GEESEYTOWN - Jeffrey Lee Michael, who killed three people in a shooting spree near his Geeseytown home Friday, had forced his family to deal with his apocalyptic fascination for more than a decade, a longtime family friend said Wednesday.
Michael, 44, who used handguns to kill two men and a woman before dying in a firefight with state troopers, was a disturbing contradiction, Christine Hughes of Williamsburg said: a loving father to his two sons, but a controlling and abusive husband who harbored bizarre interests.
"I know he'd been obsessed with ... the end of the world," said Hughes, who has been friends with Michael's ex-wife since childhood. "He put his family through hell to get prepared for Y2K."
Michael's friends described the long-haul trucker as a relatively peaceful man who struggled with the trauma of two fatal traffic accidents and an acrimonious divorce.
But Hughes - who was named in a 2010 protection-from-abuse order as a possible target for Michael's alleged harassment - said he always took his emotions to extremes, reacting badly when plans like his millennium-disaster preparations soured.
"He had issues dealing with situations in a normal, or so-called normal, way," she said. "He would give you a threatening impression, a creepy impression. But he had two sides to him."
Hughes said Michael frequently called his then-wife's friends to check on her whereabouts and activities. The 2010 court order that kept Michael from his wife lists sometimes violent behavior, including breaking her finger, trapping her in rooms and threatening to destroy her possessions.
"We really couldn't hang out much because of how he was," Hughes said.
Michael's former friends have dismissed the abuse allegations as the expected result of a bitter divorce and custody battle.
It's clear his life took a turn for the worse after 2009, when a woman leaped in front of his tractor-trailer in Centre County. His divorce, mounting child-support payments and a second fatal crash took an emotional toll, friend Bob Socie of Lakemont told the Mirror on Saturday.
But Michael had been emotionally "hardened" long before that, Hughes said. She'd expected his behavior to hit a climax, but never to the horrific extent it reached Friday, she said.
While she knew Michael owned guns, she'd never heard of his using them to threaten relatives or neighbors until the massacre Friday, Hughes said. The PFA order noted that Michael had guns in his house, but said he'd never used them to threaten his wife or sons.
Assistant District Attorney Wade Kagarise confirmed Wednesday that Michael used one or more handguns - not assault rifles, as some had speculated - to carry out his killing spree. State police at the time said they had seized multiple firearms from the scene.
Michael's family, including the two sons he reportedly loved and treated well, will likely seek counseling, Hughes said. She may join them, she noted.
"Some people saw the nice Jeff and some people saw the Jeff I knew," she said. "But I would have never expected he'd do something like this."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.