KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Residents of a small southern Missouri town struggled to come to grips with the knowledge that one of their own had killed seven people in a spasm of violence that ended when the gunman shot himself to death on a rural county road.
Joseph Jesse Aldridge, 36, went to four homes in the unincorporated town of Tyrone in Texas County late Thursday, killing relatives and neighbors but sparing two teenagers. He was later found dead in a vehicle in neighboring Shannon County, about 25 miles away.
Aldridge's 74-year-old mother, Alice, was found dead in a home she shared with her son as officers went door-to-door to search for other victims. An autopsy performed Saturday found she died of natural causes, Texas County Coroner Tom Whitaker said. Alice Aldridge had a history of breast cancer and had lung cancer, said Whitaker, adding investigators assumed she was not a victim of violence but wanted to be "100 percent" sure.
Autopsies were not performed on the other victims, who all lived in Tyrone, not much more than a spot on the map about 40 miles north of the Arkansas border.
"Since the shooter killed himself, and we're certain he is the shooter and the weapon he killed himself with, the ammunition he used, all match the victims, the prosecuting attorney felt there was no need for autopsies," Whittaker said. "We knew how they died."
Texas County Sheriff James Sigman on Saturday identified three of the victims as Darrell Dean Shriver, 68; his 46-year-old son, Carey Dean Shriver, and Carey's wife, Valirea Love Shriver, 44. The name of a 67-year-old woman who was injured was not released. She was being treated at a Springfield hospital.
Sigman was not available for interviews on Saturday, his office said.
John W. Shriver, 72, said he found the bodies of Carey and Valirea on a bedroom floor of their home Thursday night after his cousin Darrell's wife called screaming and asking him to find Carey. The couple's 13-year-old son, also named John Shriver, slept through the killings and was found in his bed. The elder John Shriver later learned Darrell had died and his wife was injured.
Shriver told The Associated Press on Saturday that it's still unclear why his cousins were killed.
"They was neighbors and we had heard maybe he (Joseph) asked Darrell for a job and didn't get it but we don't know that for sure," he said. "Their house was close to the other homes. We don't know why."
Residents speculated Friday that the death of Aldridge's mother might have triggered the rampage but investigators were still trying to determine a motive.
The shootings came to light when a 13-year-old girl ran to a neighbor's house for help after hearing gunshots at her home. The girl called 911 from the neighbor's home and while officers were responding to that call, they heard of another shooting. Authorities identified them Friday as two couples, Garold Dee Aldridge, 52, and his wife, Julie Ann, 47; and Harold Wayne Aldridge, 50, and his wife, Janell Arlisa, 48. Both men were cousins of Joseph Aldridge, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder.
John Shriver said he knew all the victims well but was not familiar with Joseph Aldridge. The few people in town willing to talk Friday said Aldridge was somewhat reclusive in a town where everyone knows each other. It was unclear what, if anything, Aldridge did for a living.
Pastor Terry Brown, 61, lead pastor at Maness Memorial Baptist Church in Cabool, about 17 miles from Tyrone, said he was acquainted with five of the seven victims, though none were members of his church.
"They were hardworking people who were reserved," he said. "They would help other people in that community with anything and they would not charge them money for it. It means they were friends. They liked being in that small, rural environment in which everybody knew everybody and many of them were related to one another."