Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Anatomy of a Murder-Suicide

I finally gave up hope of any of my tomatoes coming up. It just didn't seem to make sense. What happened to all those seeds I planted? Did I accidentally pull them up as weeds? I talked Darryl into buying me some plants that were further along the way in hopes to get some tomatoes this summer. I'd like to try making some sauce from scratch this year.

Today was an exciting day in the garden. My first yellow squash flower appeared in my garden. It was a thing of beauty and I can hardly wait to see those flowers become squash.

Any sweeper realizes that theend of the months sweeps is your longest day of sweeping. There is just so many to enter and so little time to do it. Add to that the whole blog thing, the garden, and well life in general and it adds up to a plate that's a little too full. I'm falling drastically behind in posting.

I wanted to post an update on that very sad murder-suicide that happened in Axton, Virginia. Murder-suicides are sad and frightening crimes, and we've seen several of them recently. Often the killers may transfer their anger and despair for their own life on to others. They feel like the loved ones maybe have not supported them well enough, have not done the things they were supposed to do, disappointed them in some significant way.

Two of the three people who died in an apparent murder-suicide in Axton over the weekend were shot in the head, and the third was shot in the torso, autopsy results reveal.

Dr. Christena Roberts, assistant chief medical examiner for the Western District of Virginia, said Monday that:

• William Ronald Carter Sr., 56, died of a penetrating shotgun wound to his head.

• His wife, Bonnie W. Carter, 56, died of a perforation of her heart, lung and aorta as a result of a shotgun wound to her torso.

• Their son, William Ronald Carter Jr., 29, of Danville, died of a penetrating shotgun wound to his head.

Roberts found that Carter Sr.’s manner of death was suicide, while Bonnie Carter and Carter Jr. died from homicide. Citing policy, she declined to discuss the autopsy findings further.

Investigators might never fully know what happened in the quadruple shooting incident, which was reported to the 911 Communications Center early Sunday at 210 Wilhaven Lane, Axton, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said Monday.

The Carters’ other son, Radford University student Timothy E. Carter, 22, also was shot in the incident but survived. He made some initial comments to police prompting them to think “there may have been some matters going on within the household,” said Perry.

The sheriff declined to elaborate. However, he said the Henry County Sheriff’s Office has no record of deputies responding to reports of violence or disturbances at the home.

Based on the lack of such a record, as well as what relatives and neighbors have told police about the family, he said the shootings seem “completely irrational and illogical.”

Timothy Carter was in fair condition late Monday at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., a hospital spokesman said.

Investigators are waiting until he is stable enough from his injuries to answer questions as the investigation continues, Perry said.

Perry said he understands that Carter is “expected to recover from his wounds,” but doctors are not yet sure if he will lose any of his mobility. Carter was shot in the back, police have said.

Based on the results of their preliminary investigation, police said they think Carter Sr. shot and killed his wife and son Carter Jr. before shooting Timothy Carter, who was at the university and had received a call from his father to come home due to a family emergency.

When they arrived, officers found the house on fire, and authorities have said they determined the blaze was arson.

“It’s obvious there was some forethought” to the shootings and the fire, Perry said.

He indicated that the dead bodies could have been in the house for a few hours before police arrived.

Perry said a brief letter, apparently written by Carter Sr. and giving some “instructions” to whoever found it on how to handle funeral arrangements, was found in the home. He did not know exactly where.

The letter contained “nothing that offers an explanation” as to why the shootings occurred, he said.

“Without being able to interview all of the family members,” investigators may not be able to find out things going on in the household that may have led to the shootings, Perry said, referring to the family members who died.

When a suspect is alive during an investigation, “at least there’s a link ... to what took place,” he said. But in this incident, because Carter Sr. is dead, “what went through his mind is information we will never have.”

“There was nothing I could see” that indicated any disharmony in the home, said Bonnie Carter’s sister, Joyce Martin. Relatives “thought everything was fine.”

In fact, the couple had recently returned from a vacation in the mountains, she said.

After he was shot, Timothy Carter went to Akers’ house for help. Akers said that when she realized who was at her door, she let him in because “I wasn’t going to let him die on the porch.”

He told her about the shootings, and she called 911 and put a towel around his wounds to try and stop the bleeding, she said.

Although he was able to walk, Akers said, he was “just bleeding really bad” from his neck and his back, she recalled.

Martin and Akers said both relatives and friends are shocked at the shootings.

“Unfortunately we live in a day and age where we have stressors that can bring a person to suicide,” Perry said, referring to Carter Sr. “There must have been some type of stressors” that resulted in the shootings, but “we do not yet know what those stressors could have been.”

Carter Sr. worked at Goodyear in Danville until April 1, when he took a voluntary buyout and retired, company spokesman Jo Andrews told The Associated Press. Carter had worked for the tire plant for more than 35 years, the AP reported.

Perry said he hopes the investigation can be completed soon, but he would not say how soon that might be.

“We are moving on it as quick as we can while doing a thorough investigation,” he said.

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