Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Christmas Murders

When the following story first broke, I immediately thought of Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood, which detailed the 1959 murder of the Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas. But the Christmas Day murders here in Fairfax County occurred much closer to home, less than ten miles from my house:
"Police yesterday described a harrowing scene at the Great Falls home where a triple slaying occurred Christmas morning, with the 27-year-old gunman rampaging through the spacious residence, shooting two victims at bedside and one cowering in a closet.

"Shocked neighbors, friends and law enforcement officials struggled to make sense of the killings, which occurred less than an hour after the gunman, identified as Nathan Cheatham, allegedly killed his mother, Sheila Cheatham, at her McLean home eight miles away. The bloodbath ended when Cheatham shot himself in the head with the 9mm handgun, bringing the day's death toll to five, authorities said.

"The lone survivor, a 20-year-old man who called police, had sought refuge in the basement of the Great Falls home....

"Police identified the victims in the Great Falls home as Adam Sebastian Price, 19, a friend of Cheatham's, and his mother, Janina C. Price, 50. They had moved from their longtime home in another part of Great Falls a few weeks ago and appeared to be renting the Sycamore Springs Lane house, which is owned by a retired U.S. diplomat, neighbors said. Also slain was Christopher James Buro, 20, a friend of the Price family whom Cheatham apparently did not know, police said....

"Cheatham had moved back to his mother's home in the past few weeks after living for a while with two brothers elsewhere in Fairfax County, police said. Sheila Cheatham, 53, ran a day-care center, Mother Nurture, on her property. Acquaintances described her as enthusiastic about her business and delighted with a new beachfront condo in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., one of several properties she owned. They said she was divorced from Nathan's father, who was described by one of his co-workers as a former Navy SEAL....

"Police said a witness saw Sheila and Nathan Cheatham in a car together at their home about 9:30 a.m. Gunshots rang out a short time later but were not reported to police, they said. After killing his mother, investigators said, Nathan Cheatham went to Great Falls.

"Sometime that morning, Cheatham had called the Price family to see whether he could come over, police said. They turned him down, according to police. But he headed to the quiet, wooded neighborhood anyway.

"Police said Cheatham, driving his Ford Ranger pickup, drove up to the Price home, a two-story, 3,600-square-foot residence on a hill. He started firing even before he entered the house. 'He was not trying to hide that he was coming,' said Maj. Bob Callahan, commander of the Fairfax police criminal investigations bureau.

"Police believe Cheatham broke into the house and methodically went from room to room, looking for his victims. He fired more than 50 shots in all, reloading as he hunted down the victims while they scrambled for their lives, police said.

"One victim was found slain inside a bedroom closest, where the person apparently was trying to evade the gunman. The other two were found dead next to beds. Authorities said all the victims had been shot multiple times in the upper body.

"'Once he started shooting, it did not take long,' Callahan said.

"Buro was found in a first-floor bedroom. He had been staying at the Prices' home for about a week, police said. Buro, of Vienna, had been doing odd jobs since graduating from Langley High School, said his stepfather, Ralph Hendry. Buro had also had a recent scrape with the law, having appeared in court two weeks ago in connection with a minor theft charge, according to public records.

"Janina Price was found in the master bedroom, and her son Adam was discovered in a second-floor bedroom.

"'It appeared that they probably were still asleep or in their rooms when everything started,' Callahan said. 'It certainly appears that people in the house heard gunshots and tried to take cover in their rooms....'"
According to a follow-up article,

"On the night before she died, Sheila Cheatham was desperately worried about her son Nathan, saying he hadn't slept in 48 hours and was suicidal because he believed he was in trouble with the law.

"Billy R. Hicks, a Springfield criminal lawyer who represented Nathan Cheatham in a 2002 drug case, said yesterday that Sheila Cheatham called him Christmas Eve for advice on how to help Nathan, 27, who had vowed to kill himself rather than allow police to arrest him.

"'She was frightened for him,' Hicks said. 'She said he was suicidal and extremely paranoid because of something that occurred two or three days earlier.' Hicks said he recommended that she seek to have her son committed for psychiatric treatment....

"Cheatham's fear of an imminent arrest was unfounded, law enforcement sources said yesterday. There is no record that Cheatham had had trouble with police in the weeks before the killings. Investigators have not determined a motive in the slayings, the sources said, but they are focused on two theories: that Cheatham, who had a history of mental health issues, had a psychotic episode, or that drugs were involved.

"Court records and the sources indicated that Cheatham and the shooting victims had a history with drugs -- some with cocaine and others with prescription painkillers -- and might have known one another through a drug connection...."
Cheatham's criminal record shows that he had several brushes with the law, including arrests for assault and battery, concealing a weapon, and escape. In 2002, he was was charged with possession of cocaine. Some two years later, a judge disposed of Cheatham's case after Cheatham successfully completed his probation and community service. Possibly he had no felony record because sometimes judges' dispositions here result in an expunged record.

According to the follow-up article,

"In November 2004, probation officer Sheila W. Ellis wrote to the court that Cheatham 'fully complied' with conditions of his probation and never tested positive for drug use during random screens.

"'We are happy to report that the subject did so well at his community service placement that he was hired as a paid employee,' Ellis wrote. The charge was dismissed last December. Court records indicate Cheatham was hired at Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a privately operated history museum in the National Park Service near his McLean home
Claude Moore Colonial Farm, closed from December 12 through March 30, is a frequent destination for elementary-school field trips and advertises as follows on the park's web site:
"A visit to the Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a visit to another world ...the world of an 18th Century family living on a small, low-income farm just prior to the Revolutionary War. The year is 1771 ... won't you come and visit?"
Thank God that the park was closed! The possibilities of what Cheatham might have done at the park which schoolchildren here so love don't bear thinking about. Although it is laudable that Ms. Ellis recommended her probationee for a job, I question if an individual as unstable as Cheatham should have done his community service and then have been recommended for employment at a public facility such as Claude Moore Farm. Certainly management at Claude Moore Farm must have known that Cheatham had a criminal history because his probation officer, in her official capacity, got him a position there in the first place.

Is Cheatham's story another tale of a druggie gone mad? Probably. But the first article also provides this information:
"Friends recalled Cheatham in his earlier years as a respectful youth who was gifted at drawing. But in recent years, he had run into trouble, with emotional problems, convictions on minor assault and concealed weapon charges, and arrests on drug charges, according to police, public records and friends."
Schizophrenia compounded by drug use? Schizophrenia caused by drug use? Hard to say. At this point, many questions about the murderer and the victims at the Prices' house remain unanswered. Toxicology results for all those who died here on Christmas morning will be available in about three weeks, and those results may provide further clues as to motivation. Cheatham's brothers may also have some answers as to possible motivation, particularly if serious mental illness predated their brother's drug usage.

Mass murders in Fairfax County are almost unheard of--certainly on Christmas Day and especially in the prosperous, upscale McLean/Great Falls area. After all, Fairfax County is not Hollywood. But tragedy, drug-fueled or otherwise, knows no geographical boundaries.

Typical of the Washington Post, the second article tries to find something positive in the story of lives taken and lives ruined:
"News also emerged yesterday about Max, the Price family's black Labrador retriever mix, who was shot at the Great Falls home. He is expected to fully recover, said Michele Angel, a veterinarian at the Hope Center for Advanced Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.

"Angel said Max was shot three times: in the head, the right foreleg and the chest. Now that the bullets have been removed and his wounds cleaned, Max is doing well and eating and drinking, she said. He might be released as soon as today [December 28].

"'He's a big love with a great personality,' she said. 'Even though it was tragic, it just made my holiday . . . just that you can have something good come out of this.'"
I wonder where Max will now call home.

Update 1 (Thursday, December 29, 2005, 1:05 P.M.) from New Details Emerge About Killer's Mental State:
"...Sandra Lebowitz, who hosted Nathan and Sheila Cheatham for Thanksgiving dinner at her Sterling home, said that although Nathan seemed to be in decent spirits, she was stunned as he joined guests in saying what he looked forward to in the coming year.

"According to Lebowitz, he said, 'I'm looking forward to going on to the next life.'

