updated 11/3/2009 4:24:05 PM ET 2009-11-03T21:24:05

A North Carolina businessman who coached basketball at the religious school where his teenagers attended classes fatally shot his family in their upscale home before turning the gun on himself, police said Tuesday.

Authorities would not hint at what might have driven William Maxwell to kill his wife and two children Monday night. Bewildered friends described the Maxwells as active churchgoers and good neighbors, with a student-athlete son who helped his father maintain a meticulous lawn around their home in Fayetteville and a daughter who was a cheerleader applying to colleges.

“Billy, if you knew him, loved his family. Everybody knew that. That’s what makes this so tragic,” said John Cook, pastor of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, where every member of the family was active. “Obviously something tragic was going on for this to happen.”

Police said Maxwell, 47, shot and killed his wife, Kathryn, 43, and their children, 17-year-old Connor and 15-year-old Cameron, before killing himself. Connor Maxwell was found in an upstairs bedroom, the other three bodies were in the kitchen.

William Maxwell was a builder and land developer who built residential subdivisions in Cumberland and Harnett counties, said John McKinney of Fayetteville, who described himself as Maxwell’s business partner and friend for more than a decade.

Richard Wiggins, an attorney for Maxwell’s business operations, said Maxwell had been “concerned about a lot of things lately,” including some legal matters related to a single-family subdivision he was working on. But Wiggins said those issues were close to resolution.

“I was absolutely shocked and just could not believe anything like this could happen,” Wiggins said.

Maxwell followed his father into the residential real estate business and also owned a couple of local car washes, while his wife Kathryn was a stay-at-home mother who taught Sunday school at Snyder Memorial.

'Just wonderful people'
Connor Maxwell performed in a dance troupe and sang in the big Christmas celebration at the family’s church, which has about 1,800 members, Cook said. She was a senior and a cheerleader at Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville, where her brother was in the 9th grade and their father coached junior varsity basketball.

Years ago, Kathryn Maxwell taught in Fayetteville’s public schools, said neighbor and state Sen. Tony Rand, whose wife worked with her.

Kay Edwards, who has lived next door since 1994, said she would often see family members walking their small dog through the quiet, leafy neighborhood. Police said the black schnauzer was unharmed.

“They were just wonderful people,” Edwards said. A steady stream of cars drove through the neighborhood Tuesday, slowing for drivers to gape at the crime scene. One woman came to lay a bunch of yellow daisies on the lawn.

Students at the school gathered to remember the teens Tuesday, telling stories about Cameron and Connor. William Warren, the principal at Village Christian Academy, said William Maxwell was excited about the upcoming basketball season.

“Billy Maxwell was an inspiration to our young people as one of our basketball coaches,” the school said in a statement.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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