Mother of man killed at Lawrence motel found dead; estranged husband said he killed her before shootout near Legends

A missing woman was found dead in Arkansas hours after police fatally shot her estranged, rifle-toting husband near a popular shopping area in Kansas City, Kansas, authorities said Wednesday.

The body of 49-year-old Sylvia Ussery-Pearson was found Tuesday night in northwestern Arkansas’ Benton County, police said during a news conference in Overland Park, Kansas, where she was from. The discovery was made hours after Charles Pearson, a 21-year veteran Army Ranger who had completed two combat tours in Iraq, walked into a Country Inn & Suites and told the general manager that he killed his wife.

Pearson, 51, said he was armed and heading to the nearby Legends Outlet shopping district.

Police in Kansas City, Kansas, said that when law enforcement confronted Pearson at an intersection, he fired several shots at officers, who returned fire and killed him.

Ussery-Pearson had been missing since Monday after leaving her home with her husband, who lived in nearby Lenexa, Kansas. Overland Park Police Chief Frank R. Donchez Jr. said her family filed a missing person report later that day after they were unable to contact her. Police then contacted her husband, who allowed police to search his home and car. The Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that he told law enforcement that he didn’t know where his wife was.

Donchez said Pearson later called family and friends and said he was suicidal before going to the shopping area, where the shooting happened.

A handwritten note found in Pearson’s Lenexa home led law enforcement to search the upscale Whitney Mountain Lodge, located above Beaver Lake, and find her body near a water tank, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office release. It wasn’t clear whether Pearson had a connection to the area.

Donchez said Ussery-Pearson’s death is believed to be a homicide but the cause hasn’t been released. He said no other suspects are being sought. He said the couple had been estranged since February. Court records and friends paint a picture of a turbulent relationship.

Ussery-Pearson’s son, 23-year-old Cameron Hooks, was killed in a shooting at the Lawrence Motel 6 in September 2017.

She spoke to the Journal-World in October 2018 at the sentencing for two men who were convicted in her son’s killing, describing the unending agony of losing Hooks, whom she called “my child.”

She told the judge her son was a “good person” who came from “good stock,” with parents and other relatives who worked in law enforcement, the military and the federal government.

Ussery-Pearson told the Journal-World that Hooks came out for her wedding the summer before he was shot. He was living in North Carolina but no longer had relatives there, so she begged him to stay to be closer to her and his siblings.

Hooks quickly got a job working at the Amazon warehouse, where he’d already gotten a raise and clearance to operate a forklift, Ussery-Pearson said. She said Hooks “trusted” someone he’d just met at work, and came with him to Lawrence that night.

“My son came to Kansas June 1, and he was dead Sept. 2,” Ussery-Pearson told the Journal-World at the time. “What they did is going to affect me and mine forever.”

Lenexa police said officers responded to four calls involving the couple, including one in October 2018 in which Pearson was charged with misdemeanor criminal damage to property. Pearson, who allegedly broke a mirror, was booked into the Johnson County jail and released the next day after posting bond. The court records indicate a diversion agreement in the case was signed Nov. 28, 2018.

Police said officers also responded to two disturbances in January and a “civil matter” in February, but no arrests were made in those three incidents.

One of Ussery-Pearson’s friends, Denise Skaggs, told The Kansas City Star that Pearson was abusive and refused to see a counselor for what Ussery-Pearson suspected was post-traumatic stress disorder. Skaggs said Ussery-Pearson told her “she was done” with the marriage and moved out.

Skaggs, who described Pearson as a “loose cannon,” said Ussery-Pearson didn’t want him to know where she was living but found him “lurking around.”

Donchez, with Overland Park police, said he didn’t know whether Pearson had PTSD from his military service.

“We need to do more for our veterans that return from combat,” he said. “This may or may not be an unfortunate circumstance of his service.”

Before Ussery-Pearson’s body was found, officials in Cass County, Missouri, searched a patch of land outside of Harrisonville that belonged to U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler. Police said the reason for the search was that Ussery-Pearson’s phone had pinged on Hartzler’s land about 40 miles south of Kansas City.

Hartzler’s spokesman, Steve Walsh, said Wednesday that the Hartzlers didn’t know Ussery-Pearson or Pearson.

— Previous Journal-World reporting by Sara Shepherd contributed to this story.

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