"'That quote haunts me,' said Lebowitz, a meeting manager for a consulting firm. Lebowitz added that, according to Sheila Cheatham, her son had recently stopped taking medication for an anxiety disorder, although she did not explain why....

"Friends of Sheila Cheatham's said that Nathan, one of five sons she raised, was an extremely sensitive boy devastated by his parents' divorce. He was 12 when Cheatham's marriage to Bill Cheatham Reed, a naval officer, dissolved.

"'He never got over it,' said a friend who dated Sheila Cheatham in the early 1990s and spoke on condition of anonymity because he is now married.

"The friend added that Sheila Cheatham asked Reed to help pay for psychiatric care for Nathan...."
Update 2 (Thursday, December 29, 2005, 6:14 P.M.) from NBC-4:
"A man who shot and killed four people before turning the gun on himself has been linked to two other shooting incidents, according to police. One of his victims also is linked to the shootings....

"Detectives said they have connected Adam Price and Cheatham, 27, to two shooting incidents on Dec. 21. Investigators said that the two men allegedly drove along the 900 block of Utterback Store Road in Great Falls at about 5 a.m. and shot two bullets into a home. No one in the home was injured.

"Investigators said that at about 7 a.m., the two allegedly shot several times in the 500 block of Utterback Store Road. No homes were struck and no injuries were reported. [A recent broadcast on NBC-4 showed some bullet holes in some of the houses along Utterback Store Road]

"Police said the two cases were still under investigation when the shootings occurred Christmas Day.

"Investigators believe that Cheatham grew concerned about police discovering his involvement in these shootings."
More information, including some pictures, is available at NBC-4. This channel is constantly updating the story.

Update 3 (Sunday, January 1, 2006, 10:42 A.M.) from an article in the Washington Post:
"Sheila Cheatham considered it her mission in life to help parents raise strong and healthy children.

"At Mother Nurture, the day-care center she ran in her McLean home, she encouraged parents dropping off their children to consult her reference library of books on nutrition, discipline and creative learning techniques. She lectured young mothers on the importance of breastfeeding. She broadened her own education with workshops and seminars by leading specialists on childrearing....

"The basement of the big white house on Lewinsville Road was warm and welcoming. It was filled with toys, a long picnic table for meals, cheery murals on the walls and a floor painted to look like a garden with steppingstones...

"Cheatham had struggled to find help for 27-year-old Nathan ever since his emotional and behavioral problems became apparent in early adolescence. Over the years, she took him to therapists, drug counselors and psychiatrists. When he was 15, she had him hospitalized for depression. She gave him a job at her day-care center. To help him foster a sense of independence and self-reliance, she even bought a house near Falls Church where he could live with his two younger brothers....

"For all the ideas Sheila Cheatham had for other parents, none seemed to work for Nathan. There were therapists and nutritionists. She spent countless evenings in group counseling sessions for parents and teenagers at the old Fairfax courthouse. She even attended sessions alone, watching other parents interact with their children in an attempt to pick up any fragment of insight that might help...."
This lady did all that she could to deal with the incomprehensible.


At 12/28/2005 11:09 AM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

I have many friends in law enforcement and one that is one of those head doctors that we love to make fun of.

They all say that they have contact with many people everyday, that are only a hair-breadth away from mayham.

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 12/28/2005 12:58 PM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

I'm glad the kid was packing personal protection.

At 12/28/2005 3:00 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

Terrible tragedy.

I am certain firearms will be blamed for it.
I am not sure whether you've heard about our, Australian most terrible mass murder in Port Arthur.
The young lad who shot 35 people (in fact it was 36 as one more person died a week or so after the shooting took place)was metally unstable.

At 12/28/2005 4:52 PM, Anonymous Patrick said...

An amazing and very informative post mate.

You know I think these probation officers leave a lot to be desired. I know of one case here, very minor by comparison to the one you wrote about, where a man sexually assaulted his own niece. The probation officer not only allowed him but actively encouraged and endorsed him to apply for a job in a kindergarten.

I think perhaps they need much more training, especially in the area of taking more responsibility for their own decisions.

At 12/28/2005 7:38 PM, Blogger David Schantz said...

AOW, I'm sorry to hear about this, and yes it will probably turn out to be the guns fault. Recently I told you about my old class mate that was released after telling the parole board he would kill again. I think the parole board members that freed him should have done a little time themselves after he committed his next murders.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic

At 12/28/2005 7:56 PM, Blogger Warren said...

From all the reports, I would bet that he was using methamphetamines, (crank). it all adds up, repeated drug busts, not sleeping, accute paranoia.

Kind of sounds like the duck!

At 12/28/2005 8:00 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Yes, the gun may get the blame. But, Duck, he was no kid. Check Cheatham's age in the first paragraph of the above-quoted article.

A few years ago, a probationee here in Northern Virginia got lost in the shuffle on the probation officer's desk. This criminal, just released from prison, got ahold of some crack cocaine or some PCP (I don't recall which), quit taking his prescribed psychotropic meds, went on a tear, and stabbed to death a little boy playing on his grandmother's front yard in Alexandria, Virginia. This criminal was obviously schizo and, as far as I know, is still not mentally fit to stand trial. At the time there was an outcry against the probation officer, but I believe he kept his position.

Many in law enforcement look down on probationer officers, who have a cushy, paper-pushing job and are just marking hours until retirement. Of course, some probation officers take their job seriously, but just as many, if not more, don't really get the job done as it should be done.

I wonder if anyone has done a study as to the efficacy and dedication of probation officers? I probably shouldn't even bring up such a possibility because such a study would likely be another colossal waste of taxpayers' funds.

A gun can work a lot of mayhem quickly, but the above-mentioned fellow and Lizzie Borden didn't have a firearm. My point is that a lunatic will find a way to fulfill his delusions.

At 12/28/2005 8:58 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I hadn't thought of crank, but it sounds likely, doesn't it?

Your comment about Duck made me guffaw. Couldn't help myself!

Thanks for stopping by. It's been a while.

At 12/28/2005 11:46 PM, Blogger Pastorius said...

Exactly what I was thinking; meth.

Very, very sad.

You know, I have lots of friends who are, or have been drug users. I lived the LA rock n' roll life for quite a few years, so I've seen it.

In recent years, I've begun to think that drugs are of the devil. Look what they do to people. What is in someone's mind to do something like this? It's very, very sad.

I hope God forgives the guy.

But, of course, His Will be done.

At 12/29/2005 7:59 AM, Blogger Warren said...

Always, sorry, I read your blog regularly, Its just that you cover your subjects so thoroughly, and I'm usually late to the fray.

My comments would appear to come from one of those noddy headed dolls you sometimes see in car windows. ;^)

At 12/29/2005 12:11 PM, Blogger MrsSamwich said...

Hi AOW, I'm Mrs S. He's a sweetie.
He gets really bothered about articles like this because of the killing in Vietnam.

I just thought I'd pop in a say Hello.

Sam's got a great philosophy of life, everyone has their place in this old world, Sam's is rakin' it in and mine is rakin' it out!

Love and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to all.

Mrs S

At 12/29/2005 12:24 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mrs. Samwich,
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope that you'll drop in from time to time.

Considering that your husband was a sniper in Vietnam, I fully understand why this particular article might upset him. A real tragedy occurred here on Christmas Day and might have been avoided. Very sad.

Sam's got a great philosophy of life, everyone has their place in this old world, Sam's is rakin' it in and mine is rakin' it out!
LOL! In this house, I rake it in, and my husband rakes it out. Hehehe.

But, like you, I got some lovely diamonds for Christmas--in my case an emerald surrounded by lots of bling-blin diamonds. Life is good sometimes.

Happy New Year to you, Mrs. S. I hope that your Christmas was a blessed one.

At 12/29/2005 1:08 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Please notice the update posted to the original article.

At 12/29/2005 2:05 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Sounds like metamphetamines but who knows? I'm sure someone will use this case to promote gun-control laws.

At 12/29/2005 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that it was pills that messed with his head. The Price boys were too young to know him directly; if he was that intimately involved with them that he would drive 10 miles to murder them after killing his own mother than he must have met them through a secure person or known them for years. Given the dramatic age difference I would think they met through a trusted person. I would look towards the brothers (maybe one has a similar age as the boys who were murdered). Interrogate them, you will find more out.

