Authorities: Man accused of killing wife, her kin

July 19, 2009 12:49:13 PM PDT
A Tennessee man is accused of killing his wife and three of her relatives, along with two others in a two-state spree, authorities said Sunday. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified the five people found dead Saturday in two neighboring rural homes near Fayetteville in southern Tennessee. A sixth body discovered at a business about 30 miles away in Huntsville, Ala., has not yet been identified.

Authorities have charged 30-year-old Jacob Shaffer with homicide in connection with the five people found dead in Fayetteville, Tenn. TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in a press release that the victims were identified as Shaffer's wife, 38-year-old Traci Shaffer; her son, 16-year-old Devin Brooks; her brother, 34-year-old Chris Hall; her father, 57-year-old Billy Hall; and a neighbor, 16-year-old Robert Berber.

Shaffer was charged with five counts of homicide for the Tennessee deaths and faced an additional count in Alabama. Helm said Saturday that the motive was believed to be "domestic."

Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder said at a news conference that his department is investigating three crime scenes, though he did not elaborate. He did not release the victims' names and would not confirm the causes of death in what he called "horrendous" killings and "one of the worst crimes Lincoln County has seen."

Helm said the Tennessee victims were killed Friday night or early Saturday. Shaffer was sitting on the porch of one of the Fayetteville houses when authorities first arrived Saturday.

Huntsville police Sgt. Mickey Allen, who works for the city's major crimes unit, said that based on the suspect's information, police found a body at Hall Cultured Marble Granite on Saturday morning. Authorities have not said how the slayings in the two communities are linked.

While authorities have not released the victims' ages, Karon Weatherman, who lives about a half-mile away from the Tennessee homes, said she saw children as young as 4 and 5 running back and forth between the houses across the road from each other.

One of the Tennessee homes was once a skating rink that was converted into a duplex, said Weatherman. She did not know the family but said they moved in earlier this year.

"I wouldn't expect nothing like this to happen," she said.

Fayetteville is a town of 7,000 people about 90 miles south of Nashville near the Tennessee-Alabama border. Huntsville, about 30 miles south, is the largest city in northern Alabama with more than 170,000 people.


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