Family members describe two sides of 47-year-old Kenneth James Ward of Modesto.
He was a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, a doting father to his 6-year-old son and a lovable brother to his siblings.
But he also had bipolar disorder, and his angry rants about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were disturbing to his family. Court records show he had attempted suicide and was arrested in 2004 for making threats to Mormon church officials in Modesto.
Authorities said Kenneth Ward shot and killed Bishop Clay Sannar, 40, on Sunday in the foyer of a Mormon church in Visalia. It's the same church that Ward's family attended in the 1980s.
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Ward drove away from the church and went to the house where, as a teenager, he had lived with his mother, grandmother, sister and brother. From there, he called police and was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the officers who arrived.
"He was a lovable guy, but that monster would overtake him," said Mike Ward, his younger brother, of Bakersfield. "He had mental problems and he struggled with them. Who would do this? This isn't a rational thing."
His father, George Ward of Modesto, said Kenneth took medication that controlled the symptoms of his mental disorder. For the past few years, the father shared his home with Kenneth, his wife, Linda, and son so he could watch the boy every day.
Kenneth Ward seemed stable this past weekend and did not say anything about going to Visalia, his father said. He left the home early Sunday, telling his father he was going fishing with a friend.
When the father called the friend later Sunday, the friend -- whom he would not identify -- said he knew nothing about a fishing trip.
"That man yesterday was not my son," George Ward said of the gunman. "I may spend the rest of my life trying to understand why this happened."
Kenneth Ward, a Modesto native, attended Downey High School in the late 1970s and then moved to live with his mother and grandmother in Visalia, where he was later joined by his sister and brother. His mother, Nancy Ward, who died in 2007, brought her children to the Mormon church when they were young.
Family members said Kenneth was excommunicated from the church in the 1980s, but they offered few details about his break with the Latter-day Saints.
After returning to Modesto, he joined the Army and served with the 82nd Airborne in Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. He started displaying psychological problems after returning home, but it appeared to be signs of post-traumatic stress, family members said.
George Ward said his son learned to operate heavy cranes in the military and he persuaded him to re-enlist. Kenneth met his wife, Linda, in Oklahoma during his second military stint. This time he was discharged early from the service, his father said.
Kenneth struggled with a knee injury and his mental condition worsened until he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness marked by manic behavior and severe depression.
He was on disability and at one point had a job delivering pizza.
"When he had an episode, he would call me or my brother and go on one of his rambles, blaming the church for all of his troubles," said Janell Ward, his sister. "I would try to refocus his thoughts to his son and wife. He seemed to calm down when he got it off his chest."
Despite his hard feelings for the church, Ward worked hard to be reinstated and then attended services sporadically, his sister said.
He was soon unhappy with the church again, according to Stanislaus County court documents that tell of his worsening mental state.
Modesto police arrested Ward in March 2004 after he threatened to kill a Mormon church bishop and then-Police Chief Roy Wasden, a top lay official with the church.
Ward pleaded no contest in December 2004 to one felony count of threatening to kill or seriously injure another person and was placed on two years' probation, according to court records.
He also was ordered not to annoy, harass or threaten any member of the Mormon church on El Vista Avenue.
Hal Smeltzer was the bishop of one of the congregations, or wards, at the El Vista church when he received a letter from Ward in June 2003 asking that he and his wife, Linda, be removed from the church's membership rolls.
Smeltzer said he had never met Ward, who belonged to another congregation. Smeltzer said during the six months it took to remove the Wards from the church, Ward left him several rambling, incoherent messages on his work phone.
"He made comments about religious stuff," Smeltzer said Monday. "Egyptology, astrology, all kinds of weird stuff. Mostly he was a really strange religions guy when he was not taking his meds."
In March 2004, three months after Ward and his wife were removed from the church rolls, Ward threatened to kill Smeltzer, Wasden and police officers in a profanity-laced message left on Smeltzer's work phone. Smeltzer called the police and Ward was arrested.
Ward seemed a different person after his court case, a change attributed to his taking medication. Smeltzer said Ward, his wife and young son even attended the El Vista church several times after his no contest plea.
"It was fine," Smeltzer said. "They seemed to be glad to be there. He would actually apologize if his son made too much noise. I just thought he was totally normal when he was on his meds."
Wasden said he remembers going with Smeltzer to meet with Ward after the court case was resolved. The meeting was in Ward's home.
"He was doing well. He had a job. His wife was doing well," Wasden said. "I thought he had his medications right. ... When he wasn't on his medications, it was really clear that he was affected by his mental state."
Janell Ward said her brother seemed to be OK when she last saw him Friday at their father's home. He had been baby-sitting her grandchildren and was listening to music on his headphones.
Standing outside his home Monday, George Ward said he wished the shootings could have been prevented. "My heart goes out to them for their loss," he said.
Wasden said it's a tragedy for two families. "This is just a tragedy. A good man taken in Visalia. There are six fatherless children down in Visalia and obviously here a family that has lost a son and a father and a husband."
The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.