I dont think meth would have done that; I think they would fear losing the addiction, I think that it was probably a combination of mind altering prescriptions with the lack of him taking his own prescriptions.

At 12/29/2005 3:38 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Both Mrs. Price and her son had some kind of history of drugs or of dealing drugs. I think that the first two articles mention some of those details, which I didn't quote directly for this blog article. The other young man who was murdered in the Price house may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of course, you may well be correct in all you postulated. All the details haven't been sorted out.

I'm guessing that Cheatham killed his mother because she was preparing to drive him to the mental health center and to commit him.

From what I know of Mrs. Cheatham--I've actually seen her a time or two in the grocery store--she was a well respected businesswoman here. Certainly she was a beautiful woman and appeared much younger than her years.

There seems to be little doubt now that Nathan Cheatham was mentally ill. He has a psychiatric history dating to at least 2002, and despite his having had his driver's license revoked (probably as part of a plea deal on a possession-of-marijuana charge), the court granted him permission to drive to the psychiatrist. At the moment, the psychiatrist isn't speaking to the media; and it has not yet been determined whether or not the psychiatrist was treating Cheatham at the time of these murders.

At 12/29/2005 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally knew Sheila and Nate- They both took care of my son at their daycare center. I am absolutely sickened at the fact that Nate did this,and that Sheila knew of his problems, and RISKED the lives of not only my son but countless others in her care. I am terribly sorry for what happened to her, but am equally angry at her as well for protecting him as long as she did. This has sent a very loud wake up call for my family and we intend to make sure that ALL daycare providers be investigated.
Nate was the poster child for "normal" for all that means. If a background check had been done by the state, maybe this whold sorted mess would not have happened, and he would have gotten the help he so obviously needed.

At 12/29/2005 4:46 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

You personally knew them??? I am stunned.

Quite often, the family knows that a family member is dangerous but doesn't take the appropriate action. But when children's lives are involved, there is even more of a moral imperative for action on the part of the family.

What about Nathan's brothers? Did they just sit by?

And why did the probation officer, Sheila Ellis, recommend Nathan for a job at Claude Moore Farm Park, where children visit every day? Surely Ms. Ellis had access to Nathan's records and medical/psychological history!

I doubt that the state or the county performs much oversight of privately owned daycare centers.

At 12/29/2005 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW- Where did you hear about his probation officer, Ms. Ellis?

I am asking because I am looking into what the state knew, and what the police knew in order to better articulate my argument. Any help on confirming the above would be much appreciated. I will check in later tonight and tomorrow for your reply.

At 12/29/2005 8:20 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Sheila Ellis was mentioned in this article @
2005/12/27/AR2005122701215_pf.html :

In November 2004, probation officer Sheila W. Ellis wrote to the court that Cheatham "fully complied" with conditions of his probation and never tested positive for drug use during random screens.

"We are happy to report that the subject did so well at his community service placement that he was hired as a paid employee," Ellis wrote. The charge was dismissed last December. Court records indicate Cheatham was hired at Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a privately operated history museum in the National Park Service near his McLean home.

Free registration at the Washington Post may be required to view it. That mention of Ms. Ellis is in that last third of the article, I think.

Doesn't a probation officer usually have all a probationee's records available?

At 12/29/2005 8:32 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

As far as I know, the Washington Times carried one article on these murders @ :

Brothers Interviewed after Five Killings

By Keyonna Summers and Matthew Cella
Published December 27, 2005

Fairfax County police yesterday were interviewing the brothers of a man they say fatally shot his mother and three other persons before turning the gun on himself Christmas morning.
But they say they do not know what motivated him to commit the killings.
"Perhaps we will never be able to answer the question that is most prevalent and that is, 'Why?' " said Col. David M. Rohrer, chief of police for Fairfax County.
Police said Nathan Cheatham, 27, fatally shot his mother, Sheila, 53, at her McLean home in the 8500 block of Lewinsville Road between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Sunday.
He then drove to a home in the 10700 block of Sycamore Springs Lane in Great Falls, where he fatally shot Janina Price, 50, her son, Adam Price, 19, and family friend Christopher Buro, 20.
The victims were found in bedrooms and looked as if they had tried to hide or get away from their attacker, police said.
Cheatham used a 9 mm handgun and shot through walls and doors to hit some of his victims, police said.
His body was found in the master bedroom with what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A yellow police tape yesterday cordoned off the entrance to the sprawling white hilltop home, which is partially hidden by tall bare trees and sits about a quarter-mile from the main road in Great Falls.
"We do know that he was acquainted with the family that lives on Sycamore Springs Lane," Fairfax County police Maj. Robert Callahan said.
Maj. Callahan said police think Cheatham had been asked not to visit the house Christmas morning.
Police arrived after a 911 call at about 10:25 a.m. Sunday, Maj. Callahan said.
Neighbor John De Wit said he and his family were opening Christmas gifts when they heard four or five bangs in "quick succession," but thought they were fireworks.
"We get a call from the Fairfax County police at about 10:30 a.m. telling us to stay inside," said Mr. De Wit, 60. "We thought we'd heard fireworks earlier, but it turned out to be gunshots."
A tactical team took positions around the victims' house, with police uncertain whether the gunman had barricaded himself inside.
At about 11:30 a.m., an unidentified 20-year-old man who lived in the house emerged. Police entered through the basement at about 2 p.m. and conducted a search.
Maj. Callahan said a Ford Ranger with the engine running was in the driveway. The car was registered to Cheatham.
When officers went to the Lewinsville Road address on the registration, they found Mrs. Cheatham's body in the rear driveway.
Police said a witness saw Mrs. Cheatham and her son in a car at their home about 9:30 a.m. Gunshots were heard a short time later but not reported.
At the house, Mrs. Cheatham operated a licensed day-care center called Mother Nurture for children up to 12. She shared the house with her son.
Residents said the upper-middle-class McLean neighborhood is quiet and "typical."
One resident who asked not to be identified said Cheatham visited her home several times years ago when he attended Langley High School with her daughter.
She described Cheatham as a "nice and cordial" teen who was quiet and had a talent for music. She never detected anything "off" about him that would indicate psychiatric problems.
"I never would've thought he would do something like this knowing him years ago," she said. "He was just a typical 18- or 19-year-old."
According to Fairfax County court records, Cheatham had been convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia in 2002, assault and battery of a police officer or firefighter and carrying a concealed weapon in 2001. All the charges were misdemeanors.
He also was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of escaping jail while awaiting trial in 2001.
Mr. De Wit said he has never heard of a slaying in the Great Falls neighborhood where he has lived for 20 years.
Most of the "$1 million-plus" hilltop homes sit on five-acre lots away from the road, "so we don't see each other a lot," he said. "Everyone keeps to themselves around here."
Mr. De Wit said the victims were renting the home. He said he did not know them, but knows the owners.
"I was kind of shocked it could happen in a neighborhood like this," he said. "I guess it could happen to anyone. You buy houses like this to avoid this kind of thing."
The killing spree brings the number of homicides to 22 this year in Fairfax County. The county recorded nine homicides last year.

This article doesn't have much additional information, but I'm passing it along to you anyway.

Also, check because that site is carrying pretty full coverage. In fact, I posted an update from NBC-4 to the blog article here. Apparently, the Price boy and Nathan Cheatham did some drive-by shootings on Utterback Store Road. I saw some residents there interviewed on that TV channel tonight.

At 12/29/2005 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW-Thanks,for the information on his po. I find it absolutely incredulous that he was working at Claude Moore as well. Nathan took care of my son 2 years ago for 6 months.The really scary thing is that he was very good with kids. Whenever I picked up my son at Shiela's house he would either be reading stories to the kids or playing outdoors with them. Sheila always spoke so highly of him and her 3 other sons. This has really come as such a huge shock to my husband and I. We had absolutely no idea he had such a criminal past. My husband actually spoke to channel 9 news the other night, and we are seeking an investigation on this matter. We have already heard back from several reporters at the Washington Post who are very interested in the issues we have discussed on this blog.

I will keep you posted.

At 12/29/2005 10:03 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I cringe to think of Nathan Cheatham taking care of your child. I have to wonder what your son thinks, or someday will think, of all this. Many other children are likely going through a shock over this story.

