It’s lunchtime in one of North Carolina’s suburbs, and Roger Self’s family are sitting down to have a meal. However, just as they start to tuck into their food, Roger excuses himself from the table. And within moments, the convivial scene has descended into chaos – and the lives of those present will never be the same.
Back in the 1970s, Roger Self worked for the local police department in the city of Gastonia, NC. Then, following his career in law enforcement, he decided to make the move into private investigation. And so in 1989 he opened Southeastern Loss Management, a business specializing in investigating employee misconduct.
For almost 30 years, Roger continued to oversee his investigation firm. In the meantime, he and his wife, Dianne, were busy raising a family – a son, Josh, and a daughter, Katelyn. And on top of that, Roger volunteered as a youth minister, spreading the word of his Baptist faith throughout the community.
However, Roger struggled with his own demons. Plagued by anxiety and depression, he began taking medicine in order to alleviate his symptoms. Over time, he also consulted a doctor and a psychiatrist about his condition. But even though Roger managed to stay out of hospital, his mental health issues continued to dog him.
By March 2018 matters had become so bad, in fact, that Roger requested his son to remove all firearms from the family home. His mental health continued to deteriorate, however. “It was a roller coaster,” Roger’s pastor, Austin Rammell, told AP in May 2018. “And in the last few days, it went from bad to really bad.”
Now while her father struggled with his condition, Katelyn was busy following in his footsteps by carving out a career in local law enforcement. At first, she joined Gaston County Sheriff’s Department as a jailer, but over the course of four years she climbed up the ranks. And by May 2018 she’d earned the title of deputy.
Meanwhile, Josh had also followed his father into the force, becoming an officer with the Gaston County police. And over time, he met and married a nurse named Amanda and started a family of his own. But although the Selfs may have appeared to be successful and thriving, Roger’s mental health continued to cast a shadow over them all.
So, concerned about her father’s condition, Katelyn decided to arrange a family brunch. Hoping that the get-together would make Roger feel better, she invited along her mother, Josh, Amanda and their children. They were all to have a meal at the rustic Surf and Turf Lodge in Bessemer City, a small community on the outskirts of Gastonia.
Keen to make it a special occasion, Katelyn also invited her fiance and future parents-in-law to attend. So, after church on May 20, 2018, the extended Self family arrived and settled into their seats at the busy restaurant. But even though everything seemed normal at first, events were about to take a terrifying turn.
To begin with, then, the Selfs appeared to be enjoying a regular family meal. They ordered appetizers and beverages, chatting and laughing with one another at their table close to the window. Soon, though, the 62-year-old Roger disappeared. Yet even so, assuming that he simply needed to use the restroom, the others weren’t concerned – at least at first.
However, Roger did not return. And after a while, Roger’s family spotted his vehicle moving in the parking lot. Before they had time to compute the situation, though, chaos broke out in the restaurant. Suddenly, Roger’s white SUV came crashing through one of the walls, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
In a May 2018 interview with The Gaston Gazette, Brandon Wilson, a waiter at the Surf and Turf Lodge, described the horrific scene that he had witnessed. “I saw a white jeep just fly past my face,” he explained. “It was so unreal. I saw chairs and tables and cups just flying everywhere. It just sounded like a tornado.”
Shockingly, Roger’s vehicle had bulldozed into the restaurant and crashed into the table where his own family were seated. And as the dust settled, both employees and patrons were horrified to see bodies pinned under the debris. Immediately, then, the witnesses got to work clearing the wreckage, hoping to free the victims trapped beneath.
However, for Katelyn and Amanda, it was too late. Tragically, both women were killed in the crash, while Josh and Dianne were left in critical conditions. Josh and Amanda’s 13-year-old daughter – Roger’s grandchild – did not escape unharmed, either, although luckily her injuries weren’t life-threatening.
When the authorities arrived, they found Roger still at the scene of the crash, where he was arrested and taken into custody. And soon Roger was charged with first-degree murder in relation to both Katelyn and Amanda’s deaths. At the time of writing, he does not appear to have entered a plea.
Police actually believe that the incident was not the result of a tragic accident – and that, instead, Roger intentionally caused the fatal crash. “He drove his car into the building, killing people, so that’s why we took him into custody immediately,” Police Chief Thomas Ellis Jr. announced at a press conference, according to MSN.com.
However, those who knew Roger have struggled to reconcile this horrific incident with the seemingly loving, religious family man he appeared to be. In fact, Rammell thinks his friend might have been deluded into believing that he was helping his loved ones. “It’s very possible that in his mind, he was thinking the best thing for this family was that they all go to heaven together,” Rammell said.
As Roger currently awaits his trial, the Gaston County community has in the meantime struggled to make sense of the incident. “Tragic, tragic loss of life,” Alan Cloniger, the Gaston County Sheriff, told WSOC in May 2018. “I’m asking people just to keep the family in your prayers – and the sheriff’s office, because we’re suffering right now.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Dianne had made a loving Facebook tribute to Roger just one day before the incident. “My husband has made me laugh. Wiped my tears. Hugged me tight. Watched me succeed. Seen me fail. Kept me strong. My husband is a promise that I will have A FRIEND FOREVER,” it read, according to the Daily Mail.
For Rammell, the crash was a tragedy – but not one for which Roger was directly responsible. “Family has been loving him through this,” Rammell told WSOC. “This was not a conscious act by their father, and they know that.” But will the law agree? At the time of writing, Roger is being held without bond, awaiting the date when a judge will decide his fate.