Adam Williams, all of 16 years old and looking forward to another year at Las Lomas High School filled with cross-country, track and Japanese class, probably never saw it coming.
He had gone on a drive before dusk Friday with his mother, Judith Williams, to the Lookout Point picnic area at Mt. Diablo State Park. He was walking around the car when the first shot was fired.
A bullet from her .357 revolver ripped through his back and stopped inside his chest, according to accounts by sheriff's investigators, the coroner's office and family. As he fell to his knees, Judith Williams put the gun to his head and fired again. Then she turned the gun on herself.
The bodies of mother and son were found by park staff closing up that night. Sheriff's detectives found a suicide note at her Walnut Creek home.
"At this stage everything is pointing to a murder-suicide," said sheriff's Capt. Daniel Terry.
The boy's father, Jim Williams, said his ex-wife had euthanized his son's pets — a dog and three cats — a week earlier without telling the teenager.
That, coupled with Judith Williams' dire financial straits because her nursing staffing business was struggling, were among the few clues foreshadowing what happened.
"For a reason no one will fully understand, she decided to take him with her," Jim Williams said.
The Las Lomas community and Adam Williams' family in Roseville mourned the loss of the good-natured teenager who was well-liked in his school, athletic and social circles.
"He was the best kid you would want to have in your class and on your team," said Andrew Scheiber, who coached Adam Williams and taught him Japanese, which he absorbed so rapidly he was approaching fluency after just two years. "He never had a disparaging word, and was an all-around great kid."
Adam Williams played the saxophone and was a good student, with the same weaknesses for video games and goofing around that afflict many teenage boys, his father said.
An outpouring of grief appeared on a Facebook page created by friends in his memory, and Jim Williams said he has received a seemingly endless stream of well wishes, photos and anecdotes, which will be presented at a memorial scheduled for Friday in Fair Oaks, outside Sacramento.
Jim Williams moved to St. Louis after he and Judith Williams divorced in 1996, but he returned to California two years ago, in part to reconnect with his son. During bimonthly drives with his father to his Roseville home, the two shared words and insights that Jim Williams said helped them recover lost time.
"The drive back-and-forth gave us time to talk. We'd talk about girls, and his relative success and lack thereof," he said with a laugh. "Those drives were the time I cherish the most. That was really special."