Yes, do keep my posted. If you wish (and only if you wish), you can email me; my email address is in my profile--see the upper right corner of this blog and click on "View My Complete Profile." Or you can continue to post comments to this article; I get email notification every time a comment is posted. I absolutely respect your desire to remain anonymous.

Thank God your son is safe!

I'm glad to hear that you're pursuing an investigation. Somebody should. The matters we've discussed here are most serious ones. Certainly someone should have been more vigilant of Nathan Cheatham.

BTW, I am a lifelong resident of Fairfax County, as my father was before me. Many of my clients are in the Great Falls/McLean area, and several are on Utterback Store Road.

At 12/30/2005 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course his family new he was disturbed. It is hard to hide something like that from your brothers, especially if you were living with them.

It is still baffling me why he would do this though. There is a lot more to it than just shooting random shots of in Great Falls. No offense to the FCPD; but the Police presence in Great Falls is lacking, and being a criminal and growing up in Great Falls, Nathan knew this, so I honestly dont believe that is why he was so scared.

Nathan was 27, Adam Price/Alex Price 19/20, and Chris Buro 20, that is a 7 year age gap. There is more of a link between the Price's and the Cheathams. I dont think that Ms. Price knew Ms. Cheatham that well, Ms. Price had many run ins with the law. Ms. Cheatham on the other hand was a business owner and highly respected member of the community. It does not sound like they were drinking buddies.

There is a lot more to this story than people are really seeing. It will all come out eventually. Drugs is all I can think of, and I think that there is more explaining that Alex Price needs to do, and more explaining from the Cheatham brothers.

At 12/30/2005 3:21 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

You said: the Police presence in Great Falls is lacking, and being a criminal and growing up in Great Falls, Nathan knew this, so I honestly dont believe that is why he was so scared.
I know the area well, and I completely agree with you about the sparseness of police presence there; after all, Great Falls is not a high crime area, especially along Utterback Road. Seems to me that Nathan must have been paranoid--or maybe something else played in. Certainly, if Nathan was mentally disturbed, at least some of his family's members knew it.

One big question for me: Did the probation system know it as well?

I think that there is more explaining that Alex Price needs to do, and more explaining from the Cheatham brothers.

Could Alex Price have been the intended victim?

Certain drugs, in and of themselves, can cause paranoia in high enough doses. And if there is an underlying mental illness, the paranoia-causing dosage can be much lower.

The authopsy results are very important in deciding at least part of Nathan's motivation. And the age difference between the male victims and Nathan is also quite unusual, as you pointed out.

At 12/30/2005 9:31 PM, Anonymous Cousin of AOW said...

I read the article and comments from AOW and Anonymous and just wanted to comment that Nathan may have never had an psychological problems prior to becoming involved with drugs. The article mentions that he was up for 48 hours prior to the killings. He was obviously on drugs to be up for the length of time and be that paranoid. It could have been meth, cocaine or ecstasy. I know of a case where a 19 year old boy who had never had any trouble, was a straight A student and athlete, tried ecstasy one time and ended up in a mental hospital. The night he got out he had to been returned by the police for trying to kill his parents. There were no drugs in his system at that time just the lasting effect from the ecstasy use. As far as the age difference, if they were using drugs together they could have met anywhere at anytime and the age difference would not matter. My guess is Nathan may have called the Price boy Christmas morning looking for drugs or may have thought the Price boy was turning him over to police in his paranoid thinking. Could have been the reason he sought them out at their home. Could be his mother was trying to get him to a hospital when the shooting spree began. Whatever the reason, its a terrible tragedy for all involved.

At 12/30/2005 9:57 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Hey, Cousin!
You've got a pretty good analysis there. Thanks.

At 12/31/2005 2:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I've been reading through this discussion string, and I understand that we're all searching for meaning and that there is a great deal of anger and fear associated with this terrible incident – surrounding Nathan himself, drugs, guns, the parole system and more. I did not know Nathan or Sheila, but I do have a connection to the family. My contribution to the discussion is this: I know a few very special children who loved Nathan and will miss him terribly. They knew the healthy, caring, creative and gentle Nathan – and the Nathan they knew was not a fabrication or façade. He was very real. He saved stray animals. He cared for people. Like all of us, Nathan had good parts and bad parts. He experienced some form of emotional illness, and drugs were likely a factor in his behavior. My understanding is that there was and is a good deal of estrangement in his family, and Nathan was not immune to some tough life situations. Of course, I cannot and do not make excuses for his behavior. We all deal with hard times. Something went terribly wrong in his brain that morning, and I believe it was a culmination of the escalation of long-standing emotional problems and drug use. The events Christmas morning were extraordinarily tragic and frightening. There are three families and an entire community affected by this. I suggest that Nathan should not be vilified and that the deaths of other people should not be sensationalized. We love to hear an extreme story, and our appetite for the tragic has become part of our society. This is a time to give serious thought to what is truly important in life. When I see tears on the faces of these children, or when they laugh and play … that is real. They will grow up. They will ask for help when they need it, and it will be given. They are surrounded by love, support and honesty and therein lies the change our new generations so desperately need. Thanks for reading and for providing this forum. Best wishes to all.

At 12/31/2005 8:44 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I don't think anyone here is attempting to villify Nathan. And while there is a certain Rear Windwow nature to all of us, one major factor in this discussion has been the shock that such a thing could happen in the Great Falls/McLean community.

In yesterday's paper, which I didn't get to until late last night, I read:

Documents on file at Arlington County Circuit Court relating to his parents' 1995 divorce show that he had been hospitalized for depression.

A letter dated May 3, 1993, from Sheila Cheatham's attorney, Betty A. Thompson, to William Cheatham's lawyer addressed negotiations on a property settlement. In the letter, Thompson mentioned that "there are two young children to consider as well as [a] 15-year-old teenager who is undergoing serious emotional problems, and he is presently in the hospital undergoing treatment for depression."

Of course, the type of depression is not revealed. But any mental illness can be and sometimes is compounded by the use of improper and/or illicit drugs.

For all of psychiatry's professed knowledge, much remains unknown about the human brain.

Could the events of Christmas Day have been foreseen and prevented? That's a big question for me and, I'm sure, for others commenting here. I recognize that Nathan's family, friends, probation officer, and others very well never imagined that such a horror could transpire.

Many of my clients, past and present, are in the Great Falls/McLean area, and I imagine that some may have connections to Mother Nurture, an excellent center from all I know of it. As a teacher, I worry about the children who have been shocked by what happened. In your words, I know a few very special children who loved Nathan and will miss him terribly.

You pointed out Nathan's good qualities in some of your comment. Thank you for that.

I am so glad that you also said this:This is a time to give serious thought to what is truly important in life.

Anonymous, I appreciate your
taking the time to comment here and your contribution to this discussion. My hope is that others, particularly those who have troubled family members, will be lovingly alert so as to prevent tragedies like the one this community--my community--went through on Christmas Day. My heart goes out to the victims and to the bereaved.

At 12/31/2005 8:49 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Just to clarify...Nathan was a victim too. Yes, it seems that he made wrong choices. I wish that "the system" had done better by him.

At 12/31/2005 10:39 AM, Anonymous cousin of AOW said...

One last comment from me. It appears that everyone is trying to resolve in their own mind and heart how this could have occurred in their world where these types of things don't happen everyday. The big question being could this have been prevented? Obviously not it happened. Nathan had obvious mental health problems, whether it was from dealing with teenage years compounded by his parents divorce and drugs or all of the above, it seems to me that his mother sought help with professionals. You have to ask if she knew deep down that her son was a danger to others? I doubt it. Appears she knew he was a danger to himself and recognized that fact. Could she as his mother have ever recognized that he would hurt others? Maybe but probably not. Do any of us see that as a side to our child? Lastly whether she really knew or not, as the parent of an adult child there is only so much she could do with him anyway. Try as we might as parents it is not always in our hands alone. Our children still make their own choices whether we like it or not. Thank God that none of the day care children were there or were hurt and I have to believe that had Mrs. Cheatham know her son could have been a threat to the children’s safety she would have taken steps to protect them. Appears to me that her steps to get more help for her son led to her giving her own life. Again, this is a terrible tragedy for all and certainly Nathan was not born bad but for whatever reason ended up out of control. Unfortunately there were innocent people that paid the price for everything that went wrong with him. Since I don’t personally know any of the people involved I am just commenting from an outsiders point of view. I don’t mean to suggest that the healing process will be easy for any of you that were personally touched by this. I sincerely hope that all of you who were part of this event can find the peace that you will need to put this behind you.

