Murder-Suicide Motive Sought

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 4, 2006

Harold King was so proud of his daughter, Stephanie. She was a graduate of the University of Maryland. She was a government financial analyst. She had three beautiful boys.

But when she married the children's father two weeks ago, it was over her family's objections. "He was verbally abusive," King said. "He was very controlling."

There was something else, the father said, and that apparently proved her undoing: "She loved him."

On Friday night, King stood in a Largo townhouse parking lot lined with yellow crime scene tape, watching investigators and struggling to explain why his new son-in-law apparently allegedly shot and killed his daughter, one of the couple's young sons and then himself. The bodies were found by the couple's two other children, Trevor, 5, and Tyler, 2, whose twin brother died.

"She worked so hard. She went to college, she earned her degree in finance and accounting and was working at the Securities and Exchange Commission," said King, hours after Prince George's County police arrived at the Largo townhouse and found the bodies of Stephanie Marie Sperling, 34, Richard E. Sperling Jr., 38, and Taylor, 2.

Two weeks ago, King said, his son-in-law began working as a security guard after a long spell of unemployment.

Police said the shootings appear to be a murder-suicide but are still investigating. They asked the public's help in determining a motive.

"This a real tragedy. This is a good community. This is a tight-knit community and involved community," police Chief Melvin C. High said as he surveyed the scene late Friday.

Neighbors said police had responded to calls about the Sperling home before Friday. King and his son Stephen also had worried that Stephanie was being abused.

Harold King said his daughter had decided to marry to help bring her young family closer. His wife, Ruby, said of their daughter: "She had the total package. She was beautiful, she was caring, she was top-notch."

Richard E. Sperling Sr., speaking by phone from his Long Island, N.Y., home, said his family was devastated. "There are no words to describe the hurt that my son has brought to bear," he said.

Sperling said his son had struggled with bouts of explosive anger and had been bitter since his dismissal several years ago from a police training academy in New York. Sperling said his son later worked as a probation officer in Prince George's but ran into problems on the job.

Prince George's County Council member Samuel H. Dean and his wife, Donna, who live near the Sperling's Campus Way South townhouse, offered their prayers.

"You really feel for the children," Donna Dean said.

Staff researcher Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.

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