DARREN Waller was said to be distraught at the tragic deaths of two friends in the space of just two months.
Norman Hay, 38, died on November 10 after being stabbed in the face during an incident in St Bees Walk, Hartlepool, the previous day.
Norman's half-brother Les Willis, 42, was then found dead in a house in Gray Street, in Hartlepool, on January 5.
Ex-wife Lisa Gleaves said: "I told him about Les dying and he was obviously very upset about it.
"He wasn't himself after that, he was already really sad about what happened to Norman. I don't think he had got over Norman before Les died.
"He was gutted and just wasn't himself. I'd see him all the time and he would always have the kids, but after that he shut off."
David Howard, 39, formerly of St Bees Walk, was charged with Norman's murder but prosecutors dropped the case on January 13, saying Mr Howard had acted in "self defence".
Les's death has been described as "unexplained" by police and the coroner is awaiting toxicology and post-mortem examination reports.
An inquest is due to be held into the deaths of both men in the coming weeks.