At 12/31/2005 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son also attended Mother Nuture Family Day Care and I had spoken to Nath.. on several times and never thought or had concerns about him being around my son. Just this a couple weeks ago he helped look for a project that my son had completed. I was shocked to read all the items coming out of his background and that he was allowed to be around the children.

At 12/31/2005 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW and cousin,

Thanks very much for your thoughtful responses to my posting, and for offering further insight and feelings about this.

Being able to read and write here is cathartic for me and, I’m sure, for many other people. To have a voice is invaluable. Thank you for providing the sounding board.

The sun is shining on our community as I write this, and with that simple beauty tucked in my pocket, I feel more hopeful.

To anyone reading this who is confused, angry, frightened and grieving – perhaps one of the most important things we’re teaching one another is that we cannot heal ourselves alone. We need the comfort and support of others, whether family or friends (both, if we’re very lucky). And if we do this – if we keep ourselves from becoming isolated and afraid, if we ask for a hand up when we need it – we’re taking care of not only ourselves, but everyone around us. We cannot prevent bad things from happening, and I am in no way attempting to minimize this tragedy.

I do, however, believe that we can tip the scales in favor of mutual support and trust if we are willing to reach out with understanding and open hearts.

I wish everyone a safe and joyful new year – one in which we all find some sunshine in our pockets.


At 1/01/2006 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see what you are saying with the "Upper" drug theory on him staying awake. I think on the surface this seems to be the types of drugs that he was on, but it just does not seem like what really messed with his head.

I think it was all prescriptions that were messing with him; whether they were downers,uppers,or anti-axiety. Nate does not sound like a "rookie-drug user". I think he had tried and experienced them, but I think that something a bit stronger and a bit more mentally straining was working on him. He already had mental issues, prescriptions multiply all paranoia and craziness much more than Cocaine, or X will.

I am still convinced that this is all drug related; given Ms. Price's prior convictions and recent search results (by FCPD) turning up prescription packaging. I believe they were all linked through Nates younger brothers. I dont know what inspired the rage to start, but it was more than the "drive by style" shooting they were doing the week prior.

I know he was disturbed. But there has to be that extra driving force that really sent him over the edge.

As for the probation system knowing if Nate had problems, NO. They did not know. Nate was a seasoned criminal, manipulation was his specialty. He hid his true face very well, and acted the part in front of everyone, only those who were truly close to him and his family knew the true extent of his illness/addiction.

I believe that Alex Price was a(the) intended victim. I dont know what drove Nate to single them out after he shot his mother, but I have a feeling that he was the one speaking to Nate on the phone. I do not for a moment think that the Price's had a normal functioning household. The mother was an addict and I am sure that the children were users too(look at your friends, and you will know who you are).

Until the brothers on both sides start talking, there will be no closure to this.

At 1/01/2006 12:20 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I posted an update today, January 1, in the main article here. Did you read that update?

I agree: Until the brothers on both sides start talking, there will be no closure to this.

As one newspaper article points out, the Prices had some prior run-ins with drug use. Autopsy results should show if the Prices were continuing their drug use.

As for the probation system knowing if Nate had problems, NO. They did not know.
Frankly, that surprises me. Don't probation officers have access to all sorts of records?

Do you have a reason for suspecting that Alex Price was the intended victim? I'm probably forgetting something, and maybe you'll prompt me.

What a terrible combination Nathan and the Prices were! Certainly something tipped Nathan over on Christmas Day. Barring an unusual post mortem finding such as a brain tumor (unlikely but possible, I guess), I agree with you that illicit drug use was the most likely cause.

Phone records might also provide valuable clues to the investigators.

I hope that Nathan's brothers are stable.

On a slightly different note...I read in the newspaper that Hinckley, the fellow who shot Ronald Reagan, just got some privileges. I'm not sure that letting him out and about is a safe idea. Psychiatrists know only so much, as Nathan Cheatham's case shows.

At 1/02/2006 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am assuming that Alex Price was the(an) intended victim. As I saw in your bolded out section "he went mythodically from room to room". It appears that all the people were in their bedroom, except for Alex Price (who was hiding). They say that Nathan had a phone conversation with someone at the house, I assume that was Alex (because everyone else was found dead in bedrooms, as if they just woke up). So...I think everyone was sleeping...and Alex got Nate fired up over something. I dont know if the Sheila Cheatham was killed prior to this conversation, but I have a feeling that she (Ms. Cheatham)was killed after he talked to someone at the Price residence (Alex?).

I know that parole officers have access to hospital records and stuff like that, but, I do not know how deep FFX County Probation Officers dig in searches. Imagine how much that would cost to do in depth backround checks (and medical history is protected information). Also...I am sorry to say but it is government work. You have a PO that has 100 cases, how much time and effort is he going to put into each person. He is not getting paid by the hour, so the quicker he gets done, the quicker he gets home. I would definately like his PO to be called up and asked why Nathan Cheatham was allowed out in the general public...he owes us answers...we pay his salary.

Nate played the role. In Great Falls you have to play the part or you are shunned, it is just how it is, so he wore the face while in public that everything was okay. I am sure his PO thought he was great, Nate manipulated his way all the way through probation.

I think that phone records will prove that Alex needs to talk more to the police. I would be willing to wager a large sum of money that the phone call time (between Nate Cheatham and the Price residence)is within moments to the time of death for Ms. Cheatham

I hope the Cheatham boys are okay. They went through a divorce at a very vunerable time in their lives. The loss of their mother and brother is traumatic. I hope the heal eventually from this. I dont know how stable a person can be though after something like this happening.

As far as Hinckley...the Secret Service watches him like a hawk. I dont want to run into him while I am getting groceries, but if he is going to see his ailing parents and the Government feels that he has paid his debt to society, then who am I to judge. He is locked in the worst prison imaginable, his mind. The Secret Service I am sure will keep track of him.

Couple thoughts:

How long did Nathan know the Prices?

What circumstances made Nathan leave the house (that his mother bought her 3 sons in Falls Church) with his brothers?

At 1/02/2006 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This incident is very scary. There are parallels with my own 14-year-old son: his dad and I split up when he was 12, he like Nathan is talented at drawing, also like Nathan he is an extremely sensitive, oldest son in a family of boys, and devastated about the divorce. my divorce is contentious; dad backed out of written agreeement for joint custody that we signed before we separated and is seeking sole custody after manipulating my son into blaming me for the divorce. My son always loved me deeply but now hates me. Dad used to be harsh and rejecting to him but now dotes on him, but Dad still spews anger at me and about me in children's presense. My son has physically assaulted me on more than one occasion. Like Sheila Cheatham, I am trying desperately to get the help my son needs, over the dad's objections. Dad would rather blame our son's problems on me. Currently I am using legal system to try to get help for my son. Hopefully he won't follow Nathan's path. My questions are: was Nathan's parents' divorce contentious? did his dad stay involved in his life? what was the nature of his relationship with his brothers? how did Nathan get the gun? I think the fact that Nathan had recently stopped taking his anxiety medication is significant; probably he was self- medicating with illicit drugs. Also, he had recently become unemployed and moved back with his mother. Perhaps he felt he was at the end of his rope, thought he was about to be arrested, and had nothing left in life to live for and nothing left to lose. Nathan was probably one of those people who are born extremely sensitive, without that extra protective layer that most of us have that helps us cope with life. Anyway, as a mother I deeply empathize with Sheila Cheatham; she tried so hard and so long to help her son, as described int he Washington Post on Jan 1. I would like to stay informed of any new information that comes out that might help parents of troubled children.

At 1/02/2006 10:44 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Anonymous (two of you?),
It's getting late, so I'll address your comment tomorrow.

Good night.

