John Austin, CNHI's state reporter in Austin, produced the profiles of the six East Texas mass murder victims. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Kamp, 46: A trademark smile
Life was good for Thomas Kamp.
He was general sales and finance manager for Graff Chevrolet in the Dallas suburb of Midlothian, his home for nearly a decade. He’d connected with the woman of his dreams, someone who enjoyed the great outdoors as much as he did.
“He had a signature smile that was always on his face,” said Robert Rippy, Graff general manager. “Tom was absolutely loved by everybody who worked with him.”
Kamp’s murder on Nov. 14 at the campsite he’d purchased three months earlier shocked his co-workers and others who knew him. A weekend birthday celebration in the woods of East Texas for his oldest, adult son who was visiting from California turned into a horrible nightmare.
Relatives said apart from work and staying fit — he was so conscientious about his diet that he would count out exactly 10 almonds if he wanted a snack — Kamp built his world around his family and his fiancé, Hannah Johnson, and her son Kade, 6, who lived with Kamp and who were both also murdered.
“We were very close,” said Beverly Woodruff, Kamp’s aunt. “We got together all of the time — all of us.”
Todd Kamp described his older brother as a smart, level-headed guy who started his working life early to become self-sufficient. He was the youngest of three sons who grew up in Illinois.
“He was the only guy I knew in high school who had his own apartment,” Todd Kamp said. “He never asked anybody for nothing.”
Kamp married young. His wife, Carina, and their four sons lived in several states before settling in Texas to be near relatives and friends. But the marriage didn’t work out.
Woodruff said living in Midlothian on a 1 ½-acre tract, then making the recent East Texas campsite purchase, gave Kamp the space he needed to gather his family and friends and rebuild his life.
Rippy said Kamp worked until about 5 p.m. on the Friday before leaving with two adult sons from his previous marriage, his future wife, her son and her parents for the birthday party and the joy of a weekend camping trip in the piney woods of Tennessee Colony, Texas, 90 miles away.
“He was really looking forward to that,” Rippy said. “He was really excited about that piece of property.”
Monday morning of Nov. 16 Kamp didn’t show for work. His phone calls went straight to voice mail. No one knew why. “It wouldn’t be until late in the day that we got the terrible news,” said Rippy.
Hannah Johnson, 40: Loved gardening, animals
Hannah Johnson met her match in Texas.
That’s where the transplanted Maine native and single mother fell for Thomas Kamp, the George Clooney lookalike from Midlothian she planned to share the rest of her lifetime with.
“They hit if off,” said Kamp’s brother, Todd. “They just celebrated their fifth anniversary (living together).” Marriage was on the horizon.
Johnson moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be close to her parents in 2009 after her son, Kade Johnson, was born in Boston. She was murdered along with her son, her father, her fiancé and his two sons by an earlier marriage.
Friends described Hanna as a shy person who loved gardening, animals and exercise – interests that created a natural bond with Thomas Kamp.
“She rode a yellow bus to school,” from her childhood home outside Farmington, Maine, said her mother, Cynthia Johnson. “She played soccer. She loved to bicycle.”
After earning an early childhood education degree from the University of Maine in Orono, the former Chi Omega sorority girl lived in Boston with friends before moving to Southern California and Texas. Like her mom and dad, she once owned an Airstream travel trailer.
“She was nice looking,” said the Kamps’ aunt, Beverly Woodruff. “They made a good-looking couple.”
Johnson was so dedicated to staying in shape that she worked out over her 30-minute lunch break, whatever the weather, from the Fort Worth insurance company where she worked as an adjuster.
But the tough training didn’t harden her heart. Her mother remembered the bleeding cat Hannah rescued from vicious interstate traffic around Fort Worth, putting her own life at risk.
“She can’t stand to see anything hard happening to helpless animals,” Cynthia said. “She got him back to health.”
The Friday night, before the murders, Hannah and Thomas turned their Midlothian home into a lively birthday party celebration for Kamp’s son Nathan, who would turn 24 on Thanksgiving Day. The weekend camping trip to Tennessee Colony was a gift to him from the engaged couple.
Woodruff can still see the hosts in her mind’s eye. “He treated her like a queen,” Woodruff said. “She treated him like a king.
They had the space he wanted. They had the garden she wanted.
“I went out the other day and their vegetables were in,” said Woodruff. “Life was good.”
Carl Johnson, 77: A rugged individualist
Connecticut native Carl Johnson served in the Navy during the mid-50s, but in civilian life he saw the world from a motorcycle.
Then, once he and his wife Cynthia retired from their non-academic jobs at the University of Maine at Farmington a decade ago, they roamed the roads in a classic silver Airstream Safari travel trailer.
Carl Johnson’s travels ended on Nov. 14 when he and his daughter Hanna were discovered dead in the 25-foot camper, murdered at the Tennessee Colony campsite that also claimed the lives of Hanna’s 6-year-old son, her fiancé and two of his adult sons.
Only Cynthia Johnson, 63, survived the massacre, hiding from the killer in nearby woods. She declined comment on the horrific crime but willingly talked about the man she met years ago in a computer class, accepted his offer for a date and eventually his marriage proposal.
“Even on that first date to go to a dance at the American Legion, he was singing away,” Cynthia Johnson said. “I liked that. I had never so easily felt comfortable with someone. We were friends for life.”
They settled a few years ago in the gated Hillsboro, Texas, community designed for Airstream owners. The rural countryside was second nature for Johnson. “He would go out and chop down trees in the spring,” said his wife. “In the winter we had maple trees. We would tap the trees.”
Bob Lawrence, his boss at the University of Maine, where Johnson worked from 1970 to 1999, starting as a custodian, and ending in the personnel department, called Carl Johnson a soft-spoken, caring man. He remembered Johnson driving a motorcyle, his wife in the sidecar.
