Carlsbad, Calif., resident Julie Harper, 39, was arrested for allegedly killing her husband, then going about her day with the couple's three children.
On August 7, the former real estate agent allegedly piled her three kids into the family minivan to go out for sandwiches and then to the playground.
That morning, the cellphone of her husband, Jason, sent a text message to his brother reading: "I'm out running errands, tell mom I'll see her Friday."
But authorities say he had been shot dead by his wife earlier that day. Police, acting on a tip from Julie's lawyer, found his body that afternoon.
They later arrested Julie on suspicion of murder. She is being held on $2 million bail; having allegedly taken the kids out instead of calling 911.
In a chilling twist, the kids may have unknowingly heard their father die.
Julie allegedly told the kids that the thump and yell they'd heard from the bedroom that morning was just "daddy falling off a chair," officials said.The slaying, in a gated community flanked by a country club, has shocked neighbors, who say the Harpers were a typical all-American family.
"As far as I knew, they were the nicest people in the world," Robert Bridge, 68, who lives two doors down from the Harpers, tells People.
He says he frequently saw Jason Harper walking with the kids and pushing the youngest child in a stroller. They'd often wave to each other.
Now, Bridge laments, the kids' "whole world is upside down. It's devastating."
Jason's colleagues at Carlsbad High School say the popular math teacher and former girls' volleyball coach was known as a "gentle giant."
Julie Harper's attorney, Paul Pfingst, tells a different story.
He says there is a history of Jason being abusive and that, two days before Thanksgiving, police responded to a 911 call during an argument.
On August 2, she filed for divorce, complaining:
"At times, the respondent has become violent with me by pushing me, shoving me, grabbing my arm and twisting my wrists."
Pfingst says the couple's children heard yelling, insults and other threats from Jason every day, according to.