At 1/03/2006 6:36 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I am assuming that Alex Price was the(an) intended victim.
From the methodical search which Nathan Cheatham did of the Prices' house, such could well be the case. Or, Nathan could have been killing everyone in the house (similar to what happened In Cold Blood, in which all were the intended victims).

I have a feeling that she (Ms. Cheatham)was killed after he talked to someone at the Price residence (Alex?).
Phone records should reveal all the phone calls made. Someone in the Price household supposedly told Nathan not to come over that morning. Why did Nathan want to go over there? Well, obtaining drugs could be the obvious explanation, but other possibilities also exist. The survivor may or may not have told the entire truth about that phone call to the investigators. The timing of that phone call and the timing of the death of Sheila Cheatham have some relationship, IMO.

Nathan's PO, Sheila Ellis, may not have thoroughly checked Nathan's records. Or, as you said, Nathan may have played a good role with the PO. Nathan was not on probation at the time of the killings, as far as I understand. But Ms. Ellis did recommend Nathan to serve his community service and later to work at Claude Moore Farm Park, where children go every single day when the park is open. Without thoroughly checking Nathan's records, I don't feel that the PO should have made that kind of recommendation.

The answers to your last two questions are important in the investigation:

How long did Nathan know the Prices?

What circumstances made Nathan leave the house (that his mother bought her 3 sons in Falls Church) with his brothers?

Nathan's violent meltdown may not have been so sudden. Things must really have been bad for Mrs. Cheatham to have been considering involuntary commitment for her son on Christmas Eve.

The authorities had better keep a close eye on Hinckley. Some of the mentally disturbed are inordinately able to deceive.

At 1/03/2006 6:44 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

This incident is very scary. There are parallels with my own 14-year-old son...Currently I am using legal system to try to get help for my son. Hopefully he won't follow Nathan's path.

You indicated in your comment that you are doing everything you can. Your son is young, so you can continue to pursue help for him. The legal system may not provide the best help, however. Don't limit yourself to that option.

Also, [Nathan] had recently become unemployed and moved back with his mother.
Employment at the park is seasonal, and from what I've been able to glean, Nathan may have had employment at his mother's day care center. But the question of why Nathan recently left the house he shared with his brothers is an important one, IMO.

My questions are: was Nathan's parents' divorce contentious? did his dad stay involved in his life? what was the nature of his relationship with his brothers? how did Nathan get the gun?
All of these are important questions.

I think the fact that Nathan had recently stopped taking his anxiety medication is significant; probably he was self- medicating with illicit drugs.
Self-medicating is a possibility, I suppose. But most recovering addicts look upon self-medicating as a convenient excuse.

I hope that you are able to find the help your son needs!

At 1/10/2006 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Name Is Dustin Reed Cheatham Son of Former NAVY SEAL William aka Bill Cheatham Reed. Nathan was my best friend and younger brother. You are all right and wrong in alot of ways. Andrew was the target. Nathan said he disrespected the mother the most. They got him hooked on drugs and it was a co-dependancy cycle. He was trying to get off and they would need his help, so he would come over like moving the house. How else do you lose your million dollar home and move into a rental hmmmm..come on people. I respect all of you just so you know. My father has had some rough times as many of you who know him; like him or not. He is my Father and I love and respect him. He lost a son. The whole thing is a tragedy!!. Nathan Knew the prices for several years 4 at least...oxycotin/methadone aka Herion plus what ever the doctors had him on for manic depressive mood swings yes he had those. he had just gotten back from an outward bound trip and had plans laid out for the future in lists like I taught him, he was excited. He did have a criminal background check so shame on any daycare parent who says differently!!!! he was a gentle giant and would never hurt a fly. the institutionalization "MAY" have triggered him that's just as bad as going back to jail, in his mind. We used to go hiking alot I miss that. I miss my mom. Nate became a surrogate big brother and father figure over at the prices as well as the drug This is the insidious side to drugs and mental health issues and alot of other stuff. May GOD grant all of their souls peace. I left Christmas eve 10:30pm....EVERYTHING SEEMED NORMAL...

Humblest Regards
Dustin Reed Cheatham

At 1/11/2006 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Post for Dustin

Dustin - my son was enrolled in your mom's daycare and loved going there. I want to express my deepest regrets for the loss of your mother and brother. I think about your mother a lot and how good she was with the children. On several occasions I interacted with your brother and he too was great with the kids.

I'm not sure I understand your comment on the criminal background check and shame on any daycare parent who says differently. I'm sure you can understand the parents concern and I know I was not aware that he had any issues.

I find confort in the fact that I am fully confident that your mother would have not let Nathan around the children if she had any indication that he would be a threat to the children.

God Bless you and your family.

Your Monther will be missed.

At 1/11/2006 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


My Mom ran a licensed buisness here in VA. Which requires a criminal background check of any workers or any individuals that reside in the residence that do or do not have anythingto do with the children.

I ran the School in the house in front of my mothers for almost 2 years before I transitioned it to Feliza mi hermana and then moved into property management. Nathan was wonderfull with children. The main point is that this HAPPEMNED on a holiday not a buisness day, this was also a FAMILY matter obviosly, the Price's were Nate's surrogate family. He was more often over there than here before the last 6 months as he was turning his life around. We had long term plans he and I. He took on the role of Father/Older Brother to the Price Brothers. This would NEVER have happened had a CLOSE third person been there...

The Daycare parents have been AWESOME during this time of tragedy. We lost a couple but the ones who really loved my mother and knew the Quality of care that she and Feliza and myself before gave. We even had some come back until I can transition Feliza a little further down the road.

Thanks For all the support
I greatly Appreciate it


At 1/12/2006 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any information regarding the Price child that lived. Does he pose a threat to anyone?

At 1/13/2006 2:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Dustin.

That is a question I had to consider very seriously. Not only for the children in our care but for my kids who are here on the weekend and a more likely target. Adam Price was one of Chris's Best friends. I had seen Christopher Burrough's here at our house when I ran the school. He was a cool kid! Alex is staying with a non-disclosed family that is mature drug free and a good family environment. All the familes had mutual friends so for now we know that on The price side and our side we are both coming to term sith losing a brother , mother and best ffirnd. Hopefully at some future date and I do mean some future date healing takes time sometimes along time. Every life that was lost was priceless and irreplaceable regardless of flaws...we all have them.

All the familes including my own are in my prayers nightly.

Dustin Cheatham

At 1/29/2006 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have been following this blog on and off. I appreciate what you said.


Did Nate really get hooked on drugs by the Prices? I dont think that was the case at all, I feel that they were linked through your younger brothers, the age gap is too much for them not to be, I understand if you need to protect them and such, but they are undeniably linked in this tragedy much more than they have taken credit for.

Your brother had been up for multiple days. How is it that you say everything was fine @ 1030 on XMAS eve, he had been awake for two days. It is a little off setting that you were unable to realize something was wrong when he was going through this bout of insmonia especially on a holiday. How well did you really know him?

Drugs are a bitch, and when it is a family affair it is even harder. The Prices and then Cheathams were using drugs together regularly, and were probably hooking each other up. There is more than one person responsible for this tragedy, the survivors in both families need to talk for there to be closure

At 1/30/2006 9:38 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I apologize for now responding earlier to the comments here. Blogger was giving me trouble with comment notification, and I had several days on no notification. It's working now--obviously.

First, let me express my condolences to you. Though I know no member of your family or any of the Prices, I am truly very sorry that this tragedy happened. My heart goes out to all--I mean that. As you said, Every life that was lost was priceless and irreplaceable regardless...

A mental problem (bipolar) and drugs are a very dangerous combination. You know that, of course. And I'm sure that nobody expected a tragedy of the scope which took place.

If this blog has been of any help to you or to others, who need a sounding board or are seeking help for loved ones, I'm glad for the assistance I've been able to render.

My questions to you...
1. Did your brother's mood swings predate the drug abuse?
2. Do you feel that the system failed your brother? Could a better job have somehow been done?

May God give you the comfort and the needed strength to work through this very difficult time.

PS: How else do you lose your million dollar home and move into a rental...
As I thought all along.

At 4/07/2006 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any news on a toxicology report? I have not been able to locate one. Have the just swept this under the rug and not investigated any further? Murder/Suicide, are they just going to leave it at that? I wonder how some people are able to wake up in the morning and look themselves in the eyes.

