If there were problems between Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kassandra Michelle Perkins, they were not obvious on Facebook, where they were the picture of a happy family. Clearly, the reality was different.
Early Saturday morning Belcher, 25, killed Perkins, his 22-year-old girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, before taking his own life in front of his coach and the Chiefs’ general manager outside a practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium. The murder-suicide shocked Belcher’s teammates and coaches, though the team and the NFL made the controversial decision to go forward with a scheduled game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
- Related: Belcher dead in apparent murder-suicide
- Related: Chiefs owner talks about decision to let team play on Sunday
- Related: Team stunned by murder-suicide
But in the age of social media, little remains private, even with both victims gone. By Sunday, a fake Twitter account supposedly belonging to Belcher, and containing what appears to be a donation hoax, had been shut down. Meanwhile, some users took to Twitter to call on people to remember Perkins as the original victim of the tragedy, despite Belcher’s greater notoriety.
Also because of social media, images of Belcher and Perkins, and of their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, have survived, leaving a public that didn’t know them personally to sift through images of their lives that seem to make the tragedy all the more inexplicable. Both Perkins’ and Belcher’s Facebook pages remained open on Sunday, and they are filled with pictures of the couple with their little girl, who is now reportedly being cared for by family members. Belcher’s mother, Sheryl Shepherd, who lives in upstate New York, was staying with the couple for a while, the Associated Press reports, to help care for the baby. It was Shepherd who called police to report that Perkins, who she referred to as her daughter, had been shot multiple times by Belcher.
Just ten minutes later, Perkins pulled into the parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium, thanked his coach, Romeo Crennel, and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, for giving him an opportunity to play in the NFL, turned, and shot himself in the head.
Perkins’ Facebook page is filled with recent pictures of what appeared to be a happy family — the couple and their daughter were photographed at a Chiefs’ Halloween event October 23rd, taking the infant on her first airplane ride, or lounging at their Kansas City home, and in a compilation of photos from Thanksgiving, just over a week before the tragic events Saturday. Perkins’ comments in the photos are festooned with heart symbols. In one, depicting Belcher’s athleticism on the field, she declares herself to be “in love with Superman.”
But friends and relatives of the couple say the pictures don’t tell the whole story. According to Newsday, the couple’s relationship was strained, particularly after Zoey was born:
In a phone interview Sunday, Angela Perkins, 32, who said she is the victim’s cousin, said Belcher and Perkins who she called Kasi had “been having a lot of problems. They weren’t getting along for quite a while.”
Perkins, who said she spent time at the couple’s home both before and after their 3-month-old daughter was born, said the stress of having a baby just before the season and Belcher’s constant time away from home for practice and road games “really put a strain” on their relationship.
“There was just a lot going on. She was stressed. He was stressed,” said Perkins. Arguing was “a regular thing. It just started to go bad, but they had the child and they were trying to make it work.”
But others who grew up with Belcher in upstate New York were struggling to make sense of his actions, Newsday reported:
“No one knows what happened but those two. I wish he would have said something to someone . . . We’re all coming together. It shocks all of us,” said Eric Oakes, 20, a cousin of Belcher.
… Oakes said Belcher was “more than a cousin, he was a father figure.” Oakes, a former running back for West Babylon High School who was wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey with Belcher’s number, 59, said, “He’s the reason I started playing football.”
Oakes said his cousin didn’t experience any head trauma as of late from football and that he wasn’t on any medication.
“It’s hard to figure out,” said Emanual Logan, who lives next door, and watched Belcher grow up.
Police have not offered a motive in Saturday’s murder-suicide, other than to say the couple had been fighting recently. Funeral arrangements for both Perkins and Belcher were pending as of Sunday, and USA Today reports Zoey will go to New York with her grandmother to live, at least for now.
It may never be known why Belcher committed the horrific acts of Saturday, but in cyberspace, the couple remains picture perfect.