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Ryan Laber opens up about rebuilding his life 2 years after tragedy hit Highlands Ranch family

Posted at 8:44 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 01:03:45-05

DENVER -- It was about this time two years ago, when news broke that a Highlands Ranch mom killed her two little boys and then herself. A year ago, Denver7 spoke with Ryan Laber, the husband and father left behind. As the second anniversary approaches, Denver7 met up with Ryan again. And a lot has changed.

Laber recently got engaged to be married. He and his fiance don't want her name used in this story, only allowing us to identify her as a 38-year-old Denver native. 

"We met little under a year ago. A blind date at the View House. First date lasted five hours. We just couldn't stop talking," Laber says.

Laber recounted he knew quickly that this could be something special. And in any new relationship there comes the time you unveil your serious history. For most of us it's past relationships or a complicated family. For Laber, of course, it's something else entirely. 

"I saw that it could potentially be serious so rather than wait, I decided to get in front of it."

After dating a few weeks, Laber asked her to dinner and laid out the terrible events of November 29, 2016. 

"She had her own principles and beliefs in life that allowed her to approach it in an understanding way and supportive way. She didn't view it as a news story, she viewed it as me."

For hours over dinner, Laber told how his wife Jennifer drove their son Ethan, 5, and 3-year-old son Adam to the parking lot of the Lone Tree Sports Authority. There, she drugged them and shot and killed them before shooting and killing herself. Laber would later discover that Jennifer had been enslaved by a torturous, hidden depression and perversely thought she would be a better mother to them in heaven than she was on Earth.

Despite the ordeal, Laber still lives in the Highlands Ranch house he shared with his family. When we talked last year, that house had become a vital, complicated connection to his family. 

"Early on, I put pictures up everywhere. Then it got to a point where I couldn't be anywhere in the house and not be around pictures and not think about it... It was like a humming noise in my ear. I couldn't get out of it. I couldn't think."

Then slowly, picture by picture he started putting things away to carve out room to live. "Most of Jen's stuff, — actually all of Jen's stuff — now has been donated or given away with a few mementos here and there packed away for another day to review," Laber says.

A year ago, Laber told Denver7 he could not move anything out of the boys' room. It remained just as it was the day before the tragedy. Today, he says that room has also been addressed. 

"Most all the items are out of there. There are photos of them in there. Kind of a shrine, if you will. When I need to I go in there, which is pretty often still... but it's different. It's not a place to go to cry. It's a place to go appreciate," Laber says.

Laber's fiance recently moved in to the house. He says it's easier with her and her stuff there. And he says he's finally ready to sell the house. He plans to put it on the market in the spring. 

"It took getting that independence and recognizing I didn't need the home anymore to remind me of them," Laber says.

Laber says they plan to have four children and will adopt if they need to. He says he has worked hard over the last two years to get to where he is, open to marriage and family again. He says he has been through intense and extensive therapy and that it's because of that work, not the passage of time, that really helps to heal.

During the January wedding ceremony, Laber says they have plans to include Ethan and Adam. He won't say exactly how except that it involves their cousins and will be a way to honor the boys.

Ryan looks forward to being a husband and father again. And though this is not the path he planned, the path did not end and it led him unexpectedly to love again.