Welllllll, Karma will have to take care of the others.

At 4/07/2006 10:18 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thank you for stopping by.

I have heard nothing about that report. Would it be available to the public?

At 5/24/2006 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know, the Price family has been fairly notorious around the area for as long as I can remember. That house was kind of like a safe haven for rich kids to use drugs.

Knowing of both the families for years, there is nothing strange about Nate Cheatham hanging out with the Prices, despite the age gap. A lot of the "bad" kids from the area hung around that house, especially during and after Mr. Price's death.

Seriously though, enough with the uninformed comments about how he was a "seasoned criminal" and more people should have figured his plans out. Mental instablity and a few misdemenor convictions do NOT warrant that label. I also find it hard to believe that the events of that day (beyond his suicide, perhaps) were planned in any way.

One last note - his record had absolutely no warning signs of anything this serious, let alone him being a danger to children. I cannot imagine anyone refusing to let their children in the same house as someone with a dismissed drug charge and a misdemenor assault conviction. It is simply ignorant to claim that his past should have prevented him from working at his mother's daycare.

At 5/27/2006 6:17 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

his record had absolutely no warning signs of anything this serious, let alone him being a danger to children.

That's good to know. But I'm not sure that I agree with this part:

I cannot imagine anyone refusing to let their children in the same house as someone with a dismissed drug charge and a misdemenor assault conviction.

The dismissal of the drug charge was probably the result of a plea-deal.

I don't have to tell you how dangerous drug use is for anyone with underlying mental problems.

The events of December 25, 2005 were a tragedy. Preventable? I don't know. We've recently had a somewhat similar case with Michael Kennedy, though all the details of the latter haven't yet come out.

No parent wants to recognize that her child is capable of such deeds. And when the recognition comes, it's often too late.

Thank you for stopping by. I posted this story because it was such a huge local-story at the time, but when I mention it nowadays, I get a blank stare. People forget too quickly!

At 6/13/2006 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Chris Cheatham, I had to listen to alot of stupid comments about my brother nate from a bunch of people who know nothing of him. There were some comments that I do appreciate. I just want any of you to know that I knew who nate was, and it really pisses me off to hear parents saying that he never should of been around any kids. Nate would of been a better parent than most of you. I watched him with kids, it was as if he had a gift in making kids happy. Nate was basically my father, he tought me everything and made me feel better than any other human could. The Price's never gave drugs out, illeagle drugs had no motive in this. It was a combination of years of being on the wrong medications and possibly miss diagnosing, and most importantly he just stoped taking his medication. I think the focus should be put on society, nate was not meant to live a world with nothing but concrete, mansions and the lifelong pressure of getting a well paying job for the rest of your life. He would of been fine in the wilderness. All im saying is that society is not a nice place for peaceful people. I think nate saw this and unlike most robot minded humans, he just couldn't handle it. If anyone wants any answers ask the people that actually know him.

At 6/13/2006 6:02 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thank you for stopping by.

You know how it is. A terrible and highly publicized event such as this occurs, and we speculate.

No disrepect was intended. But I suppose that all of us were shocked that something like this happened so close to home. We shouldn't be surprised, but we are.

It was a combination of years of being on the wrong medications and possibly miss diagnosing, and most importantly he just stoped taking his medication.

In my own family, I've had to deal with family members whose diagnosis was delayed and who refused their medications. Thankfully, none of them "melted down," but they could have.

I have no personal knowledge about the Prices, but one commenter claimed some knowledge. I have to admit that some of the details about the Prices appear suspicious. Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

I'm relatively sure that you're familiar with the recent case of Michael Kennedy. Another travesty!

I don't blame society, but I do fault the healthcare system and the probation sytem as well. Could not this tragedy have been prevented?

In my own family, some have been denied by the HMO--denied of medications, hospitalization, etc. And as is so often the case, these family members turned to illicit drugs to cope.

Perhaps what your brother needed was a simpler place. I myself am getting pretty fed up with the rat-race here.

And how many lives are now snuffed out because of the tragedy on Christmas Day?

I hope that you can find some peace. I can well imagine that you have had to deal with a lot. I understand your anger, but don't let it eat you up. Yes, I know--easier said than done.

As you can see from the dates on the comments above, this article doesn't get much attention any longer. But the issues which led to those events on Christmas Day SHOULD be getting attention.

Take care. I know that your grief must be profound.

And please know that my posting this story was never intended to compound your grief.

At 6/19/2006 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris - Nate watched my son on several ocassions while he worked for your Mom. He was very good with him. I think of your Mom quite often and different pieces of advice she would give me on my son.

I hope you are doing okay.

At 7/29/2006 2:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss nate

At 7/29/2006 9:42 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

You can stop by here any time. I hope that just the act of typing a comment, no matter how brief, is of help to you.

When someone we love dies--no matter how--at least a year passes before we can begin to cope. At least, that's been my experience. Grieving takes time, especially when someone we love dies suddenly. And, of course, the circumstances of Nate's death makes the grief more intense.

FYI...I'm one of the last members of my generation in my family on my mother's side. Not that I'm old! I'm the youngest of my generation. But many in my family had untimely, sudden deaths (one at the age of 39 and another at the age of 49, with absolutely no warning whatsoever)--all but one because of untreated or undiagnosed heart problems. That one who didn't die of a heart problem was murdered.

PS: If you ever want me to post a tribute to Nate, I'll do so. Just post the info here, or email me with it.

At 10/23/2006 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 10/23/2006 5:41 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I think the results of those tests should be a matter of public record, but I don't know for sure. In some states, the death certificate is available only to immediate members of the family.

At 12/21/2008 7:39 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

I am Dustin Cheatham's EX-daughter, I hate all of the terrible things people are saying about Nate "using drugs" and such. For the woman who "personally new Nate" Nate was the sweetest person I new. Do not EVER talk about him that way again!! He would never have hurt any children, he loved us. I remember when he rescued some baby mice from claudemoor farm and let me help nurse them back to health while still making as little human contact as possible, we then released them after they had been properly taken care for. So do not talk about him like he was some sort of killing machine or something like that. As for Dustin... DAMN YOU TO HELL
P.S. I am an athiest! Dustin!!

At 12/22/2008 6:41 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thank you for stopping by.

I am amazed that this post from so long ago still gets attention.

Anyway, the human mind is very complex and quite unfathomable. Perhaps the answer as to what happened with Nathan Cheatham is, in the end, unanswerable.

In my view, the medical and counseling system failed in this case.

At 12/16/2009 2:07 AM, Blogger Kyla R. said...

I am related to him. He's my uncle.

I am Hannahs half sibling. please if you guys can contact her please let me know her email. PLEASE i beg you!
she doesn't know i exist! i didn't know she existed! I'm happy and terrified at the same time! Please help me talk to her.

At 3/22/2010 10:23 AM, Blogger Hannah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5/11/2010 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew the family growing up. The price's first home was not one that you wanted to let your teenagers hang out at. Alot of popular kids hung out there, they hung out with kids that did alot of drugs yes. I am suprised the police report didnt mention alot about that homes history. A shotgun had gone off in that basement one time. The kids knew the combination to the gunsafe. A few people had been brutally beaten and mobbed attacked there. One was beaten so bad he ran to the neihbors for help, and another was brought into to the middle of the street and kicked and punched while down. Kids smoked in the house, and left it a dump, really really messy. Im suprised the cops didnt mention this.

At 6/08/2010 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyla R.

this is Hannah, I do actually know who you are, you used to come visit when we were little and we're only a few months apart. I really miss you and would love to share some pictures of us with you. My email is Please contact me!

At 7/01/2010 9:01 AM, Anonymous Buy Generic Viagra online said...

. I've been reading through this discussion string, and I understand that we're all searching for meaning and that there is a great deal of anger and fear associated with this terrible incident – surrounding Nathan himself, drugs, guns, the parole system and more.

At 1/24/2012 12:46 AM, Anonymous grace_cheatham said...

