After he opened his presents each year on Christmas morning, five-year-old Maximilian Walters spoke with his aunt on the phone, taking a half-hour to describe each gift in detail. Last year he told her it was the “most wonderful Christmas.” Santa Claus had brought him “everything Polar Express,” from the movie and book to new locomotives for his collection. During the holiday season, he took rides on the Santa Train around his hometown of Boulder City, Nev. He always sat next to the window to look at the sights. Trains fascinated Max, who dressed as a conductor last year for Halloween. The Polar Express and Thomas the Tank Engine were his favorite animations. He could explain the details of different kinds of locomotives and how they operate. “He was a lot smarter than you when it came to the trains. That was a given,” his uncle, Gregg Watkins, told msnbc.com. “You would actually end up learning something.”
Max was the adored center of his mother’s world. She had struggled with infertility for six years before finally giving birth to Max. Kathryn “Michelle” Walters retired from her 15-year career as a police officer to raise him. Max, who attended kindergarten at Andrew Mitchell Elementary School in Boulder City, played in a recreational soccer league. But “if he couldn’t see her, he wasn’t going to play,” Heather Watkins Hirsch, Max’s aunt, told msnbc.com. Consequently, his mother coached the team. When his mother wasn’t pushing him in a stroller while she ran, Max enjoyed snuggling on the couch with her and watching SpongeBob SquarePants. They often traveled together to places in Nevada, Minnesota, and California for marathons and mother-son adventures.
Max was shy and tentative around new people. But once he spent more time around them, he had the “gift for gab,” Watkins Hirsch said. Although he often rethought his dreams for the future, he hoped to become a train conductor, firefighter, or police officer, just like both of his parents.
Max was allegedly shot and killed by his father in a double murder-suicide on Jan. 21 in his Boulder City home while watching cartoons. His mother was also killed in the incident.