Chuck and Sue McDougan always had a hard time getting Lloyd Jeffress out of their minds. Now that they’ve learned Mr. Jeffress shot four monks, killing two of them Monday at Conception Abbey, the couple will never forget him.
“It’s just devastating, but not surprising,” Mrs. McDougan said. “People like that – you never know when they’re going to go off.”
The couple rented him a room in a house they owned next door to theirs in Excelsior Springs, Mo., from 1993 to 1997.
“He was fine for about two years,” Mr. McDougan said. “You could talk to him. He loved animals.”
Then things began to change.
“He became paranoid,” Mrs. McDougan said. “Communication broke down.”
They said he constantly changed where he parked his car because he believed a male friend of his daughter’s would try to find him, possibly to borrow money.
He also began making “ridiculous” complaints. He believed exhaust from a neighbor’s car was seeping into his apartment. He also complained that a brown substance was leaking from his refrigerator. It turned out to be nicotine residue from his cigar smoking habit.
“He smoked cigars like a fiend,” Mrs. McDougan said. “He set the fire alarm off a few times with his smoke.”
Perhaps the habit that played the largest role in the murders and suicide that occurred this week was a package Mr. Jeffress always carried with him.
Mr. McDougan, and residents in the Kearney, Mo., senior-housing complex, said Mr. Jeffress always carried a slender, cardboard box with him when he left his apartment numerous times during the day.
Mr. Jeffress was seen getting out of his car with two, long boxes before he entered Conception Abbey’s basilica doors and shot the monks.
Mr. McDougan said he knew Mr. Jeffress was a former postal worker and joked that a gun was probably in the box and that he might “go postal.”
The McDougans got serious about Mr. Jeffress when he changed the locks on his apartment door and stopped speaking with them altogether. When he did need to contact them, he did so through a lawyer. The last straw for the couple was when they saw him bring a gas can into his apartment.
“We called the police,” Mrs. McDougan said. “We thought he was going to burn the place down. He didn’t like his neighbor.”
The McDougans gave police the eviction notice they had been trying to serve Mr. Jeffress.
“He was irate when he was handed the eviction notice,” Mrs. McDougan said. “He did have a temper.”
Once Mr. Jeffress, who had a limp and a stuttering problem, left Excelsior Springs, he moved to Liberty, Mo., the couple said. They accidentally ran into him a couple of times at stores but never regained a speaking relationship.
“He was so mysterious,” Mrs. McDougan said. “We wanted to know more about him.”
She said he never spoke about his childhood and was surprised to hear he was raised in the Catholic religion. In the beginning of his time in Excelsior Springs, he’d only participate in small talk. Once the couple talked about drugs, and Mr. Jeffress said he thought drugs in general were bad, but valium was OK.
Mrs. McDougan was only in his apartment once during his four-year stay. She said he only brought an old cot, like the one he slept on in Kearney, with him. He used some old, leftover furniture they had left in the apartment. He didn’t have a television and never decorated.
When Mr. Jeffress applied to live in the Excelsior Springs apartment, he used Collis Bosworth as a reference.
Mr. Bosworth and Mr. Jeffress were letter carriers in the 1970s in the U.S. Postal Service.
“He was very polite and soft-spoken,” Mr. Bosworth said. “He never raised his voice. I don’t know what in the world happened to him.”
Mr. Jeffress was fired from the postal service because his limp interfered with his job. Mr. Bosworth, who was the president of their union at the time, lobbied to get his job back and succeeded.
Mr. Jeffress was always thankful for Mr. Bosworth’s efforts and sent him “the most beautiful” Christmas cards every year since, including 2001.
While searching Mr. Jeffress’ apartment in Kearney, investigators found a prescription antidepressant. It’s unclear if he was still taking it.
Police also discovered some new information while interviewing Mr. Jeffress’ relatives. His estranged daughter said Mr. Jeffress was a devout Catholic as a young adult. Mr. Jeffress’ brother, who lives in Raytown, Mo., and also was estranged, confirmed that Mr. Jeffress.
Acquaintances say Jeffress once was devout Catholic, ‘had a bad temper’
St. Joseph News-Press
June 12, 2002