Jealousy may have been the motive behind Monday’s murder-suicide of a Louisiana woman who was featured along with her family in the 2012 reality TV show Bayou Billionaires, the victim’s daughter confirms to PEOPLE.
Around 4 p.m. that day, Valerie Dowden Wells, 47, was shot multiple times by Robert Gaddy, 46, as she sat in her car near a McDonald’s parking lot in Shreveport, Louisiana, police Sgt. Rod Johnson tells PEOPLE.
Gaddy then turned the gun on himself, Johnson says. Gaddy and Wells were both taken to a local hospital, where Wells was pronounced dead immediately and Gaddy later died, Johnson says.
Gaddy knew Wells from middle school, and the pair had recently started dating, according to Wells’ 15-year-old daughter, Nikki.
Gaddy was jealous that Wells continued to communicate with Nikki’s father, the teen confirms.
Brian Flanagan, Bayou Billionaires‘ executive producer, tells PEOPLE that family members “believe that’s the reason it all went down” — an assertion Nikki confirms.
Of the investigation into the motive, Johnson says police “haven’t been able to lock it down as a hard core fact.”
And with both victim and shooter dead, Johnson says, “that could be one of those facts we’ll never know.”
‘She Was my Beautiful Mother’
Wells’s death has left her close-knit family “all in total shock,” Wells’s sister-in-law Peggy Dowden tells PEOPLE. “We can’t believe it happened.”
“She was the most loving person, she was so friendly, she was always smiling,” Dowden says. “She was down-to-earth. She loved everybody so much.”
Bayou Billionaires, which aired on CMT, focused on the Shreveport-based Dowden family’s rags-to-riches story after they discovered their home sat on a large deposit of natural gas.
Wells was a single mother of a son and two daughters, and she she worked at a public defender’s office, another producer who did not want to be identified tells PEOPLE. She also suffered from Multiple Sclerosis but never let the condition slow her down.
“I was so impressed,” the producer tells PEOPLE. “She had a job that meant a lot to her, a TV show, was a great mother. And on top of that she was dealing with MS.”
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Wells loved caring for her home, part of a family compound on the same sprawling property as her parents, Kitten and Gerald Dowden, who also starred in the show. She took refuge in a small garden area in front of her house, which is surrounded by acres of pastoral land.
“She liked that quiet time and connection with nature,” the producer tells PEOPLE.
Nikki, Wells’s youngest child, says Wells “was the strongest person I knew.”
“She taught me everything I needed to know to be a successful, thriving, beautiful woman,” says Nikki, who will be cared for by other family members.
“We knew we loved each other very much. She was my beautiful mother and I was her sparkle child,” Nikki says. “We will always miss my wonderful mama.”
Wells’s funeral service will be at noon on Friday, Peggy says.