Inside a two-story home in a middle class suburb of Atlanta, two sons cooked their parents dinner. It wasn't something the young men would normally do, but they were apologizing. There had been a fight. The typical teenage variety: the younger son wanted to go out with his friends late at night. His parents said no.
So, they toasted over mixed drinks to a parent-child misunderstanding.
The parents went to a high school football game, but left at half time because they both felt tired. It had been a long week and the husband mentioned to his wife he was so tired he felt drugged.
He had been.
They seemed like the perfect family.
Zachary and Yvonne Ervin raised their sons to love God. "Respectable young men," Yvonne called them.
Twenty-two-year-old Christopher was the older son, bound for the military. Zachary wrote letters to his son, saying he loved him and was excited he was serving his country. The letters included photos of a smiling younger brother in a graduation gown, moments after giving a powerful speech at Shiloh High School. Christopher went by Chris, and his family describes him as the outgoing, intelligent, generous one.
Seventeen-year-old Cameron had followed his older brother onto the football field, but decided to follow the music instead. He joined the marching band. Family considered him the quiet, calm, and humble one.
Two young men full of promise.
"It's the kind of family everyone would love to have," one of their father's co-workers said.
Then September 5, 2015 happened.
The two-car garage was smeared with blood. Splatter stretched form the ceiling to the floor.
Bloody hand prints marked the horn of Zachary's Hyundai Azera, the desperate attempt of a dying man trying to alert neighbors. Red footprints came from the kitchen. A pool of blood marked a violent struggle.
Someone had attacked this family. The perpetrators were still in the house.
They'd been there the whole time.
Police response: September 5, 2015
"Please send someone to my house," Yvonne was breathing heavily as she urged the 911 dispatcher to send help.
"My children are trying to kill me," she said. "They've attacked me and my husband. They drugged us with Xanax, they've attacked us and they're trying to kill us."
"I've don't know why they've done this. I really don't. I guess they want the insurance money," she said.
Bruised and bloody, from a hospital bed, Yvonne told police what happened in the moments before her desperate 911 call.
She woke up from a drugged sleep and found a pillow pressed to her face. Her youngest son was trying to smother her. First with a pillow, then a plastic bag, then plastic wrap. The plastic wrap was working. She started to loose consciousness. She was about to die at the hands of her own sons. So, she prayed.
She begged God not to let her die like this. At that moment, she realized it was silent. She was alone. The boys had left to look for their father. She scrambled upstairs and called 911.
Moments later, she heard them return. "Where's mom?!"
Her sons ripped the phone from her hands, and beat her. She felt liquid and heat on her legs. Her sons were trying to set her on fire.
Zachary was laying on the kitchen floor, bleeding from multiple stab wounds. As he felt the life leaving him, he realized he was just a few feet from the garage. If he could honk the horn, the neighbors might hear and call for help. He stumbled to the garage, opened the door, and started honking. Hope disappeared as someone hit the button and the door began to slide shut. He blacked out. When he woke up the police were there.
He and his wife had both survived.
While police were taking photos of Yvonne and Zachary's injuries, their sons were transported to Gwinnett County Police Headquarters. Their clothing, covered in blood, was confiscated as evidence.
The 911 tape and their parents' own testimony implicated the brothers, but it didn't explain why. The brothers' confessions would do that.
PHOTOS | Brothers booked into jail
Christopher Ervin: Interview room #4
Gwinnett County Detective Walters and Sgt. Conolon entered interview room number four to question Chris Ervin. His brother was down the hall in another interview room, sobbing and screaming.
Christopher told police right away he didn't know what happened to his parents, and said he woke up to the smell of gas. He had nothing to say about the attack, but plenty to say about his family.
"He said he did not have much of a relationship with his father except when it came to football," Detective Walters wrote in his report. It was the first hint at the cracks that had been widening between brothers and parents in the months leading up to the September attack.
PHOTOS: Brothers accused of trying to kill parents
Chris told police he and his brother craved their parents' approval. He played college football, carried a full load of classes, and worked a part time job.
The stressful balance started to waiver when he transferred schools and quit playing college football. Some of his credits didn't transfer, pushing back his graduation date. Worried about the additional financial strain, he decided to join the military.
Just two months into his stint, Chris was discharged. Originally, he blamed a medical condition, but court testimony later pointed the finger at a failed drug test. He moved back in with his parents and had just totaled his car in an accident. He says he tried, but couldn't find a job.
His father stopped speaking to him.
"Christopher said that his parents would ask him why all of these things were happening to him and what had he done to bring all of this on himself," Det. Walters said in his report.
"Is that what lead to the events of today?" Sgt. Conlon asked.
The story of how the brothers planned the attack on their parents began to unfold.
Chris said they got the idea from the television show The Haves and the Have Nots.
"Honestly, we just wanted to blow the house up, just start over... but it didn't work," Chris told police.
The brothers let the gas run all night. They lit candles around the house. But the explosion never came.
"We kind of already started this, we got to finish it," Chris said.
