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.
At the February 2014 funeral of Brad and Andra Sachs, no one appeared more distraught than their 19-year-old son, Ashton.
“He collapsed on me, crying,” Andra’s childhood friend Ruth Briscoe tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “It was pretty powerful.”
Less than one month later, Ashton was under arrest for the murders of his parents – leaving his friends and family in disbelief.
A “totally laid back” teen, as his high school friend Jeremy Wentz describes him, Ashton was known to pals as an honors student with a knack for computers, a goofy sense of humor and a playfully rebellious streak.
“He loved the film Borat,” says his middle school friend Blake Calabrese. “He would burst out lines from it at the beginning of class.”
Although the avid World of Warcraft gamer occasionally was bullied in middle school because his personality could be “hyper,” as several friends put it, pals say he had a mischievous side that appealed to his peers.
“In middle school they were very strict, and no gum was ever allowed and I do remember he brought in a backpack that had nothing else in it but gum,” says former classmate Connor Ward. “It was funny.”
‘I Truly Don’t Know Why He Did It’
Today Ashton is in solitary confinement as he awaits trial for the murders of 54-year-old Andra, a self-made real estate mogul worth an estimated $80 million, and 57-year-old Brad, the son of a former champion surfer.
Ashton confessed to the murders, telling police that he shot his parents as they slept in the family’s $2.4 million mansion in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., because he had “a lot of problems.” He also shot his 8-year-old brother Landon, who was left paralyzed in the rampage.
“I truly don’t know why he did it or what triggered it,” says Andra’s sister, Lesley Summers.
Attorneys on both sides say money was not a motive, noting that Ashton was living on his own at the time of the murders and not struggling for independence.
But he was struggling in other ways. After a breakup with his girlfriend, he attempted suicide in the summer of 2013.
His mom “told him to throw dirt on it and brush it off,” says Andra’s friend Ruth Briscoe. “She thought he was okay now.”
‘Mellow’ After His Parents’ Deaths
According to grand jury testimony, Ashton told investigators he devised a plot to kill his parents four or five days before the Feb. 9, 2014 murders and that he “wanted them to die for everything that he felt.”
In the weeks before his arrest, he spent much of his time at the bedside of his paralyzed little brother. Just eight hours after the shooting, “I saw him at the hospital and he said they were still looking for whoever it was,” recalls Wentz. “He was very mellow about it, honestly.”
Now behind bars at the Central Men’s Jail in Orange County, Ashton is awaiting his next court hearing in June. Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek the death penalty.
“I think of my friend I loved,” says Ward, “and I can’t see the kid who murdered his parents.”
For much more on Ashton Sachs’s privileged life and shocking crimes, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday