Mom killed son, daughter in apparent double murder-suicide, according to reports
Grief counselors visit school where Alex, Jacqueline Berman were musicians
Father calls 911 and tells dispatcher, "My ex-wife said she was going to harm the kids"
Family had gone through divorce, experienced financial problems, court documents say
Grief counselors Wednesday visited the West Palm Beach, Florida, school of two teens allegedly killed by their mother in an apparent double murder-suicide, a school district official told CNN.
Alex Berman, 16, along with his 15-year-old sister, Jacqueline, were found shot to death in their home Monday in an upscale South Florida neighborhood. The teens’ mother, Jennifer Berman, 48, was also found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to CNN affiliates.
The siblings were both promising musicians – Alex was a cellist, Jacqueline a violinist – at the prestigious Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts where they were straight-A students, according to local media reports.
“Of course we are deeply saddened by the events and the loss of Alexander and Jacqueline Berman,” School District of Palm Beach County spokeswoman Natalia Powers said. “We have a group of counselors that are going to the school and have been going there since Monday to assist any of our students or staff that need any additional assistance. We want to help them cope with this given the circumstances.”
In a 911 call released by the West Palm Beach Police Department, Richard Berman, the teens’ father, rushed to the home after he received a bizarre e-mail from his ex-wife, the teens’ mother. Berman called police on the way to the home he once shared with his family.
“I’m just about getting there, but it’s kind of concerning me,” Berman said in the call. “My ex-wife said she was going to harm the kids and that I should get over there ASAP. I’m afraid to go in. My neighbor went in, and there’s blood up on the wall and near her bedroom.”
“There’s all this blood upstairs. The police are here right now,” a neighbor could be heard saying on the 911 call. “I think the girl is up in bed with her, but once I got up there and I saw what was up there I had to run back downstairs,” she added.
Berman told the 911 dispatcher that he recalled his ex-wife had her father’s old rifles in the house. Police have not released a motive for murder-suicide.
According to court records, the Bermans had recently divorced after more than 20 years of marriage. In August, court documents show Jennifer Berman was given exclusive use and possession of the home where the killings happened because of “extreme emotional abuse … in the home.”
Court paperwork filed by Jennifer Berman also showed signs of financial turmoil, indicating her ex-husband did not pay the mortgage, despite living in the house during the divorce proceedings.
“He has not contributed to the support of the wife or of the minor children. In fact, he has refused to pay for toilet paper, buys food and supplies for himself and keeps them where the wife and children cannot access them,” court records said.
The mother’s financial state was bad enough that she sold her late father’s watch to buy gas, groceries and clothes for the children, according to documents.
A well-known real estate broker in the area, Richard Berman also was dealing with tough financial circumstances of his own, court documents indicated. An affidavit filed in October said he was running a monthly debt of nearly $2,000. Overall, Berman had debts of more than $790,000, according to court paperwork.
CNN’s attempts to get in touch with the Richard Berman were unsuccessful. Police declined to comment or release an incident report.
Neighbors were shocked to hear the news. Others said they had seen a noticeable change in the mother’s appearance.
“Oh, God, I can’t talk about this. I just can’t. I loved Alex and Jackie so much they are like my own kids. Alex was always at my house. He was my son’s best friend,” Dawn Alba told CNN affiliate WPBF.
“A couple of days ago, she was different,” neighbor Marian Sklodowsk told CNN affiliate WSVN. “You could see it in her face, there was something missing, something disturbed in her mind. The conversation, the language, the eyes … something was missing.”