Fort Worth

Survivor in Ponder murder-suicide blames divorce judge. Here's what divorce records show

The divorce between Justin and Amanda Painter was finalized in March.
The divorce between Justin and Amanda Painter was finalized in March.

When he filed for divorce in August of 2017, Justin Painter gave the routine explanation as grounds for splitting up.

The marriage, he said in his petition, had become insupportable because of "discord or conflict of personalities" between him and his wife that "destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation."

But in a Facebook Live video post from her hospital room, Justin Painter's ex-wife, Amanda Simpson, indicated that the divorce was far from routine.

Wednesday morning, Justin Painter shot his ex-wife, their three young children and her new boyfriend inside his ex-wife's Ponder home before turning the gun on himself, authorities say.

Only Amanda Simpson survived.

In the first of three Facebook Live posts, Simpson says she is "extremely mad" at the judge who handled her divorce.

amanda-simpson-fb_fitted.jpeg
Amanda Simpson shows a photo of her slain children. Facebook screen capture

"Because I don't know if anybody knows, but Justin tried to commit suicide a year ago. And I made it very clear to the judge that he was mentally unstable," Simpson says in the video. "And they didn't listen, so now I don't have my babies. You guys know they were my everything, my purpose to breathe."

The judges of the 322nd District Court that handled the divorce did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The divorce records reviewed by the Star-Telegram on Thursday, however, showed little, if any, hint of the tragedy to come.

It was Justin Painter who filed for divorce, stating in his petition that the couple were married on March 17, 2012, and quit living together as husband and wife around April 20, 2017.

And it was Justin Painter who obtained a temporary restraining order against his wife, the records show.

The documents state there had been no "findings of family violence" in the two years leading up to the divorce filing.

In her video, Amanda indicates that Justin Painter wanted to get back together, and his own Facebook page seems to confirm that.

In October, Justin Painter posted that he was in a "complicated relationship."

"She is worth fighting for," he wrote in the comments, along with, "It's going to be a long hard road, but she is worth the time and effort."

The divorce, however, was finalized on March 2, 2018, under agreements that the couple had previously reached under mediation.

Justin Painter and his wife were both appointed joint managing conservators of their three children — Odin, Caydence and Drake Painter — with Justin Painter appointed as primary conservator of the children.

Simpson, who represented herself in the divorce, was ordered to pay child support.

In her videos, Simpson said Painter was still trying to get back together with her and couldn't accept that she and her boyfriend, Seth Richardson, were going to start a new life.

Jerold Mitchell, Justin Painter's divorce attorney, did not immediately respond to a telephone message and email Thursday.

Staff writer Stephen English contributed to this report.

Denton County Sheriff's Office Capt. Orlando Hinojosa makes a statement on the murder-suicide that happened at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Ponder, north of Fort Worth.



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