Memphis Massacre: 6 dead, including 2 kids

March 4, 2008 5:41:38 PM PST
Near the auto salvage yards, a chorus of howling dogs and the Pleasure Inn - a cinderblock hotel surrounded by a privacy fence - a small brick house on a dead-end street stood cordoned off with police tape Tuesday. Police found six bodies and three seriously wounded children there the night before. Most were shot; at least one child was stabbed.

Police don't know how long the survivors - between the ages of about 1 and 12 - had to wait for help to arrive. It may have been two days.

In this rough-edged community called Binghampton, there was shock and anger over the attack, but no one who immediately came forward with information.

"We know there are people out there who have heard things, seen things, known things" that might help "put together pieces of the puzzle on what occurred in that home," said Lt. Joe Scott, a homicide detective.

Police went door to door looking for clues Tuesday but conceded they had virtually nothing to go on in the killings of two men, two women and two boys. Investigators said they believed the attacker or attackers were not among the dead.

"We're working with a blank sheet of paper," police spokeswoman Monique Martin said.

The surviving children were hospitalized, two in very critical condition and the other in serious, according to police. Their families asked that no details of their conditions be released, and it wasn't clear when or if they might be able to help investigators.

It was not immediately clear how the killings could have gone unnoticed - police said five of the six victims were shot - though the neighborhood does experience some drug- and gang-related violence. Early Tuesday, as police investigated the six slayings, two men were shot and wounded in an unrelated home invasion about a mile away.

Low-income houses and apartments sit near cheap motels and junkyards in Binghamton. The nearest major intersection has automobile salvage yards on all four corners, surrounded by chain-linked fences and razor wire.

The weekend attack appeared to be the worst single shooting in Memphis in decades. In May 1973, a man with a history of mental illness randomly shot and killed five people, including a police officer, before he was killed by police.

More recently, a firefighter killed four people in 2000, including two other firefighters and a sheriff's deputy.

Even in a city accustomed to violence - last fall, the FBI ranked Memphis eighth in the country for reports of serious crimes per capita, though local law enforcement questioned the FBI's methodology - the killings stunned the neighborhood. About 30 residents gathered for a prayer service Tuesday morning at the First Baptist Church, where Pastor Keith Norman said the grandfather of one of the victims was a member.

"This is a breach in our community, and we as a church are the repairers of that breach," church member Cheri Wells said. "I feel a sense of vulnerability. I feel pain and hurt. I feel we have been robbed. Our peace has been snatched from us."

Wayne Bolden, who lives across the street, said the family kept to themselves but the apparent man of the house occasionally fired gunshots in the yard.

"He'd shoot on the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve," Bolden said. "He'd have company over and I'd hear the shots."

None of the victims had been identified.

Rob Robinson, who owns the home, said the man who rented it lived there with his girlfriend and at least three children. Robinson estimated the man and woman to be in their late 20s.

"I would categorize them as good tenants. They kept the property and they called me when there were problems. They paid their rent on time. They were always very courteous and polite."

Robinson said the man had problems with a former girlfriend.

"When I was over there, there were a lot of heated conversations over the phone," he said.

But he said he saw nothing to suggest the level of violence that took place.

"Not that this would ever be expected," he said, "but there wasn't a history there I had experienced that indicated this kind of activity or crazy things going on."

--- Associated Press writer Rose French in Nashville contributed to this report.


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