At around 1PM on 20 March, 2012, police in Waller, Texas, were asked to conduct a welfare check on the Sesler family. A relative had become concerned after she couldn’t get in contact with the family. The responding officers pulled up outside the family’s home in the 2400 block of Farr, in Waller County, and approached the front door.
They knocked and announced their presence, but nobody came to the front door. The officers then scanned the vicinity of the home, and as they peered into one of the windows, they observed that the home was in complete disarray. As the peeked into another window, something much more ominous caught their eye: a body.1
It was evident that the home was a crime scene, so the responding officers kicked in the front door and proceeded from room to room. Inside, it took them just a matter of seconds to take in the carnage. In the master bedroom, they found Lawton and Rhona Sesler, surrounded in a puddle of their own blood. In the bathroom, they found the lifeless body of their 26-year-old son, Mark. They had all been shot dead with a high-powered rifle. Scattered throughout the home, the responding officers found casings, broken glass and blood.
Waller Police Chief Phil Rehak stated of the scene: “The crime scene was not contained to one area of the residence. It was from one end of the residence to the other, front to back, which is unusual.”
Lawton was a fifth-grade teacher at Robinson Elementary School in Cy-Fair ISD, while Rhona worked at a local newspaper. The couple had been married for 34 years. They were a hard-working couple, providing their two sons with a middle-class lifestyle. Rhonda was described as the “quintessential mother” who was always ready with lemonade and cookies. As for Lawton, he was a highly-regarded teacher, who made lifelong connections with his students. The Lawtons were a very private homebodies, who always kept their home tidy and nicely decorated, especially at Halloween and Christmas.2
It was immediately noticed that somebody was missing from inside the home, the couple’s other son, 22-year-old Trey Sesler. He was immediately identified as the main suspect in the murders after investigators found writing on a wall inside the home which ominously read: “I love my mom, dad and brother. Why did I do this? God forgive me, because I cannot forgive myself.”3
Sesler was a successful YouTuber known as “Mr. Anime.” On his YouTube channel, he posted reviews of anime. His channel also featured several amateur short films, some of which included his brother as an actor. He had recently just posted: “I would absolutely love to make a living off reviewing anime.”4 In one video, Sesler played a hero, protecting a boy from a gang of bullies; his brother played the bully.
On his YouTube, he was never shy about showing off his plethora of weapons. He was also an active user on Facebook, where he had posted: “I’m Trey, no nicknames or anything. I really like to take it easy and have a nice time. I’m really interested in my education as a college student and am really excited about graduating in a few years. I plant things sometimes in the spring like peppers and strawberries. My car is currently the most exciting part of my days. Please to meet you though, take it easy.”5
Sesler was named as the main suspect in the murder of his family, and a search to find him was immediately launched. The rest of the family were besides themselves with grief, as his aunt, Weda Frierson, said in the media that she was in shock. She said of Sesler: “I have to admit, he was quite strange.” She also revealed that Sesler had been under some kind of medica treatment, adding: “He would never do anything to his mother. He was crazy about his mother.” His aunt, Weda Frierson, recalled: “(Trey) almost acted as he didn’t know us. He has been under some kind of treatment for some time for, I really don’t know what the problem was.”
According to one of Sesler’s old friends, he was being treated for depression. He further said that Sesler loved his older brother, Mark, but had always hated school and his teachers. A local barber, Robert Martinez, also recalled a peculiar incident in the media. He said that Sesler had come in for a haircut, and recalled: “He told me, ‘Make it look like it hurts. Yeah, make it look like it hurts.’ I have no idea. I just tried to make it look messy.”
Investigators had noticed that Sesler’s car was missing from the family home, so naturally, they began searching for it. On Tuesday evening, they spotted his car parked at a home in the 26000 block of Barnett, near Magnolia. It was the home of one of Sesler’s friends. Investigators arrested Sesler at the scene; he was in possession of two guns and body armour. The significance of these items would emerge within hours.
Following Sesler’s arrest, investigators began looking into a motivation. Sesler himself would forthwith provide one. He revealed to investigators that he had killed his parents because he had been planning a Columbine-style attack at a local school and he didn’t want his family to be ashamed of his actions. He further revealed that in preparation for the mass murder, he had been shooting live stock to build up the courage to shoot students.6 Chillingly, there was a pet grave at the home which consisted of a cross with the pet’s name along with the words: “Forgive me.”
