left alone and want no contact with him.”

A Dec. 17 incident in which Matt texted his wife and asked when they could meet. She said she told him again to leave her alone and stay away.

Matt reportedly harassed Shelly’s ex-husband and Sherry Gray with threatening texts that said, “Cord is in immediate danger.”

He reportedly threatened her on Dec. 3 to get out of his house, so Shelly Splittgerber told his parents, who were their landlords. She said she didn’t feel safe because of him, so she left Dec. 6 to go to her parents’ home. Shelly rented her own place Dec. 8.

The affidavit said Shelly never called the police about her husband.

4-year-old in stable condition

A GoFundMe page was set up for Cord and is listed under “Prayers for Cord.” The page may be found at https://www.gofundme.com/prayers-for-cord.

The effort raised more than $15,000 by Friday of a $20,000 goal, and is to help the family with hospital, hotel, food, and other needs.

The page said Cord was shot multiple times in the abdominal area and head, had multiple surgeries and was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Friday at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center in Temple. He was in stable condition and will have additional surgery Saturday, the family posted at 2 p.m.

Gray was a teacher for 34 years and spent 33 years with the Copperas Cove Independent School District. She retired from her position as a Hettie Halstead Elementary interventionist, according to a June 24, 2011, Killeen Daily Herald article.

Barfield ordered autopsies Thursday for the three bodies to be performed at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.

The shootings

Temple Police officers responded at 6:09 a.m. to the report of a shooting disturbance at the Virginia address, Neely said.

Officers found Shelly Splittgerber, 36, dead in the front yard. EMS arrived to take the boy to the hospital but, as they began loading him, a series of shots were fired from the front part of the house.

The Temple Police armored vehicle was brought to the scene, and residents from surrounding homes were evacuated.

Negotiators arrived at the scene and tried to contact and talk to Matt Splittgerber, who barricaded himself inside the residence, but he refused to respond, Neely said.

The officers heard several gunshots and then one final shot. Once inside, Matthew and Gray were found dead from gunshot wounds, Neely said. Matthew died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and Gray had succumbed to her injuries from an apparent gunshot wound.

Multiple law enforcement officers were seen at the location near Miller Park, Lamar Middle School and Hillcrest Cemetery. In addition to Temple Police, officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, FBI and Bell County Sheriff’s Department were at the scene.

Belton district mourns

Shelly Splittgerber was a new teacher at Miller Heights Elementary, according to Belton Independent School District Superintendent Susan Kincannon.

 “Belton ISD is deeply saddened by the death of elementary teacher Shelly Splittgerber. While new to the District and the Miller Heights campus, in her short few months with us she had already demonstrated skill, integrity, and a strong love for children — qualities that are highly desired and admired in a teacher,” Kincannon said.

The district said Splittgerber went “above and beyond” in caring for her students. She recently delivered a Christmas tree and ornaments to a Miller Heights family.

“The Miller Heights school community will be deeply impacted by the loss of their teacher, friend, and colleague. Counseling support will be provided to assist students and staff as needed as they grieve the loss of this special teacher,” Kincannon said.

Bob Gray also mourned the loss of his wife.

“Today I lost my sweet wife Sherry Gray and my loving daughter Shelly because of Matt Splittgerber,” Bob Gray wrote in a Facebook post. “He shot and killed both of them and shot my precious grandson Cord.”

Temple homicides

A total of 13 homicide cases have occurred in Temple so far in 2018, and resulted in 17 violent deaths — a combination of homicides and suicides, according to the Temple Police Department.

“Temple has averaged 3-5 homicides per year over the last 10 years. Unfortunately, there have been 15 homicides in Temple in 2018,” Temple Mayor Tim Davis said Friday. “It was stated in a story run by the Temple Daily Telegram that there have been 17 (violent deaths). Two of the people included in that total were the perpetrators of the crime of murder, who then committed suicide. Of the 15 homicides in Temple this year, eight were due to domestic violence, two were due to workplace violence (all mental health related) and one was accidental.

“No amount of ‘policing’ could prevent any of these homicides.”

Davis said that Temple is still a safe city with a generally low crime rate.

“I believe that all life is valuable and grieve with the families of the victims. I also believe and want all citizens to know that Temple is a safe place to live and raise a family,” Davis said. 

The Telegram reached out to the Temple Police Department for comment on the number of violent deaths in 2018. The department reiterated a statement by Deputy Chief Jeff Clark made after a Dec. 5 homicide in West Temple.

“The number of murders that have been experienced in the city of Temple this year is troubling to the members of this department. The department takes this crime very seriously and works diligently to investigate and solve these random acts of violence as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The department has used many resources throughout the year to address the murders and bring closure to these cases, and will continue those efforts on this current murder investigation,” Clark said.