The mother-of-three who was killed when her estranged husband drove the entire family into an Arizona lake was desperately trying to get her children back from the man, who had threatened earlier that he would take the kids and never be seen again, the woman’s family told INSIDE EDITION.
Glenn Baxter, 27, allegedly drove his Nissan Armada into Tempe Town Lake, backing up then gunning it off land and flipping the vehicle before it landed in the water about 12:15 p.m. Sunday, Tempe police said.
His estranged wife, Danica Baxter, 25, and their three young children— all under the age of four— were in the car. Police labeled the incident a murder-suicide.
“What happened inside that vehicle remains a mystery," Lt. Mike Pooley with Tempe Police said during a press conference, adding that the couple were separated and met that night to discuss the children.
But Danica’s family told IE that Danica rushed to meet Glenn after he repeatedly called her to tell her to get the children, and then said he was going to take them away.
“That night, she did not go over there to work anything out, she was just trying to get her kids,” Danica’s cousin, Janay Pierson, 17, said. “He was threatening that he would take the kids and she would never see them again. That’s the only reason she got in that truck; because her babies were in that truck.”
Danica and Pierson’s aunt, 39-year-old Tamika Franklin, agreed, saying: “He had the kids and she was supposed to be picking the kids up Sunday morning. But he was calling her phone, telling her ‘Come get the kids, come get the kids now.’
“My sister (Danica’s mother) offered to go; she said ‘Do you want me to go with you?’ My niece said, ‘No mom, I’ll be ok, I’ll call you when we get home’ and she never called,” Franklin continued. “My sister ended up falling asleep and she was woken up by the detectives.”
Two witnesses jumped into the lake after Glenn’s SUV and pulled out Danica.
Police also jumped into the water and pulled out little Zariyah, who had turned one year old that previous Friday, her big brother Nazyiah, 2, but all died at a local hospital, Pooley said.
Glenn also died at the hospital, cops said.
A few hours later, investigators discovered the couple’s three-year-old son, Reighn, was unaccounted for. His body was removed from the submerged SUV about 10 a.m., police said.
“He was located in the very backseat, in the third seat, he was strapped in his car seat and he was still wearing his pajamas,” Pooley said.
Surveillance footage that captured the moments before incident showed what investigators said was Glenn get out of the SUV to walk near the lake and place Danica’s cell phone under a park bench before he drove into the water. At no point does Danica exit the vehicle, police said.
"(The video footage shows) no attempt for Danica to get out, the children, you don’t see them in the video,” Pooley said.
“I'm trying to figure out how he parked the truck and was walking along the lake and there was no movement at the car," Franklin said. "I'm thinking my niece was unconscious already.”
Pierson agreed with her aunt, saying: “If she was conscious, she would have either locked the door, or honked the horn.”
“She would have scooted over to the driver’s seat,” Franklin said. “I just can't see my niece not trying to get out of there."
Glenn and Danica were married for three years after one year of dating, Franklin said.
“He became too controlling,” Franklin said. “He wanted to control her every movement. She would go to the store; (he would say) ‘You’ve been gone such and such a time, why aren’t you back yet?’”
Franklin said Glenn treated parenting like a boot camp, forced the children to sit quietly and discouraged them from running around.
“He didn’t let the kids be kids,” Franklin said. “He would say ‘Sit there! Sit up straight! Wipe your nose, stop slobbering, stop drooling’— are you serious? They were kids!
“That was the main part of her deciding that enough was enough,” she said.
They were separated for about eight months and Danica was planning to serve Glenn with divorce papers, family said.
“It had been months, I don’t know why he decided to do something now,” Franklin said, choking back sobs. “She was trying to move on. It seemed like he was trying to move on, too.”
Pierson said her cousin tried to keep most of her marital issues private, but the family was aware of Glenn’s fearsome behavior. “She was scared if she left him, what he would do, and her worst fears came true,” Pierson said.
Pierson created a GoFundMe page to offset funeral costs for the four victims and was touched by the outpouring of support from near and far.
“People are going out of their way try to help; tons of support, tons of emails. We’re very grateful,” she said. “She was just a very hard-working and loving mother who only wanted the best for her kids. That’s why she was trying to leave that relationship.”
Franklin tearfully agreed, saying: “Danica, she was such a good girl, such a good mother."
“She did everything for her kids. It’s so sad that they don’t even get to grow up to live their lives,” she said through sobs. “I just can’t understand how somebody can do this? How can somebody be so selfish to do that?”
Glenn Baxter’s family declined to comment.
“Let them do all the talking, we’ve got nothing to say,” Glenn Baxter Sr., the father of the accused, said to INSIDE EDITION.