Tallahassee, Florida (Tallahassee Democrat) -- Zack White and Spring Rhinehart were eager to celebrate their son Mason's seventh birthday Sunday at Wakulla Springs.
Friends, family and the couple's other son, Aden Rhinehart, were excited to spend a day of hiking, swimming and boating. Mason loved jumping off the high dive at Wakulla Springs, a feat he had mastered for the first time just a few weeks ago.
But on Thursday, Mason Rhinehart's seventh birthday, his godmother Lyn Williams was canceling those plans and their boat ride tickets.
Two days earlier, Mason died after he was repeatedly stabbed in the chest at his parents' Killearn Lakes Plantation brick home. His grandmother, Martha White, who was babysitting Mason and Aden that morning while Zack and Spring were at work, has been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in her grandson's killing.
Mason and Aden, 8, were playing video games when White, 63, told them she had a surprise for them. She took Mason into the bathroom and locked the door behind her, a probable cause affidavit said. Aden heard his baby brother start to cry from behind the door and say, "I don't want to die, please don't kill me."
Aden said he tried to get in the bathroom, but could not. He then called his father and hid, court documents said.
Within five minutes, first responders were on the scene and found Mason lying on the bathroom floor with multiple stab wounds to the chest, said Lt. James McQuaig, LCSO spokesman. Leon County Emergency Medical Services rushed him to the hospital, but Mason did not survive.
White was not there when deputies arrived, but the boys' parents said she was the one home with them while they were at work. Aden said he saw White leave the home with a bottle of wine but not before telling him she "had a surprise for him too." Aden, McQuaig said, was not physically injured in the incident.
Deputies identified White as a suspect when they found her covered in blood at the dead end of Valley Creek Drive, about a half-mile away from the family's home in the 7700 block of Bass Ridge Trail. White also had a bottle of wine and a Xanax.
White was taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation, even though she didn't appear to be injured, McQuaig said. She remained under evaluation until Wednesday morning, when she was transferred to the Leon County Jail. White showed little emotion as she was led in handcuffs into the female holding cell just before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, about 24 hours after deputies were to the scene.
LCSO has not yet identified a motive in the stabbing. The investigation is ongoing. An autopsy was underway Wednesday and search warrants for White, her car and her home on Marys Drive were served Tuesday and Wednesday.
Williams first got the news that something had happened at Zack and Spring's house through Facebook. She then got a call from a hysterical Spring telling her to come to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, where Mason was being taken by EMS.
Spring, Zack, Aden, Spring's father Bob Rhinehart, Pastor Richard Ledford of Restoration Place and other close friends and family filled the family room down the hall from the room where Mason was being operated on. After a wait, a doctor told the group that Mason had lost too much blood and could not be revived.
The news was "horrifying," Williams said.
"Everyone just broke down and cried."
Pastor Ledford prayed for them.
Aden simply couldn't believe it, Williams said. He said, "She murdered my brother."
The family was driven to the sheriff's office where Aden, the sole witness, would give a statement to investigators.
Since the stabbing, Zack, Spring and Aden have not gone back to their home, which was surrounded with crime scene tape Tuesday. Toys and potted plants were strewn about the yard as investigators collected evidence and took photographs. They've been staying at a family member's house in Tallahassee where friends, family and neighbors have been stopping by with food, flowers and condolences. A GoFundMe.com campaign set up Wednesday raised more than $15,000 in just one day for funeral costs. Family and friends are stopping by in shifts to keep them company.
The nights are hard for them. Mason's brother and his parents are reliving the tragedy and mourning Mason. Williams has been up past 5 a.m. with a sleepless Spring. Zack often breaks down at night, particularly Wednesday, when the family wrote an obituary and picked out a suit for Mason to wear at his funeral, which will be held Saturday. Aden has a hard time getting to sleep. During the day, his parents are keeping him surrounded with other children to keep his mind off Tuesday's traumatic events.
"When they close their eyes they relive this tragedy," Williams said.
Zack, Williams said, has been mostly quiet but has attempted to stay strong for Spring and Aden.
"I feel really sorry for him because not only did he lose a son, he lost a mother," Williams said. "He says he's done with her and never wants to see her again."
Williams, who has known the 29-year-old Spring since they were 12 years old, said she's known the couple, and White, throughout their entire 12-year relationship. The couple's plan was to get married in November.
The entire ordeal has left the family shocked. White had never hurt the kids before and regularly visited with the family.
"We would have never thought this would happen," Williams told the Democrat. "These last couple years had been really good."
White's husband had died and she was obsessed with Zack. He was "all she had," Williams said. Zack would often care for her and handle her yard work. Her relationship with Spring, however, was rocky, particularly in the beginning of Zack's courtship of her. Despite that, Williams said Spring decided early on in the relationship to be kind to White.
White, Willaims said, suffered from anxiety and was often skittish and antisocial.
Since March, the Tallahassee Police Department had been called out five times to White's home on Marys Drive, off of Mahan Drive just east of Magnolia Drive. On March 30, White said two of her neighbors were drilling holes in her walls and dropping bugs inside her house, according to TPD dispatch notes. Police contacted one of the neighbors who said White had been making the same complaint since they moved in. White claimed her neighbors were hiding the evidence, the report said.
Recently, Williams said, White was becoming more friendly and would babysit the boys twice a week while their parents were at work. Spring owns Sunshine Cleaning and Restoration and Zack, 31, is a sales associate at Flooring America.
On Monday nights, White would typically bring pizza to the house and the family would spend time together. White normally would stay the night and watch the boys the next day.
On Monday, White didn't stay the night. Instead she came over early Tuesday morning.
White told deputies she had been tortured by Spring for years and was "fed up." Williams says, if anything, Spring showed her love and attempted to make the best of their relationship.
Mason was a very social child who was on the honor roll at Killearn Lakes Elementary School, where he would have started the second grade in just a few weeks. Mason could most often be found with his brother playing the computer game Minecraft or with a group of neighborhood children he regularly spent time swimming and playing.
He played lineman for his youth football team, the Bradfordville Buccaneers, and loved Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and the Seminoles. He had recently started weightlifting with his dad and was an Awana Sparks member.
He was well-liked and well-known at KLES. Most recently, Williams said, he told her he wanted to make new friends this year because he already knew everybody.
But Aden, his only sibling, was his best friend.
"They were two peas in a pod, they were best friends, they were inseparable," Williams said through tears Wednesday. "When you saw Mason, you saw Aden."