The estranged husband of a Texas woman hosting a football watch party at her Plano home has been identified as the gunman who fatally shot her and seven of her friends Sunday night in a horrific rampage. Spencer Hight, 32, was shot dead by police after killing Meredith Lane Hight and the seven other victims at a home on West Spring Creek Parkway, Meredith’s mother told WFAA-TV. Two of the victims were alive when police arrived. They were rushed to the hospital, but one later died there.
Spencer and Meredith Hight were going through a divorce, according to court records. They owned the home where the shooting occurred together, but he had not lived there since March, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Meredith Hight hosted a party to watch her favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, play Sunday afternoon, and then the local team, the Dallas Cowboys, play Sunday night, her mother, Debbie Lane, told the newspaper.
The shooting happened about 8 p.m. Sunday in the 1700 block of West Spring Creek Parkway, near Custer Road, according to KXAS-TV.
Police confirmed Spencer Hight was the gunman in a press release Tuesday, and identified the victims, including Meredith Hight. According to police, the other victims were two women and five men. The women were identified as Olivia Deffner, 24, and Myah Bass, 28. The men killed in the shooting were: Tony Cross, 33; James Dunlop, 29; Darryl Hawkins, 22; Rion Morgan, 31; and Caleb Edwards, 25. You can read more about the victims here.
Several of the victims and those attending the party had been friends with both Spencer and Meredith Hight, including Dunlop, who was the best man at their wedding in 2012, and Morgan, who was a groomsman, WFAA-TV reports. After the couple separated, Dunlop took Spencer Hight in to his apartment for a few months, according to the news station.
Police are not looking for any other suspects.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hight’s Wife Filed for Divorce in July & She Told Her Mother That He Was Violent With Her Twice, Including a Time When He Slammed Her Face Into a Wall
Meredith Lane Hight, 27, filed for divorce from her husband, Spencer James Hight, on July 17, according to Collin County court records obtained by Heavy. The case was still pending in the 470th District Court. Hight hired an attorney, Logan Odeneal, while her husband was representing himself, according to court records. Odeneal could not immediately be reached for comment and documents related to the case were not available.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Meredith Hight cited “discord or conflict of personalities” in her divorce filing. They did not have any children together.
Her mother told WFAA-TV that the Sunday party where the shooting occurred was a way for her daughter to move on from her ex.
“It was officially out with the old and in with the new,” Debbie Lane told WFAA-TV. “It was her reclaiming her life and she was thrilled to be doing that. It was the happiest she’d been in years. Years.”
Debbie Lane told the news station that Spencer Hight had moved out of the house months earlier, but had only recently collected the last of his belongings. Debbie said she was there with her daughter when he came.
“I think he saw our comfort, ease and happiness and her embracing new life and resented it to the maximum and responded the way he did,” Lane told WFAA.
Lane’s mother told the news station that her daughter didn’t share many details of her marriage, but did tell them, “he was an alcoholic and that she worked for two years to try and help him.”
Her father, Gene Lane, said when they separated, the family told her, “‘alright we’re behind you 100-percent.'”
“He was a very talented and artistic person but he just didn’t have coping skills,” Gene Lane told the news station.
“I don’t think he was crazy, I think we make choices consciously,” Debbie Lane told WFAA. “He was not stupid. I think he chose evil.”
A friend told the Dallas Morning News that Spencer was “head over heels” in love with Meredith, but had a drinking problem and was a “party animal” who loved guns, knives and swords.
Debbie Lane told the newspaper that her daughter had said Spencer was violent with her at least twice, including a time in the fall of 2016 when he slammed her face into a wall, but she didn’t report those incidents to the police.
Meredith’s mother said that Spencer lost his job shortly after they bought the house together, and Meredith paid the mortgage on her own while giving him time to get his act together, according to the Dallas newspaper. She was working at Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages in Fort Worth at the time of her death. Eventually his behavior became too much and she filed for divorce, her mother said.
They were married officially in September 2011 and exchanged ceremonial vows in May 2012 on a Jamaican cruise, according to social media postings. Collin County property records obtained by Heavy show they bought the home where the shooting occurred, located at 1712 West Spring Creek Parkway, together on October 9, 2015.
Meredith Hight was a devoted fan of the band 311, traveling to dozens of shows each year and was friends with many in the band’s fan community, according to her Facebook page.
