Two brothers were shot and killed inside their Dobson Ranch home by their mother, Susan Mullaly, 50, in an apparent murder-suicide late Saturday night, police said.
As a school ambassador, ninth-grader Ryan Mullaly would help greet, escort and chaperone new students at Mesa’s Rhodes Junior High.
Ryan was a tall, lanky, good-looking kid, and often would dress up by wearing a nice shirt and tie.
His seventh-grade brother, Nick, was in the band, had a sharp sense of humor and dreamed of starting his own band someday.
Ryan, 15, and Nick, 12, were remembered this week as outgoing boys and gifted students as members of the Dobson Ranch community, school faculty and classmates reeled with shock and sadness over their deaths.
The boys were shot and killed inside their home by their mother, Susan Mullaly, 50, in an apparent murder-suicide late Saturday night, police said.
“Some of our students are devastated,” Rhodes Junior High Principal Matt Devlin said Monday. “It’s going to be a struggle in the neighborhood and the school community.”
The front of their single-story home on the quiet street in the 2500 block of South Pennington, near Dobson and Guadalupe roads, has turned into a memorial, where dozens of friends and classmates who knew the two boys have gathered over several nights with burning candles, flowers, balloons, pictures and personal messages.
Chalk messages to the family grace dozens of concrete blocks leading up to the front door of the home.
The memorial portends the tragic incident inside, where police said the woman’s husband came home from work and discovered the bodies about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. A shotgun was the weapon used in all three deaths; both boys suffered injuries to their chests, the mother’s fatal shot was aimed at her head, according to the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner.
The couple had been having marriage problems, said Detective Steve Berry, a Mesa police spokesman.
Diane Retson, who said she has lived next door to the family for at least 11 years, described the boys as “very well-behaved, very well-mannered.”
“They were typical kids,” she said.
Retson said the family was “very nice.” The mother was a nurse and the father works for an airline, she said.
Police knocked on her door after midnight asking questions, but Retson said she did not hear anything unusual Saturday.
Retson’s son, Andrew Lybek-Martori, 21, was visiting his mom Sunday.
“When I used to live here, almost every day the boys rode their bikes through the street,” Lybek-Martori said. “It didn’t seem like there was a problem. The mom seemed overprotective, but what mom isn’t?”
Clint Snyder, 34, lives down the street from the home. He said he often saw the father in the driveway working on cars. Snyder said he and his family have lived there more than 11 years.
“All in all, it’s just a family neighborhood. It’s pretty solid,” he said, noting he did not know the victims’ family well.
Meanwhile, at nearby Rhodes Junior High, grief counselors were on hand for students. The school planned a memorial for the boys Wednesday night. However, it is not open to the public.
The Mullaly brothers were in gifted classes and described as straight-A students who always had a smile on their faces.
As Devlin talked about the brothers in a band room crowded with media, the adjoining room — where the seventh-grade band practiced — was silent because students were struggling with an empty seat where Nick would play a euphonium, a smaller tubalike instrument.
“Ryan was a little more outgoing and was a talented athlete,” Devlin said of the two brothers. “Nick had more of a sense of humor and said how he would like to start a band.”
Ryan was the No. 1 tennis player on the school’s ninth-grade team and would have played in a match Monday, but the match was played without him.
As the Dobson High School club swim team, the Dolphins, competes in its first meet at the newly completed pool on the Rhodes campus on Thursday, the lane where Ryan would have competed in the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke will remain open as a memorial to him.
As students were leaving school on Monday, at least two younger students said they were just getting to know Nick Mullaly through classes they shared with him.
“He was smart,” said one student who was in Nick’s reading class. “He loved to read.”
“Nick was awesome,” said another student, who was in band with him. “I was just getting to know him.”
Cindy Wong and her family just moved into their new home Saturday, two doors down the street from the incident.
“From the neighbors coming out, it seems all the families know each other well,” Wong said. “It’s just quite a shock.”
Funeral services for the brothers are pending, and neighbors told the Tribune they will be private.