PEOPLE Explains: Woman Leaves Note for Estranged Husband in Murder-Suicide — 'I Hope You Live With Pain'

Authorities believe a messy divorce and custody dispute triggered a deadly murder-suicide in South Carolina earlier this summer

Authorities believe a custody dispute amid a disintegrating marriage triggered a murder-suicide in South Carolina earlier this summer, after 36-year-old Jessica Edens shot and killed the woman whom she believed was her estranged husband’s girlfriend.

Edens then killed her two young children and, finally, shot herself, according to police. She left behind a scathing suicide note for her spouse.

Here are four things to know about the tragedy.

1. Edens’ Spree Began with Husband’s Suspected Girlfriend

On July 13, police believe Edens fatally shot 28-year-old Meredith Leigh Rahme at a parking garage at Rhame’s apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina, before fleeing the scene in her Jeep.

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said Edens believed Rahme was dating her husband, Benjamin Edens, who had reportedly filed for divorce from her after their separation in April.

But officials later said Ben and Rahme were co-workers and described them as acquaintances.

According to authorities, Jessica had previously attacked Rahme in a Facebook post, writing, “This little girl has no self respect and no morals. She dates married men who have children and she doesn’t even want or like kids.”

After fatally shooting Rahme with a handgun Jessica had stolen from her parents, authorities say she drove to the Greenville-Pickens Speedway with her two children, 5-year-old daughter Harper Edens and 9-year-old son Hayden King, and then shot them both before turning the gun on herself.

Records obtained by the Greenville News show that Jessica called Ben before one last time, telling him, “Everyone you love is gone. Do you hear me? I’m about to be gone too.”

Her vehicle was discovered still running by a passing driver. Mother and children were dead inside.

2. Suspect Left Vitriolic Suicide Note to Husband

Authorities have said they suspect that the murder-suicide was planned following a family court hearing earlier that week that left Jessica “distraught.”

Two days before the shootings, Jessica asked for sole custody of her daughter while Ben asked for joint custody, according to the Greenville News.

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Jessica Edens
Jessica Edens. Jessica Edens

“Texts messages and other written content clearly indicate that [Jessica] developed a plan in the next couple of days that she felt would cause everlasting consequences for her husband,” investigators said in a news release in late July.

In a handwritten note left in her Jeep after the killings, Jessica expressed anger at her husband.

“To Ben,” she wrote: “You have caused me more pain than I’ve ever been in in my life. You have caused my children pain. I hate you. I hope you rot one day for what you have done to me and my kids. You can no longer hurt us. We are at peace. I hope you live with pain and shame and guilt for the rest of your life.”

WATCH: Mother Kills Estranged Husband’s Girlfriend Before Killing Herself and Kids

3. Two Other Suicide Notes Were Found in Vehicle

Authorities said Jessica left two other notes to family members — but the tone was markedly different.

“To my parents and my sister,” she wrote. “I am so sorry for the pain I am causing all of you. You’ve all always been there for me and I love you all so much.”

Jessica also addressed the father of her son in another note, writing, “I don’t know what to say. You gave me my first child. I will forever be [grateful] because of you. I never meant to cause you as much pain as this. I am sorry.”

4. Suspect’s Husband Had Told Police Something Seemed Wrong

The night before the murder-suicide, Ben called police and asked them to check on the kids after he received a series of text messages from Jessica.

Ben also asked whether he could use the text messages as part of his ongoing legal dispute with Jessica.

When officers arrived at her home, they found the two kids watching a movie and eating popcorn.

Though police said Jessica showed no signs of erratic behavior, she said that she was going “expose” her estranged husband and “the girl he was having an affair with for the last year,” according to authorities, local TV station WSPA reports.

Speaking with WSPA, Creed Hashe with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina said officials hoped releasing the case file, including the suicide notes, would help bring closure to the victims families.

“She developed a plan,” Hashe said. “[She] made her mind up and she executed that plan and it’s just very tragic for the family and we want to try to give them the best closure we can. That’s why we want to release these documents as best as we are allowed to.”

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