During the confession, Sesler had stated: “The thing about my family is I would protect them with my life, but at the same time, if anyone was going to hurt them, it was going to be me.” He detailed the events of the murder, telling investigators he had killed his mother first in the garage and then realized that there was no turning back. He recalled: “I was like, well… I’m already committed really. Can’t really go to my brother and dad and be like, yeah, I just killed our mom.” He killed his brother next before finally killing his father.
Sesler chillingly said to the investigators: “I didn’t want anyone to be suffering, lying on the floor for hours moaning and groaning, so I was, like, I’ve got to retrace with a more powerful weapon and shoot them again.” When he was asked why he did it, he responded: “They were the first immediate human targets in my sight. If I was going to go out and do anything, they would have to go.” As his family lay slaughtered in the home, Sesler drove over to Waller High School. He was armed with an assault rifle and more than a hundred rounds. He sat in the parking lot, and recalled to investigators: “Right after I had killed the family, it was on my mind to do. And I’m like, there’s my opportunity. Go ahead. Go get ‘em.”7
He then considered committing the school shooting at Waller High School’s Homecoming game, stating: “I was thinking I could creep across the field and open up on the home fans and probably cause more mayhem with people trying to get away and falling on each other than actual bullets. I don’t think a period of two or three days ever went by that I didn’t think about some sort of violent act.” Ultimately, Sesler decided against committing the shooting, telling investigators: “Maybe it was what happened was just too real…”
When Sesler wasn’t creating videos for his YouTube channel, he was studying – and grading – serial killer and mass shooters. Over the preceding years, he had collected at least six weapons and a considerable amount of ammunition, that he stockpiled at his parents’ home as well as his grandmother’s home in Hempstead. Police Chief Rehak stated: “We prevented something horrific from possibly happening. I think I can say that with pretty high confidence.”8
While Sesler’s videos on YouTube were mostly seemingly innocent, there was one he posted in February which was titled: “Mr. Anime is Planning something.” In this video, he announced: “I want to thank you for sticking with me and watching the channel. Everything is going really good.” What he was planning, he never disclosed in the video, but the world would come to learn what exactly it was just the following month…9
Sesler was charged with capital murder and was ordered to be held on $3 million bond. According to investigators, as Sesler was confessing to the gruesome triple murder, he showed some degree of remorse, with Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith stating: “He did cry more than once. He has shown some remorse… He’s certainly aware of what he’s done.” After making the confession, Sesler confessed to a variety of other crimes, including killing animals, shooting at empty buildings and setting fires. He had also killed the family pets, but claimed to his family that they had been run over.
In August of 2012, Trey Sesler pleaded guilty to the murders of his parents and brother; he was automatically handed a sentence of life in prison. After the sentencing, his defence attorney, Franklin Blazek, commented: “This is a great tragedy and there was no good outcome. So Trey felt comfortable with the sentence and the survivors of the victims can now have closure. The community will be protected. That seemed like the best outcome.”10
- CBS – 11 KHOU, 20 March, 2012 – “Texas Rangers Arrest Man in Waller County Triple Homicide”
- Houston Chronicle, 25 March, 2012 – “Waller Shootings”
- Associated Press, 22 March, 2012 – “Suspect in Deaths Studied Serial Killers”
- Houston Chronicle, 21 March, 2012 – “Son Arrested in Slayings of 3 in Family”
- CBS – 11 KHOU, 21 March, 2012 – “Waller Residents Shaken by Murders of Couple, Son”
- Associated Press, 21 March, 2012 – “Suspect in Killings Planned Mass Shooting”
- CBS – 11 KHOU, 17 September, 2012 – “Waller Man Confesses on Tape ot Murdering his Family”
- CBS – 11 KHOU, 3 August, 2012 – “Waller Man Who Killed Family Sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole”
- Texas Monthly, 21 January, 2013 – “Mr. Anime is Planning Something”
- Associated Press, 3 August, 2012 – “Texas Man Gets Life for Deaths of Parents, Brother”