Special education teacher Karen Elaine Smith had had enough of her relationship with her husband, Cedric Anderson. Relatives say there were signs of trouble shortly after the couple wed on Jan. 28 at the Bethesda Temple Church in Los Angeles.
“He always showed his good side,” Karen’s mother, Irma Sykes, tells PEOPLE. “He never showed the other side. Once they were married, he showed the other side.”
Police say Smith and Anderson, both 53, were married just two months before Smith packed her bags and moved out of their house in Riverside, California, in the middle of March.
Smith’s mom tells PEOPLE, “She decided she needed to get away from him.”
Smith, who moved to stay with her adult children nearby, had told those closest to her that Anderson began displaying erratic behavior, authorities say. There were also accusations of infidelity in the relationship.
Anderson tried to contact her after the separation, to get her to return home — which Smith resisted, police say.
“She had mentioned his behavior was odd and that she was concerned about his behavior and he had made some threats towards her,” San Bernardino, California, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told reporters on Tuesday.
But “she didn’t necessarily take those threats serious,” he said. “She thought he was reaching out for attention.”
On Monday, Anderson, armed with a Smith & Wesson .357-caliber magnum revolver, fired 10 rounds inside Smith’s North Park Elementary School classroom in San Bernardino — killing her and 8-year-old student Jonathan Martinez before turning the gun on himself.
A 9-year-old boy was also shot, but he is expected to make a full recovery. Police say the two students were hit because of their proximity to Smith and that they were not targeted.
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It seems domestic violence drove the murder-suicide, even as Chief Burguan said Tuesday that none of the teachers or employees at Smith’s elementary school had any idea there were problems in her marriage.
School and police officials have said Anderson followed all procedures when he showed up on Monday morning, saying that he had to “drop something off with his wife.” He didn’t reveal his weapon until he opened fire in Smith’s classroom of 15 students. He didn’t speak.
“There was nobody who indicated they were under the impression that [Anderson] was not allowed on the campus,” Burguan said. “[Smith] effectively kept her private life private.”
Police say investigators did find a note during a search of his home.
He “talked about some things that needed closure, feeling disrespected, just that type of stuff — nothing that would be specifically identified as a suicide note and if found outside of this case, I am not so sure anybody would be terribly alarmed by the contents,” Burguan said.
‘I Had No Idea He Owned a Gun’
Smith’s religion was one of the things she shared with her new husband, who had worked as a pastor in the Los Angeles area, her mom says.
They knew each other for “a number of years” before they wed, Sykes says. “He had a wonderful personality. He was a pastor for 17 years. And he was an excellent preacher and something happened to him.”
Sykes says her daughter, who had worked at North Park Elementary since 2015 and in the district for a decade, would have one day joined his ministry — but he stopped preaching a few years ago.
“He started trying to get himself set up financially, because preachers don’t make a lot of money. They just guide God’s people. So he had to work to set up for his future, because he was getting older,” she says. “He refocused his life.”
Sykes says Anderson also worked in the construction industry, and “he was an excellent worker.”
His criminal history was apparently less well-known: Police say Anderson had prior arrests, between 1982 and 2013, on domestic violence, theft and weapons charges. (He was not convicted in any of those cases.)
“I had no idea he owned a gun,” Sykes says.
Najee Ali, an acquaintance of Anderson’s, tells PEOPLE he “always presented this image as a very spiritual, godly man — but obviously, he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Ali says he last saw Anderson in February, at a park in L.A. “He seemed to be in good spirits,” he says. “He was excited about finally marrying Karen.”
‘Making Me Really Happy’?
Posts on the apparent Facebook pages for both Anderson and Smith show they discussed their relationship in happy terms multiple times.
A video posted in February showed Anderson saying Smith was “making me really happy.”
He also said, “She knows when to ignore me,” as he laughed and smiled. The caption on the post read: “I love being married to Karen Smith-Anderson!”
In another post, on March 11, he wrote, “My wife Karen Smith-Anderson is an Angel!!!”
Ali says that friends of Anderson are shocked by the news that he killed the woman he seemed — falsely — to adore. “He seemed to be enjoying his life,” he says. “When he married Karen, it was something he took tremendous pride and joy in it.”
Now people know the truth.
“Who murders a teacher in front of students who are now traumatized for life?” Ali says. “It was a cold, calculated decision to create as much pain as possible. He knew exactly what he was doing.”