What could drive someone to murder their own parents?

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It was 2am on Sunday, 9 February 2014 when 19-year-old Ashton Sachs crept into his parents’ bedroom. Dressed in dark clothes, he’d driven for 18 hours from college in Seattle to their luxury California home in San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, California.

But Ashton wasn’t paying his parents Bradford, 57, and Andra, 54, a surprise visit. Instead, he shot them multiple times, killing them as they slept in their beds.

Ashton then shot his sleeping little brother Landon, who was just 8, and fired at his 17-year-old sister Alexis.

Alexis wasn’t hit, and their younger sister Lana, 15, was spared from the attack. But little Landon was paralysed from the neck down.

Hoping that, in the darkness, no-one had actually realised he’d opened fire on his own family, in the weeks that followed, Ashton acted shocked and hysterical, and spent every day by his brother’s hospital bed.

Ashton’s ex-girlfriend described how he would cry and say, ‘I can’t believe somebody killed my parents.’

The community was shocked.

Ashton’s older brother Myles hadn’t been in the house at the time of the shootings.

Not suspecting his brother, he and Ashton even filed for custody of Landon and Lana.

News organisations speculated the slayings stemmed from the family’s business dealings.

Bradford and Andra had pursued a number of entrepreneurial endeavours, and Andra had accumulated a sizeable portfolio of residential and commercial properties.

But, as police hunted for the killer, the evidence was pointing to Ashton Sachs. Detectives had found a semi-automatic weapon in his car, and phone records placed him in the area around the time of the shooting.

Parents Bradford and Andra

When he was arrested in March 2014, his family was dumbfounded.

Sachs had seemingly no reason to hate his family. He grew up in luxury, never wanting for anything. Bradford and Andra worked hard to provide for their kids. They’d even adopted Landon and Lana from Russia.

From the outside, the Sachs were the perfect family. But, behind closed doors, things weren’t what they seemed.

When Ashton was 5, his 16-month-old sister Sabrina had died after drowning in a hot tub. The baby’s death had devastated the family, and, in 1999, Bradford and Andra filed for divorce.

According to local reports, the children were caught up in the middle of a bitter feud between their parents.

Bradford said in court papers that he’d left home to get away from Andra’s raging, and accused her of having ‘manic sessions’.

Andra Sachs moved to Nevada during the divorce, but also spent time in Florida and Hawaii, where the family owned property.

The luxury family home

Ashton Sachs and his brother and sister often travelled with their mother. They witnessed vicious fights between their parents, including a screaming row after the separation, when Bradford picked up the kids.

On 3 March 2000, Newport Beach police arrested Bradford Sachs on suspicion of domestic violence after his wife accused him of backing his car into hers while the kids were inside.

The charge was dismissed, and the couple were soon reconciled. They never remarried, but stayed together, moving to the Orange County home where their lives were ended.

According to local reports, there were early signs of potential violence in Ashton Sachs. When he was a teenager, he was caught with a knife at school, and he’d shoot animals and birds.

But no-one predicted he’d murder his own parents.

After he was arrested, Ashton Sachs told detectives he didn’t have a motive, but that he didn’t trust his parents, and said they favoured his siblings.

His plan had been to shoot the couple and kill himself, he said, but he couldn’t explain why he wounded Landon and shot at Alexis.

He initially pleaded not guilty to the murder and attempted murder of his family members. But, in September last year, he changed his plea to guilty.

‘The defendant is a sociopath. He has no remorse, no empathy. All he cares about is himself. He is a manipulator,’ said Senior Deputy DA Mike Murray.

Ashton Colby Sachs was sentenced to four life terms plus 100 years. Now 22, he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The only family member to speak at the sentencing was Bradford’s sister Lisa McGowan.

‘You had a choice, Ashton. You had apparently been thinking about what you were going to do for a long time,’ she told her nephew. ‘I’ve been told by my friends and family that I need to forgive you. Well, I can’t forgive you today.’