Throughout the evening Wednesday night, Collier County sheriff's deputies say 24-year-old Edward Lee Starcher threatened to kill his girlfriend's mother ? a threat that his girlfriend didn't take seriously.
Early Thursday, authorities say he kept his word.
Starcher killed 59-year-old Veronica Moran around 4 a.m., reports said, while her daughter and his girlfriend, Nora Moran, 25, and the couple's 7-month-old baby, Savannah, slept nearby in their shared home at 3351 Bolero Way in Poinciana Village. Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said during a Thursday afternoon press conference that Veronica Moran died of a stabbing and blunt force trauma.
But when reached at her East Naples home, Starcher's mother, Lyn Dukes, said she doesn't believe her son would harm anyone unless he felt his girlfriend or baby was threatened. She said she doesn't believe he would have been violent even if he felt someone was threatening him.
"It had to have been to the girlfriend or that baby," Dukes said. "That baby was his life."
Nora Moran told deputies Starcher had been threatening to kill her mother throughout the night, but she didn't believe him, the Sheriff's Office reported. Around 4 a.m., Starcher entered their bedroom wearing rubber gloves and told her he was going to sneak into her mother's bedroom, reports say.
Soon after, Nora Moran reported hearing loud bangs before Starcher re-entered their bedroom covered in blood and holding a knife, authorities said. He told her he needed to clean and hide the items he used, according to the report.
Nora Moran got dressed, left the home with Savannah, and called the Sheriff's Office. When deputies arrived they saw Starcher inside the residence wearing yellow rubber gloves, reports said.
"By the time deputies had arrived on the scene, the scene had been altered," Rambosk said. "It was being cleaned up."
Inside, the deputies found Veronica Moran's body wrapped in a comforter, which had been removed from a bedroom. Starcher was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
"Certainly we're investigating further to determine motive, even though we have some current statements as to what Mr. Starcher believes occurred," Rambosk said. Starcher's comments to deputies were redacted from reports.
An attempt to interview Starcher in the Collier County jail Thursday night was unsuccessful because officials say he had "medical restrictions."
Neighbor Hector Calderon, 48, said his wife Priscilla, 50, heard a commotion at the Moran home early Thursday. But it wasn't the first time that they'd heard loud arguments at the house.
"We just never thought it would result in violence," Calderon said.
"They were very quiet, very reserved," Calderon said. "Basically not talking to any neighbors."
Dukes described Starcher, her son, as "very loving with a mind of his own." She said he used to attend Lely High School, but didn't graduate and instead earned his General Educational Development diploma.
Starcher taught himself how to fix computers and cars, and once tried to start his own computer business, Precision Technology Computers, his mother said. He used to work as an auto mechanic, but was let go more than a year ago, Dukes said.
"My son likes to do things with his hands," Dukes said.
Dukes was "flabbergasted" when she learned of her son's arrest Thursday morning from the television news.
"It was a shock," she said. "His baby sister is devastated, and his grandmother is very upset. It's a shame that nobody told us."
Starcher has been arrested three times previously on drug charges, one of which was a felony, though he has never been convicted because he was allowed to enter pre-trial diversion programs.
Dukes described Nora Moran as an "awesome lady" and "a very good mother," though she declined to discuss Veronica Moran, because she didn't want to "speak good or bad of the dead."
When reached on his cell phone, George Moran, Veronica's ex-husband who still lives in New Jersey, declined to comment.
"You're better off calling her sister, not me," he said. "Don't call me again."
Lori Young, president of the 450-home Poinciana Civic Association, said that violent crime was unheard of in the area, which she described as a "great neighborhood." It's always been a place where the families wanted to come, said Young, who called the victim very friendly.
Young, who heard about the investigation from people in the neighborhood, said the victim and her family kept to themselves. Several neighbors agreed with that assessment.
"I thought the house was empty," said Cece Kearney, who lives on the next street over from the crime scene, Balboa Circle.
Another resident, Karen Henderson, once threatened to call police on Starcher after she said he repeatedly drove his Lincoln Towncar at unsafe speeds in the residential area. Henderson hadn't had any extended contact with Veronica Moran, Nora Moran or Starcher since then, though she did see the latter two talking outside the house Wednesday night.
She said the conversation didn't seem heated.