“She was our only child,” her father, Gene Lane, told The Washington Post. “All we know is she is gone.”
Meredith Hight, who was originally from Atlanta, Meredith Hight worked as a model and for an independent sales company, according to her social media posts.
She also was a manager at a fast food restaurant, Raising Cane’s, and studied applied mathematics at the University of Texas at Dallas after transferring from Georgia Tech, according to her Linkedin profile. Spencer Hight also attended the University of Texas at Dallas, and that is where they met, Meredith’s parents say.
“Spencer lived in the apartment downstairs from her,” Debbie Lane told WFAA-TV. “When she was 20 years old and decided that she and Spencer were going to be married, we knew there was no dissuading her.”
In May, a few months before filing for divorce, posted on Facebook about wanting to rent out a room in the home to help with her expenses.
“Who needs a place to live? (3bd/2ba house w yard and garage) I’m needing some help with the bills starting anywhere from 2 weeks from now to a month or so, but need a roommate by July,” she wrote. “Some things to remember: 2 large pitbulls live here, and they only do well with other large dogs. I would need our animals to meet before committing to any agreement. No kids (sorry not sorry, I love your kids but they would not love it here). I intend to fix this place up and rent or sell down the line so lease terms would be short term to six months at a time.”
It is not clear if she had roommates living in the home at the time of the shooting.
Spencer Hight was living at an apartment in Plano, according to the Dallas Morning News. Neighbors there told the newspaper that police raided his apartment about 1 a.m. Monday with a search warrant.
2. Hight Posted on Facebook About How His Marriage Had Gone ‘Tits Up’ & Complained About His ‘Ex-Wife’
Spencer Hight worked as an analyst for HCL Technologies, a software company that is based in India and has offices in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He started working there in June. He previously worked as a systems analyst at Texas Instruments.
On Facebook, he used the name Kal Hight, short for Kaltaris, a nickname he used for his art and in video games.
He had a page under that name on Deviant Art, but had not posted there in several years. He also used that nickname on a YouTube channel, which includes videos of him playing games, including Hurtworld.
Hight posted on Facebook just hours before the shooting, “How best to weather a hurricane: Don’t live near the coast.”
He had also recently been complaining about back pain in Facebook posts.
“Lack of sleep due to chronic back pain made for a pretty shitty holiday weekend. Here’s hoping the doctor can sort me out,” he wrote on September 5.
On August 1 he wrote, “Aaaand my back is f*cked…this pain med/muscle relaxer garbage the doctor put me on makes me a damn zombie. Don’t try to move heavy furniture without help people.”
In June, Hight wrote that he had been cast in an acting role in the new Coen brothers Western TV series, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” which is set for Netflix.
“It’s official. I have been cast in the Coen brothers new western tv series and we start filming July 25th. Not sure if more excited or nervous,” he wrote, later adding, “I knew I was on board weeks ago but I just got the actual dates for filming and sent in my measurements for wardrobe. … I think it’s a small part but all I know is there’s a saloon scene and another unspecified scene they want me for. It’s in new mexico.”
It is not clear if Hight actually filmed a role in the series, which is set to debut in 2018.
In May, he shared a meme about what to do if your ex-wife is choking:
“Well. Someone is bitter lol ?,” a friend replied.
He wrote earlier that month about having to pay more for insurance on his car.
“And the hits just keep on coming. This has been my toughest year to date,” he wrote. “Because of all the hail damage claims in the area they jacked my insurance up by over 30% even though I haven’t submitted a claim. Christ I hate this sh*t”
In April, he wrote about his “ex-wife” forgetting to pick him up at the airport.
“Wonderful ex wife left me stranded at the airport after swearing all week she would pick me up…And now she’s ignoring my calls. Typical. Welcome back to Dallas,” he wrote.
When friends expressed surprise about the “ex-wife” reference, he replied, “Things have gone completely tits up over the last few months.”
Another post appeared to reference Meredith Hight, who had red hair. He wrote in April, “Very easy to believe gingers are completely soulless now.
In February, he shared a story about a domestic violence incident, writing, “Sharing this because apparently the family of this scumbag is actually threatening people on fb who post this.”
