Slain Port St. Lucie couple Blake and Mary Jo Hadley recalled as quiet, gentle

Their violent deaths difficult to comprehend

PORT ST. LUCIE — Friends and co-workers describe Blake and Mary Jo Hadley as calm and quiet, never prone to anger or violence.

That made their violent deaths July 16, which detectives said was at the hands of their 17-year-old son Tyler Hadley, all the more difficult to comprehend.

Blake Hadley "was so quiet and gentle," recalled Brian Nichols, who worked with him for 15 to 20 years at the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island. "I don't think I ever saw him get angry at anyone or anything, and we've been in some pretty tough working conditions together at times. He didn't have a mean bone in his body."

A teacher for 24 years and union leader at Village Green Environmental School in Port St. Lucie, Mary Jo Hadley excelled at gathering teachers' concerns and presenting them to administrators, said Vanessa Tillman, president of the St. Lucie County Classroom Teachers Association and Classified Unit, "and always in a calm manner."

According to reports compiled by the Port St. Lucie Police Department, Tyler Hadley stood behind his 47-year-old mother about five minutes as she sat at the computer and thought about killing her before he struck the first blow with a hammer in the back of her head

As he started hitting her, she reportedly screamed and turned to ask Tyler Hadley, "'Why?'"

Blake Hadley, 54, came out of a bedroom, and the two stared into each other's eyes.

"Tyler said he then went after his father and murdered him," according to statements in a juvenile arrest affidavit from a friend who told police Tyler Hadley had confessed the crime to him.

Nichols said workers at the nuclear plant were in shock when they heard about the double homicide.

"It stunned a lot of people here," he said. "I still can't wrap my mind around it, and we talked a lot about it at work."

Blake Hadley was a big man, Nichols said, "6-3 or 6-4, 270 to 300 pounds. He had the biggest hands I've ever seen."

Given Blake Hadley's size and strength, Nichols said he couldn't understand how Tyler Hadley could have killed him with a hammer.

"That's one of the things that shocked me," Nichols said. "(Tyler is kind of) a small kid and his dad was so big. Either Blake was in shock over what was happening, or (Tyler) surprised him. Maybe it was both. It would take a lot to overpower (Blake Hadley)."

Tyler Hadley has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Tillman said educators both at Village Green, where Mary Jo Hadley taught for the last six years, and throughout the district were stunned by the deaths.

"In education," she said, "you always look for ways to figure out how and why things occur," Tillman said, "but you also know that you can't always answer those questions."

Tillman said Mary Jo Hadley was an excellent teacher.

"Besides the training and the scientific side, there's a true art to teaching," Tillman said, "and (Mary Jo Hadley) was excellent when it came to both sides. She was interested in educating the whole child, not just the academic side, which is particularly important in early childhood education."

Lauren Espitia, 36, said her 6-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was in kindergarten at Village Green Environmental School and spent time with Mary Jo Hadley.

"She was the only teacher outside of Alyssa's main teacher that she ever mentioned," Espitia said. "I know she said she got to go to her room sometimes, and she was really nice and helped her with her reading."

Espitia said Mary Jo Hadley "definitely made an impact" on her daughter, who hoped to have Mary Jo Hadley as her teacher in first grade.

Nichols couldn't remember Blake Hadley talking about any problems with his son Tyler.

"He wasn't one to talk about how his family was doing," Nichols said. "He was a very quiet person. He had the driest sense of humor."

Blake Hadley's cousin, Brenda Mayes, of Evansville, Ind., recalled when Blake Hadley and his parents were living in Florida in the late 1960s or early 1970s and came to Indiana for a visit.

"Blake had never seen snow," Mayes said, "and he made snowballs. His dad bought dry ice so that Blake could take them back to Florida and throw them at his friends."

Mayes said Blake Hadley was no stranger to tragedy: He went to a hospital in Evansville in November 2005 to visit his cousin, Kerry Hadley, whose home had been hit by tornado, killing his daughter and injuring him.

The Rev. Mark A. Szanyi, pastor of St. Lucie Catholic Church in Port St. Lucie, where Blake and Mary Jo Hadley were active members for 25 years, called the couple "quiet, unassuming people; and their deaths have greatly affected this close-knit community. They will be missed."

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