I know this article is old but I just wanted to express my feelings on this matter. I am grace cheatham. Nates niece and shiellas grand daughter or as my siblings and I called her grammie. I realise my uncle did a terrible thing and made some mistakes in his short life. He was a very caring, generous, loving uncle to me and my siblings. He looked after me as if I was his china doll. He took it upon himself to always read us stories and include us in video games and all the fun stuff my uncles did. He was so incredibly amazing and no matter what drugs or mental problem he had kids where always a top priority. He would never hurt any kid, related to him or not. I grew up with him my whole life. well until he passed away and not once did I ever see his bad side. I realize I was young and might not have been able to see signs of his drug use but still. He was always a saint around the kids and was soooo amazing. I miss him more than anything and would do anything to have him back here with me now. That tragic day I also lost my grandma, shiela. She was by far the greatest woman I have ever had the pleasure of being with. She raised me practically. When the power would go out she'd put me and her brother in her bed and tell us stories of adventures and animals until we fell asleep. Her day care I attended every day and remember very fondly. Every kid there was very well treated and there was always games and toys to play with. By far the best times of my life. Now I understand he killed some people. Which was a very retched thing to do but everyone knows drugs screw you up. In mclean where I lived up until a year ago, a lot of drugs go on. At cooper drug busts happen all the time and kids get caught with marijuana on a daily basis. So its not hard to believe how he easily got swept into the using crowd. But not.matter what drugs I could always see Nates good carong goofy fun side. Wether you could or couldn't I honestly don't care. Everyone portraying him as some huge, mean giant set to kill. When in reality that's bot true. You didn't know Nate or shiela like I did. After all they're my family. I'm not one bit ashamed to say that because I knew them as the loving family I had the honor to grow up with. I'm In tears writing this because a lot of people didn't get to see his good. Nates and grammie you're always in my prayers. Thank you everyone for reading. I'm only 13 now so I'm not looking for hate. I just want everyone yo know them how I knew them. P.s. you're all off why he shot grammie. Stop your assuming if you know nothing.
Grace cheatham.

At 8/04/2012 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whatever happened to the toxicology reports ?
where can they be obtained ?
where is alex price?
why did the police wait until 2PM to enter the house ?
they may have been able to save one or more lives

At 9/27/2012 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi.. I worked with Nate at the farm. We worked together caring for the animals. Nate was never anything but kind, he loved the animals even if he was a little afraid of the cow and was wonderful with the families there. He used to make me mixed CDs of all his favorite music and we would listen to it, he would tell me why he liked each song. We were of course fully aware of Nate history, we did not judge him for it and we were all saddened with what happened. I still want to know why he was so upset the night before..

I just want to say I am sorry for his family and the Prices as well. It truely is a horrible situation.

At 9/27/2012 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked with Nate at the far. We knew his past and did not judge him for it. He was kind to the animals and families, he was a little afraid of the cow, and he used to make me mixed CDs of his favorite songs and then tell me about them. I am so sorry for what happened. I still wish I knew why he was so upset the night before.

At 9/27/2012 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked with Nate at the farm. We were aware of his background and did not judge him for it. He was kind to the animals, kind to visiting families and a little afraid of the cow. He would hold chickens for the kids to pet. He made me mixed CDs and would sit and explain why they were his favorite songs.

I am very sorry for all that happened. I still wish I knew why he was so upset the night before.. why did he think he was in trouble?

At 12/15/2012 6:49 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I rarely check the comments' moderation page for this web site.

I've done so now and have published comments.

At 12/18/2012 1:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad to see this page/blog is still up. I lived in Great Falls in 2005 & remember this grim incident on Christmas Day. Though I did not know Nate Cheatham personally, I had briefly known the owners of the house that in which the Prices were residing. It looks like (both back then & from reading this now) that this association between the both the Prices & Cheatham was a powderkeg about to explode - which it did - very sadly, on Christmas Morning.

I checked back here because the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary reminded me -in a way- of the Cheatham shooting...particularly because of the killing of the Mom. Both the tragedies are so sad. What I feel compelled to write is that the system has failed both Cheatham & Adam Lanza...both had a history of mental illness & NEEDED HELP! They both remained unchecked for so long...leading up to this. If this Sandy Hook shooting does not set forth discussions about the state of mental health/ mental illness treatment/ law enforcement follow through.. & even re-implementing a good system of checks & balances, then I don't know what will...thx 4 reading....

At 12/18/2012 2:15 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I have retrieved your comment from the comments moderation folder.

I hope that you read my response.

When I heard about and read about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, I, too, thought of the Cheatham shooting. There are indeed some similarities. Clearly, both Nathan and Adam desperately needed help. And they both had mothers who were seeking help.

Recently, information has emerged to the effect that Nancy Lanza was thinking about moving with Adam to Washington state. Could the idea of a move have set him off? Possibly.

Our nation needs to have a serious discussion of mental health matters. There are so many obstacles which prevent caring families from getting help and from confining family members. I mention confining because that is probably the only way to deal with schizophrenics.

Thanks for stopping by.

At 8/12/2013 1:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up with Janina Price, the 50-year-old woman murdered in her bedroom on Christmas Day and I just wanted to comment that on the day of the Newtown shootings, all I could think of was that Janina's brother still lives in a town near Newtown and what a horribly painful day it must have been for him to relive that tragedy again, so close to home. It is a little disturbing to read so many comments here about what a great guy the murderer was before that Christmas Day, and to read even more hurtful speculation about the Price family's past as though they somehow deserved what happened to them. They went through a nightmare when Andrew Price died from cancer and the family had problems coping afterwards, but no one has expressed much sympathy for their plight, or even wondered how the sole survivor of the family has managed to have a life these past eight years after seeing his entire family wiped out. The woman who was murdered loved her boys. She was very intelligent and musically talented, created her own jewelry line that at one time sold at Nordstroms, and despite all her accomplishments, she never felt she was quite good enough - sound familiar to anyone? She was a very sensitive person with deep emotions and a spirit of generosity that knew no limits. She was as imperfect as anyone else, but she never murdered anybody. So I'd like people to consider her as a real person, not some phantom to be blamed in any way for what happened that awful day.

At 8/20/2013 11:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, today would have been Janina's 58th birthday had she not been murdered.

At 11/11/2013 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also agree with the previous a friend of the price family it's almost sickening they seem to be the after thought maybe even the reason for all this. Mrs price had a tough time after watching her husband suffer threw about all you mothers complaining on here, could u imagine losing you're partner, your other half, the father to your kids...and try to act like everything's fine. Mrs price was a beautiful woman, she had a heart of gold and was always there to listen. Did she know what was goin on, ya she wasn't dumb, but just like a lot of (smart)parents she turns a blind eye so that she can at least go to slee knowing we were sleeping over and not out driving. How about two boys losing their dad? Any of this may lead you to trying something that might make you forget that pain for a's just funny to see people from outside the box act like the know the interior layout.

At 11/17/2017 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been 12 yrs since the Christmas Day tragedy that forever altered my family, as well as the Cheatham's, Price's and many others. First and foremost, I want to express my long-do apologies and sincerest condolences to the Cheatham's. There was nothing I could have done to save your mother. Nathan and his brother rented the in-law suite in the bottom of my house, which was the driveway where Sheila passed. As my children were playing with their new Christmas presents, I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. I saw Sheila and Nate pull up to the side of my house and watched the events unfold. [For the family's privacy, I still will not discuss the events.] My first instinct was to lock my kids in a safe place since Nathan could easily come into his home and ours. While trying to locate a cell phone and see/hear where Nate went, the police were already on site. As for Nate, he was a GREAT person and really good with kids. Had I even suspected he had any issues, he wouldn't have lived there. Both brothers were extremely cordial and polite. Nate rode bikes with my oldest (who was 10) and taught him to ride without using his hands. One time he broke my middle son's bike (accidentally), and brought him another the next day! My son didn't need another, which he knew, but felt obligated. Nate was a gentle bear with a kind heart and was really good with kids. He offered and assisted me put together my patio furniture when he saw me struggling. Those are traits of being raised well, and I could tell he loved his family from the interaction he had with his mother and his brother. Although the holiday was difficult for my family for many years after that awful day, the kids and I speak fondly about the Cheatham's. They remember Sheila well, and how Nate broke Joshua's bike and fell off (my) Nathan's skateboard. I think it's important that people know that Nate was a kind and caring person.


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