For more than two decades, Lori Jo Cole has been reaching out to the women in her ex-husband’s life in an effort to warn them about his abusive history. She had not been able to get in touch with his last fiancee when she learned he had killed her and turned the gun on himself.
Cole was shaken.
“I prayed this would never happen,” she said. “I’ll always be sorry an innocent life was taken.”
The Connecticut resident was Daniel Robert Gray’s second wife when they lived in Maine in the late 1980s and early ’90s, she said. Cole described constant abuse and threats from Gray, including his putting a gun to their daughter’s head as a way of threatening Cole.
During their relationship, Gray's first wife contacted her and warned her he was abusive. After their relationship ended, Cole decided to reach out to other women. Gray caught on and stopped telling her when he was in a new relationship, and Cole wondered whether it was healthy to hold a grudge so tightly.
Then Cole read about the death Friday of Gray’s fiancee, Sandra Mae Studer, 42, whom he shot in the head before he turned the gun on himself at his Hephzibah home, according to authorities.
Cole said she regrets not reaching Studer. She said she and her daughter, Jamie, both tried but were unable to reach Studer.
“It was too short a period of time,” she said.
According to their Facebook pages, Gray and Studer became engaged in July.
On Friday, police were called to the 3100 block of Bath Patterson Road and found Studer dead and Gray barely alive. He was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, were he died Saturday afternoon.
Investigators waited for the results of an autopsy Monday to determine whether Gray had died from a self-inflicted wound because there was some confusion about what
happened at the house among some of Studer’s family members, Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Vinson said.
Cole said Gray has been married at least six times. Public records show he was divorced in Richmond County in 2008.
In September, SWAT was called to his home, where he had barricaded himself inside with a gun. He was taken into custody and given a mental health evaluation, which was not his first, Cole said.
When she met Gray in April 1987, it was a whirlwind romance that ended up with her pregnant. Then the abuse started, she said. After pressure from her family, the couple was married in September 1988, a month before Jamie was born.
“I knew he was going to kill my child,” she said. “I told every authority he was a time bomb.”
While Gray was at work one day a few months later, Cole left with their daughter. Gray made occasional visits for the next year but was eventually checked into a hospital in 1989 for a mental evaluation, Cole said. He moved to Augusta after that.
Because the couple had a child together, Cole stayed in touch with Gray. When she would find out about a new woman in his life, she would reach out to warn her, as Gray’s first wife had done for her.
“I was always met with disbelief,” she said.
Though she never spoke to Studer, Cole hopes her story will help women get out of relationships before they turn violent.
“Jamie and I will always be upset he took another life,” she said.