Tenn. slayings suspect asked to hug daughter

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2009 6:32 PM

A man charged with fatally stabbing and beating six people in Tennessee and Alabama asked a responding deputy to let him hug his 4-year-old daughter _ the only person spared in the attack, the deputy testified Thursday.

Testifying at a preliminary hearing, Bob Jones of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department said that when he reached the crime scene, suspect Jacob Shaffer was seated on the porch with his 4-year-old daughter. The 28-year-old Shaffer then stood up, turned around and put his hands behind his back and said, "You need to cuff me ... but I need to hug my daughter first," Jones told the court.

Shaffer's estranged wife, Tracie, her teenage son, her father and brother and a 16-year-old neighbor were found killed in two homes in rural Fayetteville on July 18. A man who was described as an acquaintance of Shaffer's was found beaten to death at a Huntsville, Ala., business, about 30 miles south.

Shaffer said at that time that his wife had been cheating on him, Jones testified.

He said he heard the little girl say "he hurt," but that she didn't finish the sentence. Jones said the child was crying, so he didn't want to press her for information.

After Shaffer was placed in Jones' patrol car, the deputy asked him what was going on.

"They're all dead," said Jones.

When he went inside the home, Jones said he discovered three bloody bodies.

"There was a tremendous amount of blood," Jones recalled.

Minutes later, Jones said Shaffer told him there were two bodies in a home across the street and a dead body in a barrel in Huntsville. Authorities there were notified and they found the body exactly where Shaffer said it would be.

"He knew things that only the killer could have known," District Attorney Charles Crawford told reporters after the hearing.

During his testimony, Jones acknowledged that he didn't read Shaffer his rights, and never really gave defense attorneys a clear reason as to why he didn't.

Shaffer, making his first in-court appearance in the case, sat in a beige bulletproof vest. He was mostly stonefaced and slumped over.

Shaffer was ordered held without bond for grand jury action.

Crawford has requested a mental evaluation for Shaffer. He said he has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

There was no indication Thursday why the unrelated neighbor was slain.

Police have said the killing spree began with the beating death of 50-year-old Sidney Wade Dempsey in a Huntsville business. They think Dempsey may simply have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shaffer's lawyers did not speak to reporters after the hearing.