What made Nathan Fortner kill three people Tuesday morning in Bonne Terre remains a mystery, but his mother believes it was due to stress over his legal troubles.
Fortner, 25, is believed to have killed Danielle Bement, 19, her 37-year-old mother, Christine (Dunn) Snider and Snider’s boyfriend, 35-year-old Derek Nash about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday in Bonne Terre. That night, police called him a suspect in a fifth death after they found the body of 19-year-old Ericka Wade in Washington County. On Monday, Bement had filed a police report that accused Fortner of sexually assaulting her in that same area.
St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said that while Fortner is a suspect, there is no confirmation that he was involved in Wade’s death.
Fortner had been in trouble with the law before and had charges pending for possession of a controlled substance, forcible rape and first-degree robbery charges. He was scheduled to go to trial for the rape charge in April.
He was on probation for second-degree burglary and property damage stemming from 2003 and had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with a fight between his family and the Scherffius family in 2006.
Fortner’s mother, Mary Fortner, spoke with a Daily Journal reporter Tuesday afternoon. She blamed police and prosecutors for some of her son’s legal troubles, particularly the rape charge.
Fortner said Nathan lived with her when the attack occurred in 2008. At the time, he was on probation and wore an electronic ankle bracelet that kept track of his whereabouts. The bracelet records would show he did not leave the house to commit the rape, but he was charged anyway, Fortner insisted.
“They would not listen to anything we said,” she added. “It took them two years to arrest my son. They took three DNA tests trying to tie him to the rape.”
Adding to the stress of the impending trial were problems in her son’s relationship with Bement, Fortner said.
Nathan Fortner referred to Bement as his fiancé on his Facebook page. The couple shared a son who is about 1 1/2 years old. The child was with Bement when she was killed.
Fortner last saw her son when he came to her home for Thanksgiving dinner and last spoke with him early Tuesday morning. Although she knew he had been stressed out over his growing problems, Fortner thought her son seemed fine when they spoke on the phone.
When Fortner heard about the shooting in Bonne Terre, she recognized the address and headed there. The address belonged to Bement’s mother and stepfather, Fortner said.
She called 911 and told them she was Nathan’s mother.
“Don’t shoot him,” she told the dispatcher. “I’m on my way.”
When she arrived at the Boulder Creek subdivision, a Missouri Highway Patrol officer turned her away and told her to go to the nearby Parkland Health Center.
“I sat in that hospital four hours and no one would tell me a thing,” Fortner said Tuesday night. “Then I saw the news on television.”
She returned home and called the coroner, Fortner said.
“I asked him if my son was there. He said, what’s his birth date?” Fortner said, starting to cry. “I told him and he said that was my son lying there.
Fortner said her son loved his family and friends. She believes the pressure of all his issues finally got to him.
“He wasn’t the monster they made him out to be,” Fortner said. “He had all this on his mind and he just couldn’t take any more of it.”
Nathan’s father telephoned the Daily Journal offices this morning after the paper had already gone to press to express his regrets to the victims’ families. “We regret everything that has happened and send our sympathies out to everyone involved in this incident,” he said.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.