A 30-year-old man who grew up in a small town in western Kentucky came to the police station in the middle of the night with chilling news: He told officers that he had just shot the mayor.
An officer rushed to Hickman Mayor Charles Murphy's house and found the side door broken in early Monday. In the bedroom, Murphy lay dead of a shotgun blast.
A day later, Thomas Joseph "Tommy" Lattus was due in court to face a murder charge. The 68-year-old Murphy was a well-liked former educator who had dated Lattus' stepmother on and off over the years.
The shooting stunned residents of the town of about 2,500 people, many of whom knew Murphy as their school principal.
"It wasn't random or anything like that; it's personal," Hickman Police Chief Tony Grogan told The Associated Press about the shooting. "As far as clear motive, I would assume that it's just that he didn't like him."
Multiple shots were fired, but Grogan wouldn't say how many times Murphy was hit. Jail records didn't indicate whether Lattus had an attorney.
Grogan said Lattus may have been upset with Murphy over the relationship with his stepmother, Carole Lattus.
"Sometimes they broke up, sometimes they got back together," Grogan said of the relationship.
The police chief added: "From Tommy's point of view, I think he might have had some friction, from things that happened in the past."
The mayor's brother and neighbor, Fred Murphy, said his nephew told him Monday that the mayor had asked his son to call periodically to check on his welfare when Lattus came to visit him in recent days.
Carole Lattus was out of the country Monday and couldn't immediately be reached. Thomas Lattus had been adopted by Carole Lattus when he was a boy, said Gerald Harris, whose niece is married to the mayor's son. The suspect's father, Carole Lattus' former husband, died years ago.
Another neighbor who had known Tommy Lattus since he was young said he appeared to be unstable. Melissa Somerfield, who has lived near Murphy for 22 years, said his odd behavior included a time when Lattus had a singing outburst at a church service.
"He just got up out of the blue and starting singing aloud. People went and started telling his mother that things were not right with him," she said.
Murphy's friends said Lattus had been living out of town but returned to Hickman in recent days. Grogan said Lattus had been staying at his stepmother's home.
Somerfield said she was awakened by her sister around 2:30 a.m. with the news that the man who once served as her elementary and junior high principal had been killed. Authorities were at Murphy's home until around 4:30 a.m.
"It's been really hard to wrap my head around this," Somerfield said.
Jason Sipes, pastor at West Hickman Baptist Church, said family members gathering at a house would not comment on the shooting.
The city in the extreme southwest corner of Kentucky is known for the Hickman-Dorena Ferry, the only connection for automobiles over the Mississippi River between Kentucky and Missouri. Violent crime there is rare.
"We have speeding tickets and running stop signs, but to have something of this magnitude, we may have something like this happen every five to 10 years," City Manager Larry Myatt said.
Morrison Williamson, manager at Hickman Hardware, said he first heard about the shooting early in the morning from his wife.
"Next thing I know, people started calling the store, saying `Did you hear what happened?'" Williamson said.
Murphy was in his second term as mayor. He previously served on the city board of commissioners. City Commissioner Charles Choate described Murphy as a small farmer who loved to spend time on his property.
Murphy was also proud that recent audits showed the city's financial situation was improving.
"He was very proud that the city was turning the corner and being more financially responsible," Choate said.