He and his brother discussed staging a break-in, but abandoned the idea. They decided to kill their parents and run. By the time the bodies were found, they estimated they would be in Tennessee. But their parents fought back.
Christopher said they tried to smother their parents with pillows, but "after that plan did not work, there was a fight."
He started crying, saying he was tired of all of the negative things happening in his life, made worse by parents who "did not seem to care."
"None of this justifies what we did."
Cameron Ervin: Interview room #2
Det.Walters and Sgt.Conlon had one confession. They opened the door to interview room two to gather another.
Like his brother, Cameron was at first reluctant to talk about the day's events, but seemed eager to lay out problems between him and his parents, telling police "he felt like he never belonged at home."
He said his father stopped speaking to him when he quit football to join the marching band.
"He stated that he was aware that he sometimes got out of control and had a temper," Det. Walters noted in his report.
Cameron detailed the final hours leading up to the attack on his parents.
The night before, he argued with his parents about going out with his friends and "something snapped." He told police he felt like he was watching the attack from a distance.
While his parents and his brother slept, he grabbed a pillow and tried to smother his father. He hit his mother and ran to the closet to grab his father's shotgun. As they struggled over the gun, Chris woke up and came into the room.
He tried to wrestle the gun away from his little brother, but Cameron turned on him. He hit him in the face with the shotgun, knocking him unconscious.
Cameron continued to hit his parents with the gun, and then forced them downstairs. When his father tried to grab a cell phone to call for help, he stabbed him and "kept stabbing, kept stabbing".
Cameron said that's when he turned on the gas in the fireplace and lit the candles in an attempt to cover the evidence.
He packed a bag and loaded up a car.
When he came back inside, his mother was on the phone with police. He started choking her.
Blood brothers reunited.
There were inconsistencies in the brother's stories. Chris said the plan had been in place as the resentment started bubbling against their parents. Cameron said it was unplanned.
Chris said the brothers worked together in the attack. Cameron said Chris was sleeping when the attack started and was unconscious for the rest of it.
When police went back into interview room #4, Chris changed his story.
He said there was no prior planning, the idea came to them the night before after that argument. He insisted "we did that together."
He knew details about the attack on their parents: they used pillows from Cameron's room in the smothering attempt, they left behind burn marks from their first attempts to burn the house down, the candles burned for four hours.
It wasn't Cameron that hit him with the shotgun as the brothers struggled. It was their father.
Police put the brothers in the same room and recorded what happened next.
Christopher: "Mom and dad are both fine, so just be for real... cooperate. It's all good bro."
Cameron: "I'm scared."
Christopher: "I know bro. This was a bad idea... It's ok... just tell the truth bro, that's it. We made a bad decision. That's alright though... I love you."
Cameron: "It won't come off". Cameron was looking at his arms, covered in his parent's blood.
Christopher: "Are you good? I know you ain't, but... We f**ked up, bud. But we f**ked up together."
Chris told Cameron to tell the truth and stop trying to cover for him: "Mom and Dad were witnesses to everything that happened. I helped, you did not do that on your own. Don't try to take that on your own. I'm not going to let you."
The brothers talk whisper back and forth, at times, seeming to compare notes about what they told police.
Christopher: "We're sociopaths. That's not really the direction I seen my life taking."
Cameron: "Worst s**t I ever did in my life."
Christopher: "Was it like fleshy?"
Cameron: "Like hard... that s**t freaked me out, bro. I wanted to stop, but I couldn't."
The brothers talk about the charges they'll face and seem to believe they might be able to serve their time together.
Cameron: "At least we can hang out with each other, put in the same room."
Christopher: "We might not be."
Police issued a search warrant for the house. The evidence they obtained supported the brothers' confessions. They were charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and false imprisonment.
The mother pleas for mercy.
Four months after she was drugged, beaten, and strangled, Yvonne Ervin wrote the judge a letter. The two-page hand-written note tells the judge she forgives her sons.
"I want you to know them through the eyes of their mother.. who they really are," she wrote. "Initially, we had no idea what happened to cause such a tragedy in our family on September 5th. My husband and I only know that this was not the character of our sons."
"In their mug shots, their eyes look totally black and void. They looked like people we didn't know," she wrote. "We knew they were in a dark place."
Yvonne said after the anger, confusion, and sadness passed, she and her husband were able to forgive the boys.
She believes her sons must have been drugged without their knowledge. "We believe they were given some type of hallucinogen, like PCP, without their knowledge," she said. "They did not tell us this, however, based on the things that were said, we came to this conclusion."
Police did not test the brothers for evidence of hallucinogenic drugs. In police videos, both appear coherent and easily participate in the conversation. Both Chris and Cameron say they were using drugs at the time of the attack and have been sober since their arrest.
"They are not criminals. Please help us restore our family," she begged.
LETTER | See the letter Yvonne Ervin wrote to the judge
On November 8, 2016, Chris and Cameron agreed to a plea deal deal. Against their parents' wishes, the judge sentenced them to 50 years in prison, with 20 to serve and 30 years on probation.
The brothers could get out on parole as early as 2026.