Raised in privilege, the 20-year-old "never spoke bad about his family," his former girlfriend tells PEOPLE

By Michelle Tauber and Christine Pelisek
Updated March 04, 2015 08:00 AM

Perfect Family, Shocking Murder: 19-year-old Ashton Sachs fatally shot his parents and paralyzed his little brother. What made him snap? Subscribe now for instant access to the full story.

Ashton Sachs was an honors student, a trading-card fanatic and the kind of kid who taught residents at his grandmother’s nursing home how to use computers.

Today, he is in solitary confinement as he awaits trial for the murders of his parents, Brad and Andra Sachs.

The grisly crime – which Sachs, then 19, confessed to police less than one month after the February 2014 murders – has stunned the wealthy community of San Juan Capistrano, California, where Ashton shot his parents in their bed at the family’s $2.5 million luxury home. Ashton’s brother Landon, who was 8 at the time of the shootings, was left paralyzed in the rampage.

In exclusive interviews with a dozen people connected to Ashton and his parents, those who know him best tell PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that they never saw any hint of the darkness to come.

Asked by police after his arrest why he did it, Ashton replied simply, “I don’t have a reason why. Just a lot of problems.” He later said he blamed Andra, 54, and Brad, 57, for his “messed-up life,” adding that he was “the least favorite child in the family.”

The family had been touched by tragedy in the past: In 1999, 18-month-old Sabrina, the youngest of the Sachses’ four children, fell into the backyard hot tub and drowned. Her death devastated Andra – a self-made real-estate mogul with a net worth of $80 million – and rocked her marriage to Brad.

“Hell-bent on having another child,” as Brad’s sister Lisa McGowan puts it, the couple adopted Landon and his older sister Lana, 9, from a Russian orphanage in 2007.

Friends and family say Ashton doted on his younger siblings and Landon in particular, making the shootings all the more incomprehensible.

“If you didn’t know Landon was his brother, you would think he was his son,” says Ashton’s former girlfriend Sarah Verbeek, adding that Ashton, who has entered a not-guilty plea, “wasn’t that kid you see on TV crime documentaries that secludes himself and doesn’t talk to anyone. He never spoke bad about his family. He never talked about guns. Nothing.”

For much more on Ashton Sachs’s privileged life and shocking crimes, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

What Made Honors Student Ashton Sachs Kill His Parents?