Robert Caldwell was living in fear. And for good reason -- police say the father of two was being stalked by someone with deadly intentions.
Robert Caldwell -- "Bobby" to his friends and family -- was the cornerstone of his close-knit family. He had a presence, even as a teenager. That caught the eye of fellow teen Tawnney Thomas.
"It was his first really serious girlfriend," said Robert's stepfather Dale DeThomas.
"He loved her. They were in love," said Robert's brother Tyler Caldwell.
The couple had three sons together: Robert Jr., Jacob and Michael.
"He's a fabulous father. All Bobby cared about really in life was being a good father," said Robert's mother Sally DeThomas.
Eventually Robert and Tawnney married. But within three years that one-time puppy love turned into irreconcilable differences.
"It was a little tumultuous," Tyler Caldwell tells Crime Watch Daily.
So they divorced. Tawnney was granted full custody of the boys. Soon Robert Caldwell met someone new.
"Well, of course, you've probably seen pictures of him. He's very handsome. Great personality. I mean I never really saw myself with somebody with three kids, but his kids were his world," said Candice Caldwell. "So I could tell he was just a really good guy from that. I mean I instantly fell in love with him."
_So at that time when you met him, he had a good relationship with his children and a decent relationship with his ex?
"Yeah, it was fine," said Candice.
But things didn't stay that way.
When did you see things changing?
"When Bobby moved in with me and we proceeded to have a life together," said Candice.
That life that soon included a new marriage and having two children of their own.
Robert's mom says Tawnney first kept the boys from Robert. Then she blocked visits with their own grandmother.
"None of us could see the kids, so Bobby went to court to see the kids, to get his visitation, and while that was going on, I went to court and got grandparents' visitation," said Sally DeThomas.
The court sides with Sally.
"We got the visitation, but the kids were not cooperating and she was not cooperating. The bottom line is the kids were alienated," said Sally.
But according to Tawnney, none of that is true. In court papers, Tawnney said her boys did not want to see their dad or grandmother. No matter what she did, the kids refused to go. And as the custody battle intensified, Tyler says his brother stumbled across something sordid, something Robert had often suspected about his ex-wife.
"My brother called me one day and he said 'I finally found it,' and I didn't know what he was talking about, and he said 'Check your email,'" said Tyler Caldwell. "So I checked my email, and it's pictures of Tawnney's escort website that she created.
"I mean, we weren't overly shocked, because there is a history of that in the family," said Tyler.
You're alleging that she's not the only one in her family in this line of business.
"Yeah," said Tyler.
The family claims they took the information about the website to the court, but claims nothing happened. And things went from dirty to downright nasty. Tawnney made allegations of abuse against Robert -- and more. At one point Tawnney made an accusation that the children weren't even Robert's, but they belonged to Sterling Roberts, Tawnney's live-in boyfriend. The family claims they have two kids together.
"She claimed that Sterling was the father of all three kids, which forced Bobby to take a DNA test, and of course it came back Bobby was the father of all three kids, but it was just a delay tactic, it's all it was," said Tyler. "As soon as Bobby got close to getting the kids, Tawnney would do some new thing, whether it was some new abuse claim or whatever it was, it was just to delay the whole court process."
Those attempts were eventually thwarted. The court found Tawnney in contempt for keeping the boys away from Bobby and Sally.
Then, 15 months later, a day Robert had been fighting for for four long years. The court grants him full custody of the boys. Tawnney is granted some parenting time too.
"It was a very exciting day," said Candice Caldwell. "We had just bought a new house so all the kids could have their own rooms and everything. The first four or five days, it was kind of tough. Then they started to realize they love their dad and everything that was said wasn't true."
The family is finally healing and becoming whole again. Then, 18 days later:
"911, what's your emergency?"
"Yeah, I got a guy chasing me over here on Sutton and Jamestown and he's just tried to lure me, um, I'm assuming to try to kill me. He's right behind me in his car. I'm kind of afraid he's gonna pull a gun on me. He's in an Eclipse with a drop-top, Eclipse, a gray Eclipse. He's starting to run now."
