Ryan Patterson's Facebook page showed a picture of him, smiling as usual. The picture was the last thing posted to the page Wednesday and was uploaded by his mother, Diana, who filled her own Facebook page with similar photos of the family she loved.
Hours later, both were found stabbed to death Thursday morning in the modest Madison Avenue home they shared in Hammonton.
As police and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office investigated the double homicide, Ryan Patterson's Facebook wall filled with comments from hundreds of friends and family expressing their shock, sharing their condolences and hoping that justice would be found.
On Thursday night, dozens of those loved ones gathered at Atco Raceway in Waterford Township, not far from where the Pattersons lived, and where Ryan Patterson loved to race his dirt bike.
Diana, 64, and Ryan, 29, were discovered by police at about 6:30 a.m. Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Haleigh Walz said in a news release that both victims appeared to have suffered stab wounds. Autopsies are scheduled for today.
Friends and family members watched Thursday as police and forensics investigators swarmed the house seeking clues.
An unidentified man stood for much of the morning in front of the home, clutching a small dog. At one point he collapsed, sobbing into the arms of another man, screaming "Why? I just want to know why someone would do this."
Neighbors Charley Lolio, 29, and Dave Morgan, 32, said Ryan Patterson was an avid motorcross rider and occasionally hung out at their house, which is across the street. The last time they saw him was Monday night, when Patterson went to their house to hang out.
Police cordoned off the block with yellow tape as news media gathered along the street's edges, video-recording the typically quiet street, as neighbors milled about, asking each other for information.
Crystal Paulus, 17, who lives four houses away, said her father woke her up at about 5:45 a.m., saying police were walking up and down the street with high-powered flashlights. Soon after, Paulus said, more investigators arrived, as did two ambulances, which later left empty. Lolio and Morgan said they did not hear anything unusual. Police knocked on their door at about 6:30 a.m. asking for information.
It was not clear what prompted the police response.
Mayor Steve DiDonato called the homicides a "terrible tragedy," and said the town's thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Ryan Patterson was a well-known and successful motorcross rider who competed frequently in the area, said his friend Amanda DiRienzi, 21. DiRienzi met Patterson when they took diesel technician classes at Pennco Tech training school in the Blackwood section of Gloucester Township, Camden County.
"That kid would give you the shirt off his back," she said.
DiRienzi, who was sobbing after she arrived on South Madison Street at about 11 a.m., said Patterson's room was packed with motorcross trophies and said he always wore the number 30. DiRienzi had just moved back to Williamstown a few days ago, and Patterson sent a text message to her Wednesday night, saying the two needed to get together. The two had dated briefly and remained good friends.
"Nobody had any grudges against him. He didn't do anything wrong," she said through tears. "He was a sweetheart."
According to the Website MXPTV, Patterson would occasionally wear a helmet camera during his races for the site and was known for helping out other riders and for his big smile.
Morgan and Lolio said Diana Patterson worked at home and was a warm and friendly woman who loved her dogs and family.
The family connections shine through on her Facebook page, which includes numerous photographs of her grandchildren, some posted late Wednesday night, hours before her death. The latest photo shows her two young grandsons on Halloween night, one dressed as a giraffe, the other dressed as Tigger, both lugging bags overflowing with candy, smiling for "Mom-mom."
Other pictures posted Wednesday include smiling granddaughters and trips to Disney World, glimpses of happier times - juxtaposing the unimaginable that happened overnight inside the home.
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