CULPEPER, Va. (AP) — Clarence and Shauna Washington hosted a Fourth of July bash for their friends and family, and their three daughters loved to play with neighbors and ride bikes in their close-knit cluster of homes just outside the historic, quaint town of Culpeper.
On Monday, the north-central Virginia community was rocked by the news that the Washingtons — Clarence and Shauna, 35; Onesha, 13; Onya, 6; and Olivia, 4 — were shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide. The investigation focused on Clarence as the likely shooter, officials said.
"Culpeper is the last place you'd imagine this," said Reggie Massie, who lives two doors down. "Everybody here is family."
As recently as Saturday, there was a "domestic issue" at the Washingtons' three-story home, Sheriff Scott Jenkins said. But friends said Shauna Washington didn't want to get police involved, so no one was called to the scene, according to the sheriff's office.
It "got heated," Jenkins said, but he would not elaborate.
On Sunday night, a family member found the Washingtons' bodies inside the home.
On Monday, two pink children's bikes sat on the side of the house, on about an acre of land set back from the road. Three cars were in the driveway, including a gray Jeep with a Bible on the driver's seat.
Clarence Washington had worked for almost six years as a custodian at the elementary school that his middle daughter attended, said Bobbi F. Johnson, superintendent Culpeper County Public Schools.
"He was very unassuming and gentle," said Johnson, and the family was active in the girls' schooling and the district.
Massie had attended the family's party in July and said he saw no signs of family trouble.
"He's just a really quiet dude," Massie said of Washington. Both parents had two jobs, he added, Shauna working as a home nurse and selling insurance.
Onesha was quiet, and Onya was more outgoing, having just participated in a talent show, Massie said. She and his 7-year-old daughter were close, Massie said: "They were best friends till the end."
Onya and Onesha would have started a new school year Aug. 18. Johnson said she was working with principals to determine which resources would be made available to staff members and students.
"We are definitely going into unchartered territory," Johnson said.
Culpeper — a town of about 15,000 people, some of whom commute to the Washington area, about 70 miles away — is known for its quaint downtown and Civil War history, drawing tourists from around the state, Mayor Michael Olinger said. He said he did not know the victims.
"This is definitely a shock to the community, for sure," Olinger said. "Very seldom do we have a murder in Culpeper or any kind of activity such as this."
Associated Press writer Brock Vergakis contributed from Norfolk, Va.