Police found Justin and Amber Hicks, both 31, shot to death Thursday morning in their Cobb County home. Their 2-year-old son was recovered at the scene, reportedly unharmed.
Lanz, who was reportedly a neighbor of the victims, was arrested at the scene of a separate home invasion Friday night and was charged with the killings on Saturday, police said.
Matthew Lanz Accused of Multiple Home Invasions
Authorities did not immediately identify a suspect or a motive after discovering the Hicks’ bodies 9 a.m. Thursday, except to say they believed “one or more unknown assailants” entered their home some time Wednesday night.
Police did not say they saw signs of forced entry or robbery, and said the crime was being investigated as a “double homicide.” They did not report recovering a murder weapon.
On Friday, Matthew Lanz was arrested at the scene of a home invasion in Sandy Springs, some 30 miles southeast of the Hicks’ home in Acworth. Police in that town said they shot the 22-year-old after he stabbed an officer who responded to the break-in. He was reportedly treated at an area hospital before being booked in a Fulton County jail.
The next day, Cobb County officials investigating the Hicks murders said they’d obtained a warrant to charge Lanz with two counts of murder, two counts of aggravated assault, home invasion, and a weapon charge, accoding to local reports.
Investigators did not reveal the evidence linking Matthew Lanz in the Cobb County killings, but WSBTV reported that he lived on Delphinium Boulevard, just around the corner from the Hicks’ home on Verbena Drive, and that their houses shared a backyard fence.
Police have not identified a motive, though the outlet reported that the 22-year-old’s brother, Austin Lanz, used to live with him on Delphinium Boulevard and had feuded with the prior owners of the Hicks’ Verbena Drive house.
Austin Lanz, 27, was reportedly cited by police earlier this year for harassing the home’s owners with taunting signs. When he was arrested in April for breaking into the house, authorities said two deputies were injured taking him into custody.
Those owners have since moved away, and Justin and Amber Hicks had only been living in the home since September, the report noted.
In August, Austin Lanz was shot and killed by Pentagon police, after he stabbed an officer to death in what authorities called an “unprovoked attack.”
Investigators have not revealed any possible motive in the Hicks murder, and it’s not clear if Matthew Lanz had any relationship with the couple before their deaths. WSBTV reported that Cobb County police were searching his Delphinium Boulevard home Friday night, but police have not yet announced their findings.
Lanz remains in custody in Fulton County for charges stemming from the alleged Friday night break-in. Details on his arraignment and possible extradition to Cobb County for the murder charges were not immediately available Sunday.
Justin and Amber Hicks Mourned by Family, Community
Friends and loved ones of Justin and Amber Hicks said they couldn’t understand why the couple would have been targeted in such a gruesome attack.
“They were just really sweet people, so I just can’t imagine who did this to them. It’s terrible,” neighbor Hannah Mabrey told WSBTV.
“It’s insane,” agreed Riley Gasaway, another neighbor. “This is a very nice neighborhood and [we] never have police in here and helicopters flying. It’s very crazy.”
In a press release Friday, Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services Chief Tim Prather said Justin Hicks was “a highly motivated, energetic individual who deeply loved his job as a firefighter.”
“Justin has touched and impacted many lives, and he will be dearly missed,” Prather said. “Our hearts are broken as we mourn the loss of a member of our family and his lovely wife.”
The Hicks’ 2-year-old son was reportedly unharmed in the horrifying attack. A neighbor told the Atlanta Journal Constitution she saw police turn the child over to his grandparents, but it’s not clear if they will keep custody.
A friend of Justin and Amber Hicks launched a GoFundMe page Friday to assist in funeral and childcare costs for their son. As of Sunday, the page has raised $35,000 of its $50,000 goal.