The marriage crumbles
By 2003, cracks in the foundation of the Schuster family were becoming visible. Tyler was not yet a teen, but Kristin had become a willful teenager. Kristin acted out: sneaking out of the house, missing curfew and dating boys of whom her mother disapproved. Fights between Larissa and Kristin became so frequent and so heated that Larissa sent Kristin back to Missouri to live with Larissa's parents.
In February 2002, Larissa filed for divorce. Neither spouse moved out at first, but the two slept on different floors of the home. That summer, while Larissa was visiting relatives in Missouri, Tim packed his things and left the family home. However, he refused to back down in the financial disputes of the divorce proceedings, causing hard feeling on Larissa's part.
Tim's moving out kicked off an escalating confrontation. Larissa objected to his taking certain pieces of furniture and other belongings, so in August she and an accomplice broke into Tim's condo that August to retrieve them. Tim later obtained a gun permit and a 9 mm handgun. Larissa left her husband a number of profanely abusive voice mails, which he saved.
Custody of Tyler was given to Larissa, with Tim taking his son every other weekend. The drop-off would usually occur during Larissa's weekly nail appointment with her long-time manicurist Terri Lopez. Lopez said Larissa would often rage about her estranged husband, profanely impugning his virility. Lopez said Larissa once blurted out, "Well, I want [my husband] dead," and later told Lopez, "You don't understand. I could do it and get away with it."