"He's starting to run, like run away? What do you mean?"
"Like, drive fast, he's trying to get away."
"OK, so he's not following you anymore?"
"No, he's in front of me now, I'm pretty sure he's gonna be armed and dangerous."
"OK, stay away from him then. Do you see his license plate?"
"They look like they're 30-day tags."
"OK, what's your name sir?"
"My name is Robert Caldwell."
"Do you know who it is?"
"Yeah, I do."
"And who is this? Who's the guy?"
> "His name is Sterling Roberts. He's my ex-wife's boyfriend, and they just lost full custody of all our kids."
"OK, this is what we're going to do. We're gonna meet with you, and then we'll get a hold of him later."
"Well I kind of don't want him to get away because I don't want him to..."
"Sir, that's not for you to worry about, that's for the police to worry about."
"I'm a little shaken up."
"Go back to the Jamestown Police Department. We'll have a deputy meet you there, OK?"
"OK, thank you. I'm gonna call my wife and have her get my kids out of my house."
"My heart has never raced so fast. I don't know that I even buckled the kids properly in their car seats. It scared me," said Robert's wife Candice Caldwell.
Thankfully, everyone was OK. Robert Caldwell filed a police report, and the family tried to put the terrifying episode behind them.
Did you think after this incident that everything was safe now?
"I did," said Candice.
But just 10 days later, on August 15, 2017, around 6 p.m., that peace was destroyed forever. Robert took the kids to counseling.
"He just texted me to tell me he was going to be bringing the kids home to me and he was going to go to the gym," said Candice.
The counseling session ends, and as Robert and his three boys leave the therapist's office and walk mere steps outside, someone approached them.
Robert Caldwell was shot multiple times, right in front of his young kids.
The horrified children scattered. Jacob and Michael ran back inside, and Robert Jr. ran to a nearby Bob Evans restaurant.
"I could see where Bobby was on my phone, from Find Your Friends [app], and about 6:20 I looked to see where he was because he should have been home by then, and my mom called me and told me that my aunt had went to Bob Evans to get food and she couldn't," said Candice. "There was a shooting, and I just instantly knew it was Bobby because it showed that he was still there."
Candice rushed to the scene, past the caution tape and up to a distraught Robert Jr. sitting in the back of a police cruiser.
"I asked Robert, 'Was that your dad?' And he said 'Yeah,' and I just said 'Is he dead? Is he dead?' And Robert said 'I don't know,'" said Candice.
Sadly, Robert Caldwell died at the scene.
"Somebody shot my son many, many, many times," said Robert's mother Sally. "In front of the children. He was a beautiful person. He didn't deserve that at all. He was just taking his kids to counseling. He was trying to help them."
Robert's family says they know exactly who the trigger-man was: the same person who had been chasing Robert just days earlier.
"We knew it was Sterling," said Sally DeThomas.
Detectives tracked down surveillance video of the parking lot, showing what many believe was Sterling Roberts near the scene around the time of the shooting.
"We could tell it was him," said Sally.
And in addition to the surveillance video, cops have witnesses. But would they be reliable?
There are three witnesses who could finger him. The boys clearly knew who Sterling was.
"Right. Absolutely," said Candice.
And did the boys ever say anything to you?
"No," said Candice. "When I first saw Robert, I did ask him who, and he just said he didn't know."
Two days later Sterling Roberts was named a suspect in Robert Caldwell's murder. But cops couldn't find him -- he was on the run.
Sterling Roberts is no stranger to law enforcement. He has an extensive rap sheet and even has done time in prison.
Forty-eight hours later, and almost 500 miles away, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, cops catch up with Roberts and charge him with Caldwell's murder.
Why would he want to kill your husband?
"I believe because somebody told him to," said Candice Caldwell.
And who would that be?
"Bobby's ex-wife," said Candice.
Bobby's ex-wife and the mother of their three boys, Tawnney Caldwell.
Two days later, Robert's grief-stricken family buried him at a private funeral. Then later that night, another tragedy was about to unfold.
"Robert and Michael went and played video games, and Jacob said 'Do you mind if I watch a movie downstairs?' And I said 'No, go ahead,'" said Sally DeThomas.
Before going to bed, Sally, who now has temporary custody of the boys, checks on them. She saw Robert Jr. and Michael still playing video games. But she couldn't find Jacob anywhere.
"Then it just hit me: he's gone," Sally said. "This all happened in minutes. I figured out he had gone through a window."
In an unbelievable turn, 14-year-old Jacob Caldwell, a witness to his father's murder, had disappeared.
"We called the police and we thought that he'd be found really quick," said Dale DeThomas.
"We did a search. We actually were able to pick him up on video at the local Walmart parking lot where he was walking back and forth in front of the store," said Sugarcreek Township Police Chief Michael Brown. "Body language indicated that he was perhaps looking for someone or waiting for someone to pick him up. Then suddenly he walked out into the parking lot out of view of the camera."
Jacob Caldwell was last seen on August 21, 2017.
Police are working overtime, desperately looking for Jacob and diligently investigating his father's heinous murder.
Then, six months later, a major break: five more arrests in the killing. Bobby's ex-wife Tawnney Caldwell was charged with murder and five other counts. Her mother, Chandra Harmon, was charged with tampering with a witness by intimidation. Tawnney's stepfather James Harmon and Sterling Roberts' two brothers, Chance Deakin and Christopher Roberts, all charged with aiding and abetting.
It seems based on the indictments that it was a family-hatched plot to kill your son.
"It appears that way," said Sally DeThomas.
Do you have any theories on why they would want to kill your son?
"Well, he got custody and was being buried a month later, so I think that seems to be pretty obvious with that," said Sally.
Robert Caldwell's sister Katie Swift believes there may have been a conspiracy to kill her brother -- but there was one person calling the shots: her ex-sister-in-law, Tawnney Caldwell.
"They're not convicted yet, but I do believe that she was the mastermind behind it," Katie Swift tells Crime Watch Daily. "I think that she's a sociopath."
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Tawnney Caldwell's attorney John Rion for a comment. A representative responded, saying the investigation is just starting and Mr. Rion may be able to make a statement at a later date.
These are incredibly serious charges. How could a mother condone the killing of a father in front of the children? You can't undo that in their minds.
"Absolutely. We have the same question. The fact that she would put her children in harm's way, to send your kid to a shootout is insanity, to actually possibly harm one of your own children just to get Bobby out of the picture, it's unthinkable," said Tyler Caldwell.
Jacob Caldwell has now been missing for seven months.
"There's really two ways that this could go: It's, he's either being hidden, or he's harmed in some way, and both are bad," said Tyler.
What do you think happened to Jacob?
"Well I can only speculate, I can say that everyone in my family has cooperated with the police," said Sally DeThomas. "Jacob's mother, Jacob's other grandmother, Jacob's aunt and Jacob's cousin, those are four people that we know that the police have tried to interview and talk to. None of them have cooperated with the police. I think he left and most likely is with that family, based on that fact that they're not showing any concern for his whereabouts."
If Jacob were truly missing, in their eyes, they'd be in a panic trying to find him.
"They would be in a panic, absolutely," said Sally. "They have shown no panic."
So you then infer from this that they likely know where he is?
"Yes. I believe that," said Sally.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Tawnney's family regarding these allegations. They declined to comment.
Until the day Jacob Caldwell is found and Robert Caldwell gets justice, all Sally DeThomas can do is push through with love as she continues to care for her other two grandsons.
"I wake up every morning and I have a thought and a question," said Sally. "My first thought is 'Oh my God, Bobby's gone. How am I going to live without him?' And then I have a question: 'And where's Jacob?' Then I just get up and try to make it through the day, because I have these two children living with us. So we have to go on. That's what Bobby would want. We want justice for him and we want Jacob to come home."
The FBI is offering a $15,000 reward for information that leads to the location of Jacob Caldwell.