- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

VENETA, Ore. (AP) - He was a troubled soul.

That’s how one friend described Nathan Sunderland, the 32-year-old man who authorities say burst into a Veneta home Tuesday morning, killing Wesley Moss and seriously injuring Moss’s wife, Debra Aleckson, before killing himself.

But he wasn’t always that way, Sunderland’s friend Jeremy “J.J.” Mills told The Register-Guard (https://is.gd/DeAv7d).

Mills said he heard the news Wednesday night from a friend. Mills then had the difficult task of sharing that news with the mother of two of Sunderland’s four children.

“I’m in shock. I’m in total shock,” Mills said.

Mills and Sunderland had been friends for 10 years, best friends at times, Mills said. The two men went to Alcoholics Anonymous together and quickly became buddies. Sunderland even had a tattoo that read “WWJJD?” - instead of the common “What would Jesus do?” Sunderland’s tattoo stood for “What would J.J. do?” Mills said.

“He was a warm person, and that smile on his face - you couldn’t help but like him,” Mills recalled.

But Sunderland had demons, including a rough childhood and a struggle with addiction to both drugs and alcohol.

“He began as a pot smoker and mostly alcohol, but toward the end he was bad off on the bad drugs. I don’t know exactly what,” Mills said. “I saw him not too long ago and his appearance alone made me worry about him. I offered to let him stay with me for a while and help him make sense of his life, but he couldn’t let it go. He just couldn’t let it go. He had a lot of guilt for the things of his past.”

Lane County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the corner of Jesse James Lane and Jeans Road at 5:14 a.m. Tuesday when Sunderland was reported as an armed man attempting to force his way into a home on Jesse James Lane.

The residents called 911 and hid in a bathroom, as Sunderland fired shots and then went to the adjacent home on Jeans Road, owned by Moss.

Deputies then received a second 911 call from a neighbor, who said a woman was on the front lawn of the Jeans Road home, saying she had been shot.

Aleckson was found with life-threatening injuries and rushed to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. According to the sheriff’s office, she is now in serious condition.

Moss and Sunderland were both found dead inside. Sunderland killed Moss, authorities said, and then himself.

Little is known about Aleckson and Moss. Aleckson is a licensed trucker, according to the Motor Carriers Alliance. The couple was married, according to court records.

But Mills said he doesn’t believe what happened on the corner of Jesse James Lane and Jeans Road was a burglary. He also doesn’t believe it was random, and said he called the Lane County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday night to let them know that he believes Sunderland used to live with the victims or on their property, and even referred to Aleckson previously as “mama.”

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment or confirmation that Sunderland had ever lived with Moss and Aleckson. But in a news release Wednesday night, Capt. Spence Slater said there is evidence to suggest Sunderland worked for Moss and Aleckson in the past. Detectives are still trying to unravel how the victims and Sunderland are connected.

Although Sunderland claimed to work for Evergreen Roofing on his Facebook page, an employee of the company said Thursday morning that Sunderland worked there for just three days early this year but was fired.

According to Lane County Circuit Court records, Sunderland had run-ins with the law previously. He had convictions for theft and for domestic violence over the last decade. He spent most of June in the Lane County Jail on a fourth-degree assault charge, according to jail records.

“He was a tortured soul. His heart was always in the right place but it was his mind that he couldn’t control,” Mills said. “I just can’t believe that this is true and that this happened.”


Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com



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