The couple celebrated their 42nd anniversary four days before the shootings with Chinese food in Waxahachie.
“Carl was the interesting one,” Cynthia Johnson said. “There was no such thing as sitting down during the day for him.”
Marya Garren manages the North Texas Airstream Community, where the Johnsons lived.
She said the community woodworking shop he loved will be dedicated to Carl Johnson and 12 live oaks have been planted nearby in his honor.
“He was the most wonderful person you ever met,” Garren said. “He was a joyous person, full of life.”
Kade Johnson, 6: A delight to be around
Folks at the North Texas Airstream Community in Hillsboro remember young Kade Johnson vividly.
You have to be 45 or older to live in what its manager calls a home base for avid travelers, but visiting children are welcome, and the Midlothian first grader was a frequent guest of his grandparents, Carl and Cynthia Johnson.
“Everyone in the park knew him,” said Marya Garren, who runs the gated enclave 50 miles south of Fort Worth. “He would ride his bike around the cul-de-sac.”
Kade was very much a part of the community. He loved Carl and Cindy and he loved camping with them.”
He was camping with his grandparents in East Texas on Nov. 14 when he was murdered along with his grandfather, his mother and his mother’s fiancé and his two adult sons. Only his mother survived the massacre.
“Right now you try to push all that away,” Cynthia Johnson said. “I’d really rather not talk about it.” But like a proud grandmother, she went on warmly about her grandson.
“He was a delight,” she said, describing the blond boy, who attended LaRue Miller Elementary in Midlothian, slowly overcoming child shyness he shared with his mom. “He was coming out of it earlier than his mother did.”
For example, Cynthia pointed to a recent show of bravery of Kade crossing the street to meet a group of unknown boys to play with them.
“We were all amazed at that courage, to go over an introduce himself,” said his grandmother.
Thomas Kamp, the man his mother and Kade lived with, wasn’t the boy’s biological father, but he made sure Kade participated in the extended tribe Hannah and Thomas had formed in the Midlothian, Texas, community where they lived.
He was so much a part of the group that Kamp’s brother, Todd Kamp, even knew Kade’s favorite color: camoflage.
“Tom treated him just like his own,” said the Kamps’ aunt, Beverly Woodruff. “He would take him to school.”
Sometimes Kade had to take the bus. Sadly, it no longer stops at his home.
Nathan Kamp, 23: A joyful prankster
Nobody knew Nathan Kamp would be celebrating his final birthday when he flew to Texas from Southern California to visit his father and other relatives for a hunting and camping trip long in the planning.
“Nathan did a little dance in the kitchen that lasted about 20 seconds the night before he left,” said his mother, Carina Lujambio. “I have a recording of it.”
The video is a last link to a young man just beginning to make his mark when he was murdered during what was to be a fun weekend with family and friends in the pastures and woods of East Texas.
For Kamp’s mother, the memories of her oldest son’s life are so fresh she refers to him in the present tense.
“He is the most honorable, beautiful, kind person,” Lujambio said. “He’s never been in trouble.”
Lujambio said her first born had always been heavy, but at the beginning of this year, Kamp decided to get fit.
“On January 3, he started a diet,” and planned to lose 100 pounds by Jan. 3, 2016, she said. “He is very near that.”
Kamp’s uncle, Todd Kamp, said that Nathan once told a job interviewer he liked to go to Wal-Mart and make prank announcements on the public address system in his spare time. He enjoyed playfulness.
They never called him back, but he did find a job, working for a mobile health technology company that provides cell phone service to senior citizens. “He was recently promoted,” his mother said. “He planned to grow with the company.”
Lujambio said her son really looked forward to visiting and hunting with his father in Texas before returning to California for Thanksgiving, his actual birth date. He would have turned 24.
“His dad took him hunting last year,” she said. “He shot a boar.”
Nathan’s great aunt, Beverly Woodruff, had prepared an early Thanksgiving dinner -- turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, relish -- for the family to share before Nathan and his younger brother, Austin Kamp, returned to California the day before she got the tragic news of their deaths.
“We were texting,” Woodruff said. “We never got a response.”
Woodruff said her family went ahead and had Thanksgiving without the campers. “Then it got worse after that,” when word arrived they had been murdered.
Austin Kamp, 21: Entrepreneur in the making
Young Austin Kamp’s path to a career was clear and bright.
“He was studying to become a real estate agent,” said his mother, Carina Lujambio. “We were going to start our own real estate company.”
She said that won’t happen now that he was among the six mass murder victims that included his older brother and his father.
“We were hoping to incorporate all the boys,” in the real estate company, Lujambio said of her four sons. “We’ve never been apart for more than a few days.”
She added: “My four sons and I are way more than mom and sons. They’re the reason I was born.”
Despite their parents’ divorce and a 2012 move back to California, where he had once lived, Austin remained close to relatives in Texas, where he attended Plano West High School in suburban Dallas.
In photos, Austin wears his hair long and pulled back, flashing a big smile and bright blue eyes His uncle, Todd Kamp, said he was known to friends as “Slim,” and liked to talk about changing the world.
But his mother said there were some things that did not change: like family dinners at the Oceanside, Calif., house the two oldest brothers – Austin and Nathan -- shared.
They were there the night before Kamp and his brother left for Texas to spend time camping and hunting with their dad.
Unlike his brother, Austin was too shy to let his mom take a video of him as the kids danced at the Oceanside home the night before departing.
Lujambio’s voice breaks when she talks about her murdered sons, the careers ahead of them, the love of family and opportunities they had to change the world for the better.
"They were just so loving; so cute,” she said.
“Oh my gosh. I’m not dealing with it. I don’t know if there is a recovery for this. These are people I can’t live without.”
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