A Glen Carbon woman who shot her ex-husband and set the house on fire with him and six of their children inside before driving into a lake with their baby thought he had begun a romantic relationship with a co-worker.
Cristy Campbell had worked herself into a jealous rage — asking people who he was dating, hijacking ex-husband Justin Campbell’s phone and accusing the co-worker of having sex with him.
But in an ironic twist, Justin Campbell and the co-worker were not in a sexual relationship. Justin Campbell was attracted to the co-worker, but the co-worker felt they were “just friends.”
That’s the picture painted in a statement given to police by the co-worker of Justin Campbell. The statement is included in police reports obtained by the News-Democrat under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Justin and Cristy Campbell died March 16 after Cristy Campbell shot her ex-husband in the cheek and burned their house down with him and six of their children inside, according to police. Cristy Campbell then drove her SUV into Silver Lake near Highland with their youngest child, an infant, in the back seat. All seven children survived, but Cristy Campbell drowned in the lake.
The newly released police report gives more insight into events leading up to the couple’s deaths. But Glen Carbon Police Chief Todd Link said Thursday the motive still isn’t clear.
“I cannot speak to motive in this case,” Link said. “I cannot possibly know what Cristy Campbell or Justin Campbell were thinking. Anything I offer would only be speculation on my part. I don’t believe I should do that and add more confusion to this terribly tragic incident.”
Police knew the Campbell residence well: They’d responded to at least 50 police calls there over the years.
The two had been divorced since 2013, but Justin Campbell was still living with Cristy Campbell and their seven kids. Since the divorce, the two apparently had their seventh child together, according to Facebook posts.
Their relationship was complicated. They had filed for divorce in 2010, then again in 2012, court records show. Justin Campbell didn’t show up for the court date, and the divorce was finalized without his participation. Even though the two were not married, Justin Campbell told his co-worker that Cristy Campbell might “go crazy” if she found out about the co-worker, according to the police report.
The co-worker told police that Justin Campbell came to her house once, and the two of them were friends, and that they “would talk about their issues in their life.”
Somehow, Cristy Campbell found out about the co-worker. She seemed to be fine with it at first, the co-worker said Justin Campbell told her, but later freaked out about it.
Just days before the deaths, a woman the co-worker believed to be Cristy Campbell called the co-worker and asked if she was having sex with Justin. Cristy Campbell also would call the restaurant where the two worked, the co-worker told police, demanding to know who Justin was dating.
The morning before the deaths, the co-worker received a text message, sent from Justin Campbell’s phone, stating: “Good morning love.” The co-worker told police the message had actually been sent by Cristy Campbell, who had taken Justin Campbell’s phone.
Glen Carbon Detective Jeffrey Blind wrote in the report that Justin Campbell “kept telling (his co-worker) that Cristy was crazy, but she never was led to believe that she would possibly do something like this.”
The deaths of the Campbells left seven children orphaned and inspired a widespread community effort to support them. The family home on Dogwood Lane in Glen Carbon burned in the early hours of March 16 with Justin Campbell’s body inside, though the six older children were able to escape.
The oldest child apparently tried to take the blame for the fire, according to the police report. The child told police that he started the fire, saying it started near the stove and there were flames on the ceiling. He couldn’t tell police why he was awake or what he was doing, however, and got agitated when pressed for an answer. The boy said his parents and all seven of the kids were in the house when the fire started, then his mom took the baby and left, leaving Justin lying on the couch.
The boy ran out of the house, barefoot and in his pajamas, because he couldn’t stand the heat of the fire. He told police he threw a rock at the window to try to get back in before running to Walmart to get help.
“My dad is dead; he’s on the couch on fire,” the boy told police when they arrived.
Accoring to a forensic pathologist, Justin Campbell died from the gunshot to his head. Cristy Campbell drowned. Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn, in a final report issued Monday, said there was insufficient evidence to determine whether her death was accidental or a suicide.
Police found a .40-caliber pistol in the front passenger seat of Cristy Campbell’s SUV. The pistol had been purchased in 2014, and was registered to her, according to the report. Forensic reports show there were traces of gasoline on shoes found on the shore of Silver Lake after Cristy Campbell drove her car into it.
The Madison County Children’s Advocacy Center interviewed the children, but those interviews were not released by Glen Carbon Police.
Reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this report.