A 61-year-old woman slain by her ex-husband in a killing spree that shocked the tight-knit farming community of Wellton, outside of Yuma, had been living in fear of him for most of the past decade, according to court records.
Theresa Sigurdson was one of five people gunned down by Carey Hal Dyess, 73, Thursday in what authorities and court records indicate was the violent culmination of a troubled marriage, bitter divorce and years of angry recriminations.
All the victims in Thursday's killings had one thing that tied them to Dyess, court records and town residents say: They all played a role in his contentious divorce from Sigurdson four years ago.
Besides shooting his former wife in the pre-meditated rampage, authorities said he also gunned down her partner, James Simpson, 75; Yuma divorce attorney Jerrold Shelley, 62; and Scott Finney, 76, a close friend of Sigurdson's. Finney's wife, Cindy, 79, is believed to be the fifth victim.
Dyess later killed himself on a highway outside of Yuma.
Another victim, Wellton resident, Linda Clatone, 52, was listed in critical condition in a Phoenix hospital Friday morning.
Friends of the victims said Dyess was upset over his divorce from Sigurdson, which occurred in 2007 and left Dyess disturbed.
"It was a really bad divorce," said a man who rents property from Sigurdson and would identify himself only as Lenny. "It's been going on a long time, and it just festered and festered, and he finally couldn't stand it."
Sigurdson, according to records filed in their divorce case, had been afraid of Dyess' potential for violence since the mid-2000s.
"I became concerned for my safety when I saw Carey put his pistol under his pillow," Sigurdson wrote to a friend in Washington state in 2004.
"I asked him why he was doing it and he said because he felt he needed protection. I ask from what and he said me!!! Well, he's the one with the gun," Sigurdson wrote. "I'm the one who doesn't feel real safe."
Sigurdson's fears were realized Thursday morning when, according to a witness, Dyess drove his silver station wagon to the home the couple used to share on a rural highway that overlooks Interstate 8.
When Dyess pulled up in front of the Quonset hut on the property that housed Sigurdson's upholstery business, Lenny, the witness, walked around to the back of the building as he typically does when customers arrive.
He heard gunshots and came back around to see Dyess sitting in his station wagon with his weapon pointed at Sigurdson who lay on the ground.
Lenny said he didn't hear Dyess say anything to his-ex wife before, during or after the shooting.
"She was dead when she hit the ground," Lenny said. "I've never seen a coldblooded killing like that."
After the station wagon drove away between 8:30 and 9 a.m., Lenny said he flagged down a passing truck driver to call the police.
According to authorities, Dyess then drove to downtown Yuma and killed the attorney who represented Sigurdson in her divorce.
Jerrold Shelley, a longtime Yuma attorney, was widely respected in the city's legal community and was preparing for his retirement when Dyess came into his office, ordered an assistant to the ground and gunned down the lawyer.
As word spread about Dyess' rampage, so did concern in Wellton, about 30 miles east of Yuma.
Lori Bejarano, a friend of Sigurdson's, said she first learned of the shootings from her daughter who was in summer school and texted her mother to say the building was locked down.
A few minutes later, Bejarano said, her son called to tell her that Sigurdson was among the victims.
"I just sat here kind of scared," Bejarano said Friday morning, standing outside the family's trailer south of Wellton. "I can't tell you how much she's going to be missed."
To Dyess, the victims' friendship with his ex-wife posed a threat, according to court records.
While the couple was going through the divorce in 2007, Dyess asked the court for an injunction against harassment from Scott Finney.
"He continues the harassment by driving very slowly by my house," Dyess wrote to a judge. "I live on a corner lot and he makes daily trips trying to intimidate me."
In a separate court filing, Dyess also claimed Sigurdson came to the couple's home in December 2006 with Scott and Cindy Finney and Linda Clatone and tried to enter the house.
Dueling claims of abuse and harassment between the couple are found throughout the court records.
Law enforcement in the area did not respond on Friday to requests for information on the couple's history with police.
Dyess told a judge in August 2006 that Sigurdson had admitted to shaking and slapping him when he tried to serve her with an order of protection.
That same month, Sigurdson filed an order of protection against Dyess, citing "physical and verbal abuse - has guns and will use them - said he would kill me," according to court documents.
As part of the court proceeding, Sigurdson filed a physician's report that describes conflicts appearing early on in the relationship, which began in the late 1990s.
The conflicts began about six months into the marriage, the physician wrote, and escalated into verbal and physical abuse about one year into the marriage.
"Very controlling spouse," the doctor wrote. "(Sigurdson) doesn't want to give up on a marriage of four years, but not sure how much longer she could keep going."
The couple moved to the area from the Pacific Northwest, where Dyess had worked at a naval shipyard.
Angela Swedberg of Port Orchard, Wash., said she had built a friendship with Dyess years ago when he lived in Washington. She described him as a friendly and affable guy whose dream was to raise buffalo and horses. She last spoke with him around 2000 or 2001, before he moved to Arizona.
"He was an incredibly polite, nice man," Swedberg told The Arizona Republic. "I also had some business dealings with him, and he was very generous, straightforward. Usually, you can kind of gauge how people are by how they treat their horses. He was really great."
Swedberg said Dyess had retired from a shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., where he had worked with her father. After his retirement, he got into cutting horses, she said.
"When he retired from the shipyard, he wanted to raise and breed buffalo and continue cutting and reining horses," she said. "His dream was to go to Arizona because he had found a place near Yuma, found a ranch he was buying, and was moving down there. I remember him finding a ranch to buy, and he was very excited."
Dyess realized his dream of raising buffaloes, but health problems finished off the business, said Roberta Keiser, a clerk at the Del Sol Market in Wellton where she got to know the couple. Sigurdson embraced the buffalo business, Keiser said, inviting schoolchildren to visit the buffaloes and always made sure the kids left with buffalo-shaped cookies.
"The kids would all be so happy," Keiser said. "She was so good to them."
Years ago, Dyess boarded two horses at the Half Moon Ranch in Port Orchard. Owner Susan Hathaway remembered Dyess as a kind man who "was very good at paying his bills and very respectable to me and my family."
Hathaway met Dyess around the time that his relationship with Sigurdson was blossoming, she said.
"They had just gotten together, I met her, they moved off to Yuma and that was the end of it," Hathaway told The Republic on Friday. "He was an easygoing and happy guy just riding his horses."
Sigurdson, according to Wellton residents, was hard-working and independent, responsible for prepping, cutting and baling hay that she sold in the community. She remained easygoing and happy, even after the couple's contentious divorce.
"She called everyone 'my love,' " Bejarano said. "Who wouldn't miss a person like that?"
Read more: Yuma shooting: Slain ex-wife voiced fears about husband for years