Victims in Tempe Town Lake Murder-Suicide Drowned, Autopsy Report Shows

A new report from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office says that all five members of the Baxter family drowned after their car plunged into the Tempe Town Lake earlier this week.

The Tempe Police Department is investigating the situation as a murder-suicide because authorities say that video-surveillance footage shows Glenn Edward Baxter, 27, purposefully driving the family vehicle into the dark waters early Sunday morning.

Other passengers in the vehicle included Glenn’s wife, 25-year-old Danica Baxter, and the couple’s three young children: Reighn Baxter, 3; Nazyiah Baxter, 2; and Zariyah Baxter, 1.  

The grainy video footage comes from a nearby condominium complex surveillance camera and depicts the family’s Silver Nissan Armada — which authorities say was registered under Danica’s name — parked by the side of the road in a spot not too far from the lake.
The footage shows Glenn Baxter getting out of the vehicle and walking down to the lake, “almost as if he’s looking for a path of least resistance, or a path to get down to the lake,” Tempe Police Lieutenant Michael Pooley said in a recent press conference.

Baxter comes back a few minutes later, gets inside in the vehicle, and then starts backing it up.

“He drives it at a high rate of speed toward the lake, down the sidewalk, [and makes] an abrupt left turn toward the lake,” Pooley said. “Then the vehicle hits a little curb and flips over onto its backside into the water.”

Authorities say they still are investigating Baxter’s motive for killing his family, but relatives and friends of Danica's say they firmly believe his actions had everything to do with the couple’s troubled relationship. 

(Fox 10 News uploaded the surveillance footage to its Facebook page, watch the full video below:)
Lake surveillance cam

Tempe police release new surveillance video - They say a man deliberately drove an SUV carrying his estranged wife and their three young children into Tempe Town Lake and that the five deaths are being investigated as a murder-suicide. The surveillance video is attached - watch the upper right portion of your screen as a man walks around the SUV, which then pulls forward and turns, disappearing into the water.

Posted by FOX 10 Phoenix on Monday, October 19, 2015

According to GoFundMe Page set up by a family friend to cover the family’s funeral costs, Glenn and Danica were separated, and he was upset that she wanted a divorce:

“They had been separated for several months, and her husband, who had a history of anger issues, was distraught at their separation and planned and executed the murder of his entire family in Tempe Town Lake. Danica was a loving mom who took care of her kids and worked hard to provide a good life for them. She was a supervisor at a company and lived on the straight and narrow. All she wanted was a better life for her and her kids which is why she choose to leave an abusive relationship with her husband.”

(The page has since been taken down and Danica’s mother’s page is now the official GoFundMe site for the cause.)

Pooley told reporters that after officers hauled the vehicle out of the lake, they found a gun inside it. As of now, police have not revealed to whom the gun may have been registered, but Pooley told reporters that none of the bodies had apparent gunshot wounds — a statement corroborated by the recent autopsy report.

The full report from the Medical Examiner’s Officer has not been completed, and it remains unclear whether Glenn Baxter had any intoxicating substances in his system.

Many have wondered why Danica, if she was indeed conscious at the time of the crash, was with her husband and allowed him to murder the entire family.

According to Pooley, the couple met that evening to discuss the custody of their children and had an argument, but other than that, he says, “what happened inside that vehicle remains a mystery.” Moments after the car careened over the small curb in the early hours of Sunday October 18, a man fishing on the other side of the lake called the police to report what he saw.

Tempe PD arrived a few minutes later, and two other witnesses joined officers in jumping into the lake to retrieve the bodies from the vehicle floating upside down.

Four members of the family were pulled out, and all were still alive, though unconscious. Officers performed CPR while waiting for an ambulance, but all four died later that day at a hospital.

After identifying Danica Baxter, authorities realized her eldest son was unaccounted for, and as Pooley stated, officers went back to the lake “and our worst fears came true.”

Three-year-old Reighn Baxter “was located in the very back seat, the third seat. He was strapped in his car seat, he was still wearing his pajamas,” Pooley said. “We’re talking these little kids, completely innocent, completely helpless in a situation like this, and it is absolutely horrific.”
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser