But the 23-year-old had been living a troubled life for years, going back to his days at Edwardsville High School. Classmate Sierra Pratt, also 23, said she had the impression that he carried most of his belongings in a gym bag and sometimes didn’t have enough food to eat.
“I didn’t know if it was because he didn’t have a stable home life or he just wanted to bounce around,” said Pratt, now a stay-at-home mother of three in Hartford. “There were times when I thought, ‘I wish I could help him,’ but I didn’t know what to do.”
Classmate Dakota Parish, 24, remembers Capers as a bit of a “drifter,” who would sometimes hang out with the party crowd at Sonic Drive-In after school but usually kept to himself.
“He was like the quiet kid with a short temper,” said Parish, who serves in the U.S. Army. “I saw him blow up a few times in high school. It was mostly because of teachers getting on his case about grades. ... I never saw him get in any fights, but I heard him yell.”
As an adult, Capers developed a long police record. Charges ranged from forgery to assault, trespass to possession of a stolen vehicle. He was arrested about 10 a.m. Sunday in Worden on an outstanding warrant before police linked him to the double homicide.
In the same incident, Capers was charged with trespassing on property owned by a Madison County sheriff’s deputy in Worden and obstructing a peace officer by allegedly fleeing to avoid arrest; and he received a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia — a pipe containing burned cannabis — according to Third Judicial Circuit court records.
Capers gave police the Collinsville address of his sister as his own place of residence, but it’s believed he may have been living on the streets.
“A lot of my friends go to The Corner Tavern, and that’s where I knew him from,” said Chloe Cummings, 22, of Edwardsville. “He was literally there all the time until they banned him from going there last year.”
A bartender at The Corner Tavern confirmed that Capers had been asked to leave on numerous occasions.
Cummings said Capers would eat the free popcorn, charge his cellphone, listen to music and act “creepy” toward women. She suspected he was homeless.
“He didn’t look dirty or scruffy, and he had decent clothes, but they were the same clothes — construction-style boots, a plain T-shirt and baggy jeans,” said Cummings, who works for Metro East Humane Society.
Major Case Squad still investigating
Capers is being held at the Madison County Jail without bond. He’s accused in the stabbing deaths of Lois Ladd, 68, a well-known chiropractor, and her husband, Michael Ladd, 79, a general contractor. Their bodies were found about 10:30 a.m. Monday at their home in the 800 block of North Kansas Street in Edwardsville.
The case is being investigated by the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, whose agents believe the murders took place late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
“I’ve been asked a lot about the connection between the suspect and the victims, and I’m here to tell you, there is no connection,” said Jeff Connor, chief deputy commander on the Illinois side, speaking at a press conference Tuesday. “At this point, we have no evidence suggesting they knew each other.”
Weber & Rodney Funeral Home in Edwardsville is making arrangements for the Ladds’ visitation and funeral, but no plans are final, Funeral Director Ed Rodney said Thursday morning.
Capers was the son of Dottie (Dickerson) Harris, of Glen Carbon, who died in 2014 at age 58. Her obituary in the Edwardsville Intelligencer listed six surviving children. She was an EHS graduate who studied at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, served 10 years in the military and worked as a nurse.
Pratt knew Capers as a student at EHS and Liberty Middle School, and she would sometimes run into him at Edwardsville Public Library.
“To me, he seemed normal,” she said. “He was a nice guy. He just stayed to himself. He was quiet. But me and my friends would talk to him. Then after my junior year, I stopped seeing him as much.”
Capers is pictured in the EHS yearbook his junior year, but he’s on a list of students not photographed his senior year. School district officials didn’t immediately return calls Thursday morning to verify whether he actually graduated with the Class of 2013.
Capers had a string of problems with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and Edwardsville Police Department in 2017 and 2018:
- On Sept. 22, 2017, he was charged with two felony counts related to alleged possession of a stolen Ford truck.
- On Oct. 27, 2017, he was charged with felony forgery for alleged possession of a fake $50 bill; misdemeanor theft for alleged possession of a stolen key to a vehicle; and misdemeanor obstruction of a peace officer for alleged concealment of his identity to hinder a criminal investigation.
- On Nov. 20, 2017, he was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass for allegedly going onto the property of D.Q. Grill & Chill in Edwardsville after being told such entry was forbidden.
- On Nov. 27, 2017, he was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly yelling at and chasing a man inside Country Hearth Inn & Suites in Edwardsville.
- On July 19, 2018, he was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass for allegedly entering the basement common area of an apartment building at 518 Hillsboro Ave. after being told such entry was forbidden; and misdemeanor criminal trespass for allegedly doing the same thing three days prior.
Only the D.Q. Grill & Chill case has been closed, said Gena Means, deputy clerk in the Madison County Circuit Clerk’s Office. “All of his other cases have been consolidated with the new murder charges.”
January arrest at SIUE’s Peck Hall
Capers got into more legal trouble on Jan. 16, when he was arrested at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on a warrant for failure to appear in Scott County court, near Jacksonville. He was taken to Madison County Jail after being unable to post bond, according to the SIUE police report.
SIUE police had received an anonymous tip that Capers was roaming Peck Hall, looking through classroom doors and windows and checking locks. He reportedly told officers that he was trying to get Wi-Fi and waiting for a bus.
“That was our one and only encounter with Zachary Capers,” said SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll. “He has never had an affiliation with SIUE.”
In Scott County, Capers had been charged in 2017 with possession of a stolen vehicle and residential burglary, according to the Madison-St. Clair Record. As part of a plea deal, he was given 24 months of probation, and the burglary charge was dismissed. He was released from Scott County Jail on Jan. 24.
The same week, a Madison County judge ordered a warrant to be issued for Capers’ arrest because of failure to appear Jan. 22 for trial on the 2017 felony charges of forgery and possessing a stolen vehicle, the Record reported.
“When we reviewed the case, Mr. Capers at that time didn’t have any convictions,” Scott County State’s Attorney Michael Hill told the Record. “He had several charges for different crimes, but the law in Illinois favors probation for a first-time offender, especially for non-violent offenses.”
Capers was driving a 2005 silver Kia Sorento when he was arrested Sunday in Worden. He told police he lived at 1511 Saratoga Drive in Collinsville, which White Pages lists as his sister’s residence.
On Wednesday, no one answered the door at the tan-sided, quad-level house with plum-colored shutters. Two neighbors were unaware of the residents’ relationship to Capers or the Edwardsville murders.
“It’s a quiet neighborhood,” one woman said. “We never have any trouble.”
Pratt learned of Capers’ arrest on Tuesday while watching the TV evening news. She was shocked, she said, because he never showed violent tendencies in school.
Cummings called the news “terrifying.” She’s now being more careful about locking her doors and windows at night.
Parish said the Ladd case has been a hot topic on social media among EHS alumni who knew Capers.
“There’s some people who are like, ‘I used to hang out with him. He would never do something like that,’” Parish said. “Then there are others who are like, ‘He’s on drugs. Who knows what that has done to his mind?’
“I’m kind of in the middle. I’m all for letting the legal system work it out. I’m for due process. I’m not Saint Peter.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed to reflect the fact that Capers was using the Collinsville address of his sister, not his brother.