3. A Witness Says There Was an Argument & Hight Pulled Out His Gun & Just Started Shooting
Witnesses say the shooting occurred after an argument broke out during a party to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the New York Giants in a Sunday Night Football game, the first of the year for the Texas NFL team, KDFW-TV reports.
Meredith Hight was hosting a party for the first time since separating from her husband.
“She was a cook, and a quite fine one, and she loved hosting friends and families,” Debbie Lane told WFAA-TV. “This was her first opportunity to do it after the divorce and he didn’t take it well.”
Police Chief Greg Rushin told reporters, “They were having a cookout that afternoon and they were getting prepared to watch the Cowboys football game. There was a party at the residence. Any time you have a homicide it’s disturbing, and certainly when you have this many, we’ve never seen anything like this in our city before. Many times you do see family violence situations that occur in many cities across the country, and those can become very volatile very quickly.”
Some of the victims were found in the backyard and others inside the house, but the entire shooting rampage was contained to that one property, the chief said. Rushin said he did not know how many people were at the party when the shooting occurred. He would not comment about how many people witnessed the shooting and survived.
Lane told the news station, “I really wish we knew who the other victims were. They were all close dear friends. We don’t know.”
Crystal Sugg, a witness, told reporters that she saw an altercation involving a woman and the shooter about 7:45 p.m.
“A man was arguing with a woman. They were standing outside and they were arguing,” Sugg said. “And as they were arguing you could kind of hear little pieces of it, but you really couldn’t. And as they were arguing, the woman was trying to go back in. And as she was going back in the house, you seen the man pull out his gun and just start releasing. So as he released I ran back in, because I didn’t want to get hit by nothing. But he just started letting them go.”
Police have not said if they know of a motive for the shooting or confirmed the details reported by Sugg.
Witnesses told reporters at the scene that they heard 30 to 40 shots coming from the house. It is not clear if those shots also include the bullets fired by responding police officers.
Steven Featherland told KDFW-TV, he arrived at his house as police were already positioning themselves.
“My neighbor had already heard the first couple of shots, and we came outside and next thing you know, all you heard was like, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, it was like 30 to 40 rounds. That’s when we both went inside,” he said.
Stacey Glover, another witness, told the Dallas Morning News the party started in the afternoon and she saw people outside grilling and laughing. About 8 p.m. she heard gunfire and smelled gunpowder when opening her door. Police then arrived and she heard “hands up” before more shots were fired.
Multiple firearms of different types were found at the scene, Police Chief Gregory Rushin said. He did not say what types of weapons were recovered, or if the guns all were brought by Spencer Hight. They are also looking into whether the guns were owned legally. Rushin also said investigators are still looking into whether anyone at the party returned fire at Hight after he began shooting. Rushin said it is not known yet how many gunshots were fired.
4. A Responding Officer Went Into the House After Hearing Gunshots & Killed Hight After Seeing Multiple Victims
Plano Police officers were called to a “weapons call” about 8 p.m. at the West Spring Creek Parkway home, according to radio transmissions recorded on a police scanner. Police Chief Gregory Rushin said the first officer arrived at the scene in less than two minutes.
The dispatch audio reveals that the caller said there was somebody with a gun trying to get into her home. When officers arrived, they heard and saw shots being fired inside the home, and shortly after, the gunman was shot dead by police, according to the scanner audio. You can listen to the dispatch audio below, courtesy of Broadcastify.com:
The officers reported that at least eight people were shot inside the home, and called for several ambulances to respond to the scene. One of the officers was near the scene when the call came in and was the first to go into the house.
“After (the officer) heard the gunshots, he made entry and that’s when he observed several victims inside and then engaged the suspect,” police spokesman David Tilley told the Dallas Morning News.
Rushin said the officer approached the scene from the rear of the house and immediately entered after hearing the gunshots.
“Law enforcement across the country are trained in active shooter (situations),” Rushin said. “When somebody is actively taking people’s lives, we know we need to get in there as quickly as possible. We train to wait for a partner and go in two at a time. When something like this occurs, you can’t wait. You have to go in because seconds matter. And this officer went directly into fire, where fire was taking place, and stopped the shooter’s ability to kill people. I think the officer showed great bravery and this is the kind of thing we see everyday in law enforcement.”
