The entries in Alec Kreider’s old journal painted a picture of a teenager on the brink of killing himself, a 16-year-old who deeply loathed rules, restrictions and the people who imposed them.
“Ever since I was young I was defiant of rules and their consequences, which of course laid the foundation for my current anger, depression and violent nature,” he wrote.
His words were a glimpse into a disturbed mind that meandered into suicidal and murderous thoughts.
“Never did I believe killing a man is wrong. No, no killing out of cold blood is wrong. But that is all. I often wondered … if I set out to destroy the world, if God would stop me,” he wrote in another entry.
He’d been increasingly wanting and needing to kill, he wrote on June 6, 2007 — nearly a month after he murdered his best friend and the boy’s parents.
The bloody massacres of a Thomas Haines, his wife Lisa, and their son, Kevin, rattled the quiet, upper middle-class suburb of Lancaster, Pa.
Kreider — a high school student who, though somewhat of a loner, had friends and good grades — suddenly became the callous murderer who will be the subject of a crime book and a documentary years later.
People could only speculate about why he killed a family who welcomed him into their home for years. Although he pleaded guilty to murder charges, he never explained why he stabbed his best friend and his friend’s parents to death that early morning of May 12, 2007.
That reason will never be known.
On Friday, about two weeks before he would’ve turned 26, Kreider hanged himself in his cell at a state correctional facility in Camp Hill, Pa.
Kreider’s death marks the end of a tragedy that ruined two families — his and that of the young woman who lost her father, mother and brother all in one day.
‘The true pathological killer’
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, who prosecuted the case a decade ago, can think of only one reason Kreider chose the Haines home.
“It was an easy target,” he said.
It was close to where Kreider lived. Having been to their home many times, he knew that the Haineses, like others in that quiet neighborhood, didn’t lock their doors.
Armed with knives, he walked in shortly after 2 a.m. He stabbed Thomas and Lisa Haines first while they were sleeping in their bedroom, Stedman said. Thomas Haines died immediately, while his wife lived a few more minutes.
Then Kreider walked down the hall to his best friend’s room.
Maggie Haines, the couple’s daughter, narrowly escaped. Court records say she heard someone screaming for help and ran out of her bedroom — while Kreider was killing her brother next door.
She went to her parents’ room and found her bloodied mother still alive. Lisa Haines told her daughter to get help. After Maggie Haines ran out to a neighbor’s house, Kreider went back to her parents’ room and slit her mother’s throat, Stedman said.
Police arrived at about 2:30 a.m. By that time, Kreider had escaped, leaving bloody shoe marks inside the house, court records say.
The slayings went unsolved for weeks. People who didn’t use to lock their homes lived in fear, Stedman said. Because there were no signs of a break-in, nothing had been stolen, and the Haineses did not have enemies, investigators believed a serial killer was on the loose.
At school, Kreider gained sympathy from classmates who knew he was close to Kevin Haines, Stedman said. He even went to the funeral.
By June, Kreider had been placed on suicide watch at a hospital outside Lancaster. He hated being watched, he wrote in his journal.
“The foolish administrators and doctors of this institution are idiotic enough to ignore the statements, concerns and warnings in relation to my need to be alone and free,” he wrote June 6, 2007. “It has been a horribly long day that is only becoming worse and worse.”
On June 12, 2007, for reasons that weren’t entirely clear, Kreider told his father that he had killed his friend and his parents.
The next day, he pondered about his uncertain future — and entertained the idea of not having one. He also wrote about a girl who didn’t reciprocate his love.
His father went to police June 14, 2007. Kreider was arrested and charged with burglary and three counts of criminal homicide two days later.
Investigators found the knives, Kreider’s shoes that matched the bloody foot prints in the Haines home, and his journal. In one of the pages was a one-line entry that authorities believe Kreider wrote about an hour after the murders: “Alexander was born on May 12th at 3:30 2007”
Stedman believes Kreider was referring to himself — that he was reborn as Alexander after he killed.
Killing, Stedman said, “energized” him.
“He was the true pathological killer,” he said. “He definitely was one of the most frightening and evil people that I’ve prosecuted.”
But Robert Beyer, a defense attorney hired by the Kreider family, emphasized that Kreider was “just a boy,” and that he was vilified after he was turned over to police.
“When he was actually charged, people really came down on him,” Beyer said. “He’s a 16-year-old boy with problems.”
During Kreider’s sentencing hearing in 2008, prosecutors played a video of Maggie Haines as she talked about her life after the deaths of her loved ones — the recurring nightmares, the long periods of crying, the painful thought of not having a father to one day walk her down the aisle, the waves of panic caused by the slightest sound of the wind.
“My biggest concern should’ve been what grades I was getting on my college finals, not what caskets to bury my parents in,” said Haines, who was 20 when her family was killed.
Kreider was sentenced to three consecutive life terms.
‘A tragic ending to a horrible drama’
Kreider’s father, Timothy Kreider, would later write, “Refuse to Drown: A Father’s Unthinkable Choice,” a book about the painful decision of turning his teenager over to police, and the years of tormenting himself over his son’s crimes.
“I got caught on the downward spiral of blame and insecurity wondering what I could have done to keep Alec from doing what he did. There was a constant voice in my head asking me, ‘Where did I fail?’ ” he wrote, according to LancasterOnline.
A woman who answered the phone listed under Timothy Kreider’s name said he has no comment.
In the book, he revealed that his son expected to be protected even after what he had done, according to LancasterOnline.
He wrote that even before his son confessed, the thought of him being the killer had entered his mind.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court found that mandatory life imprisonment without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional. Four years later, the high court’s justices decided that the ruling should be retroactive, meaning it would apply to those who were sentenced before 2012.
That opened the door for Kreider to one day be released from prison — a possibility that brought a sense of betrayal to the victims’ families, Stedman said.
“The agonizing part of this is that the family was told at the time of the plea that he’s done. He can never get out,” he said.
Kreider killed himself while his case was being reevaluated.
“The reality is this is a tragic ending to a horrible drama,” Beyer said. “He was a boy. He’s still a boy and he’s dead. That’s not good for anybody.”
Beyer said the anger from the people in the small Pennsylvania community was driven by the fact that they never got an explanation from Kreider about why he did what he did.
“If he wanted the public to know,” Beyer said, “the public would’ve known.”