Albert Peterson shot his wife dead and two sons hours after going to church because he dreaded the thought of Obama winning the election, a family friend has revealed.
A confidante of the family for the past 25 years has spoken to MailOnline about the strength and grace of the Peterson family, as well as the torment that plagued Albert which drove him to shoot dead his wife Kathleen and his two sons Christopher and Mathew at their suburban home in DC on Sunday.
A history of mental illness, the loss of a dear uncle, and a growing fear of Obama winning a second term in the White House took its toll on the mind of Mr Peterson, a wealthy defense contractor, the friend said.
'He just did not want his kids inheriting this mess,' Maggie L, who did not wish to reveal her last name, told MailOnline. 'Sometimes we thought he might take his own life when he was so depressed. We never thought he would take Kathie's.'
Albert, 57, Kathleen, 52, Matthew, 16, and Christopher, 13, were found Tuesday just after noon inside their home in Herndon, Virgina. Co-workers reported to police that they were concerned that Mr and Mrs Peterson had not reported to work for the past two days.
Mr Peterson was a defense contractor and Mrs Peterson worked at Blackbird Technologies, a company that specializes in defense, law enforcement and intelligence work.
Chris was an eighth grader at Rachel Carson Middle School and Matthew was a sophomore at Westfield High School. Both were avid soccer players and active at their church.
The preliminary police investigation indicates that Albert Peterson killed his wife and their children before taking his own life. Each of the deceased died of gunshot wounds to the upper body.
Maggie had been a friend of the family for the past three decades.
'I've known Kathie since I was 21. She's been like a sister to me,' Maggie said. 'If she knew her husband would have done this to her, she would have protected those boys till the end.'
Albert and Kathleen Ortiz were married some 25 years ago, Maggie said, and met over a mutual love of fitness.Mrs Peterson, who was Puerto Rican, had an indomitable spirit, always active and pursuing adventure, Maggie said.
'That girl had such a zest for life,' Maggie sad. 'She was a consummate planner. She never wanted to waste an ounce of life.'
She continued: 'If I was having a crappy day, she would come. If I needed advice, I said, "Kathie, what do I do? What do I say?" and she always set me straight. She always had advice. She was always there.'
But as time went on, Mr Peterson's paranoia and the demons from his past prevented him from enjoying life, his friends and his family.
'He's had difficulty his whole life,' Maggie said. 'He had a rough time with paranoia.'
At a young age, Maggie said, both his father and his uncle committed suicide.
'His dad suffered from alopecia and it was something he couldn't live with,' Maggie said.
After Mr Peterson's Uncle John killed himself, Maggie said that both Petersons were unnerved as they had frequently sent their children to his home to spend time with him.
'When Uncle John died, [Mr Peterson] kicked himself and said "God, what would have happened if our sons were there when it happened?"' Maggie recalled.
Thinking back on the eerie precursor, Maggie is still dumbfounded.
'It just never crossed our minds,' she said.
Mr Peterson's life was punctuated by bouts of paranoia that became so severe, he wallowed in his depression, gained weight, and contemplated taking his own life.
In one dark episode, after his mother died five years ago, his wife had to pull him from the brink of suicide.
'Kathie was a strong person and she probably put her foot down, like she did five years ago,' Maggie said. 'Kathie couldn't believe the way he was acting and how he thought.'
'She wanted to be out doing something - biking, hiking, tubing and I know that frustrated Al. She just wanted to be living life and he took that from her,' she said.
Maggie said that this spring, Mr Peterson lost his Uncle Bill to an infection, whom he looked up to as the family patriarch. 'He felt like there was no one left in his family,' Maggie said.
Mrs Peterson's family never fully warmed to Mr Peterson, Maggie said.
'I know that Kathie's brother hates him right now. Kathie's brother didn't speak to Al,' Maggie said. 'He saw something in Al that probably didn't sit well with him.'
Recently, Mr Peterson began writing paranoid emails to his friends and family about politics on a daily basis, sometimes even more frequently, Maggie said.
'I got emails and the emails stopped all of a sudden last week,' Maggie said. 'He felt that our God-given rights were being taken away. He didn't like where the country was going.'
Mr Peterson, also mentioned pressures at work that troubled Maggie.
Explaining his increasingly erratic behavior, she said: 'He said he wanted to expose something at work. He also got the impression at work, that if they didn't vote for Obama and get him elected, they would lose their jobs,'
'We don't know. Maybe she put her foot down Sunday night and told him "Al get it together,"' Maggie said, noting that both Kathleen and Albert had security clearances.
'When Al was here last time, he was pretty worked up,' Maggie said. 'They were very well off people and they saved a lot of money. He couldn't understand how the government could be so irresponsible and he thought it would be on the backs of his boys.'
Police have confirmed Mr Peterson's feelings toward politics were unusually passionate, but declined to speculate what precipitated the tragedy.
'We don’t know the motive in this tragic case,' Lucy Caldwell of the Fairfax Police Department said.
'We are aware that the father had strong political opinions but cannot speculate as to how those opinions related to this case. We will, most likely, never know exactly why this occurred.'
As close as she was to the family, Maggie still cannot come to grips with what happened.
'To think that their father could do this to them...' Maggie said, weeping. 'The boys were so beautiful.'
Matthew was born premature, Maggie said, and she remembers how small he was- tiny enough to fit in the palm of her hand.
'This boy was something special. Matthew didn’t have a mean bone in body. He protected kids that were bullied in school,' she said.
Last weekend, Maggie, Kathleen, Matthew and Christopher attended a Mitt Romney rally together.
That's when Matthew told Maggie his plans for college.
'I asked him where he wanted to go to college. He said Liberty University. He was so excited about going,' she said, weeping.
Mr Peterson never made it to the rally. He got stuck trying to park the car and since his knees were bad, he couldn't walk to the event.
'Those boys were raised by one of the best Moms. Kathie knew every minute where her boys were. Those boys were never in trouble.'
Students at Rachel Carson Middle School and Westfield High School wore black to school on Wednesday to mourn their classmates. On Thursday, they wore white as a sign of peace.