Daytona Beach, Florida — It’s hard to say whether Florida attracts violence, or breeds it. Whether the potential for tragedy is something inherent to the place, or the kind of people who come here. But there’s no doubt at all of a particular trend, or of the horrific scenes of slaughter that follow.
The 52-year-old David Mahoney and his wife, Cynthia, were the parents of three children, two girls 9 and 14 years old, and a boy 11 years old. The family moved to Florida in 2010 from Rapid City, South Dakota, so Mahoney could study at the Palmer College of Chiropractic’s campus in Port Orange. His wife worked supporting the family while he went to school, making $220,000 a year as a physician’s assistant.
But Mahoney said the children hated Florida; they missed the snow and seasons, the climate acted up on their allergies, and the Midwest better suited their “morals and values.” So he said. According to him, the plan had always been to move back to South Dakota when he finished school; but Florida suited Cynthia’s tastes, and she didn’t want to leave.
By all reports, Cynthia was terribly abusive to the children. Mahoney himself wrote at one point “The ‘hits’ described in the examples are loud and hard, beyond corporal punishment. My children were crying, afraid and trying to duck or get away from Cynthia.” Not that Mahoney himself was much better.
The couple fought constantly. A neighbor told 9-1-1 dispatch that “you can’t believe either one of them,” and that neither parent should have children because they were both “a little bit selfish and self-centered.”
If you only knew.
Almost immediately after graduating Chiropractic school, David filed for divorce from his wife of 25 years, and filed a restraining order against her. The quote above was from that injunction. Court reprts say that Cynthia had been drinking heavily, and had taken to slapping and hitting him and the children on a far more regular basis. She had already undergone treatment for “substance abuse” after being reported to a Child Abuse hotline.
Mahoney had already made plans to take the children and leave, go back to South Dakota and take a job at a chiropractic clinic there. But something went wrong.
On Friday, David Mahoney went from room to room in his home, systematically shooting his children. He then put the gun in his own mouth, and killed himself in a bedroom on the ground floor. A neighbor called 9-1-1.
When police arrived, they found Mahoney and the elder two siblings dead. The youngest, Lauren, amazingly survived her father’s shooting rampage. She’s in stable condition; now, one of two surviving members of her family.
There is no precise motive known, but it’s very likely that David realized he would never get out-of-state custody from his wife, based on her income alone. He and the children would be forced to stay there; himself without a job, and his children in the home of their abusive mother. It’s possible he believed he was saving his children from a far worse fate; it’s slightly more possible that he was just a narcissistic, selfish coward who was certainly no better than his wife.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson put it rather pointedly, and with typical Floridian cynicism:
“If he wants to commit suicide, let him commit suicide. To shoot the children, that’s cowardly.”
It’s hard to say whether the Sunshine State attracts monsters, or breeds them. It certainly seems a cash-rich magnet for the worst human beings on Earth. A man who murders his family, a woman who abuses them…and caught in the middle a little girl, the lone survivor of this horror now forced to live with the alcoholic mother who beat her.
“Selfish and self-centered.”
This place is a god-d***ed tragedy.