Police were investigating whether the shooting was connected to an earlier assault that occurred near the scene at a bar, according to radio dispatches. The officer who responded to that call said the victim told him one of the suspects in the assault matched the description of the shooter. The victim said two people were involved in that assault, but it is still unclear if the two incidents were connected, police said. It is still under investigation.
“I don’t know that we’ve established or figured that out yet,” Rushin said when asked about the shooting.
Two victims were taken to the hospital, and one later died, bringing the total victims to eight. Rushin said the officers at the scene provided life-saving measures until fire rescue personnel and ambulances arrived.
At least one other person was at the house and was not injured and refused medical treatment, according to emergency radio transmissions. Another person later told police she was at the house and fled when the shooting occurred, running to her parents’ house nearby. She told police there was only one gunman, Spencer Hight.
The Dallas Morning News described a heart-wrenching scene involving a person who said he knew the victims. The man asked those at the house what the number was where the shooting occurred, the newspaper reports:
When he was told the house number, he doubled over as if in pain. He said his friends had a Dallas Cowboys watch party.
‘I’m friends with probably everyone that was in that house,’ he said, before walking over to police.
As he talked to officers, he doubled over again. A few minutes later, he sprinted toward his car and drove away.
A neighbor, Lauryn Nichols, told the Dallas Morning News she was shocked by what happened. She said a friend had been at the house, but she was not sure what had happened to that person, according to the newspaper.
“I’m worried,” Nichols told the newspaper. “It’s like one big family here in Plano.”
The local Fox affiliate reported that four men in Dallas Cowboys jerseys were also seen at the house and said they had been at the party and left to go to a nearby bar.
Two of the victims were identified Monday on social media by friends and family. Darryl Hawkins, who worked as a salesman at an Acura dealership in Plano, was among the victims.
“He had such a positive vibe,” his friend, Zully Romo told CBS News.
Tony Cross, who worked as a motion capture animator for video games, was also killed, his family said on social media.
“He was just full of love. He had nothing by love in his heart. He was an amazing person, inside and out,” a friend, Carmen Carola told the news station.
5. Hight, Who Grew Up in Conroe, Texas, Had No Criminal Record
Spencer Hight does not appear to have had a criminal record. Police have not said if they had any history with Hight. Authorities said they were not aware of any previous calls to the home where the shooting occurred. Hight, who is survived by his parents, his brother and his two sisters, was a San Diego-area native and moved to Conroe, Texas, when he was 4, according to an old blog.
“At the tender age of four I was packed up along with a hodgepodge of packed boxes and the family dog to be relocated (family and all) to the steaming, arid sweat-lodge that is Texas. Five schools and twenty years later here I am, in Dallas, not far removed from my original Texas residence in north Houston,” Spencer Hight wrote on the blog in 2008. “Who I am today developed from a coupling of experiences in art and literature, a general sense of apathetic procrastination, and a subtle disdain for any given social climate. Most of the vaguely distinguishable character traits I exude today were founded in my last years of high school, and the five years that have followed.”
He wrote in 2008, “After a semester at (the University of Houston), and a three year break from college I am now a Junior at (the University of Texas at Dallas) majoring in Arts and Technology, attempting to make something of my artistic interests, despite the obvious salary truncation I will undoubtedly be faced with after recently switching from an engineering degree. … I prefer to waste my free time working in my garage, fabricating Godonlyknowswhat out of steel, wood, glass, and anything else I can shape with my hands and a ridiculous arsenal of power tools and torches.”
Hight wrote similar thoughts about life in recent Facebook posts.
“The world is my oyster…and I f*cking hate oysters,” he wrote in July. He wrote that same month, “Still trying to find an upside to being socially inept.”
Police are still working to uncover what led to the shooting.
More than 30 police officers were at the scene Sunday night continuing to investigate, according to the Dallas Morning News. Police were at the home throughout the night and through the day Monday, the newspaper reports.
“I’ve been here all my life,” police spokesman David Tilley told the Dallas Morning News. “I’ve never heard of anything like this.”
Plano averages about four to five homicides per year, according to online data.
The Texas Rangers were responding to the scene to lead the investigation into the officer-involved shooting, according to the newspaper. The officer who fatally shot Spencer Hight has been placed on paid administrative leave, as per department procedure, pending the completion of the Texas Rangers investigation.