MSNBC coverage of the shooting spree

UPDATE 2

The Associated Press reports that the gunman was a resident of Kinston, Alabama named Michael McLendon. The majority of his victims were his own relatives, including his mother and grandparents. Others victims were strangers, chosen at random.

McLendon may have been a former employee of Reliable Metal Products, the facility where he committed suicide at the end of his murderous spree.

UPDATE

The following comes from The Southeast Sun:

A 30-year-old man apparently set fire to his mother’s home in Coffee County before traveling to Samson and Geneva on a shooting spree that left at least 10 people dead. Coffee County Sheriff’s Department deputies, District Attorney Gary McAliley and Enterprise firefighters are on the scene at the woman’s home near Kinston, where her burned body has been discovered. Officials have not confirmed if she was alone in the house. They said witnesses saw the gunman, whose name has not been released, leaving the home earlier today before he drove to Samson…

Original Post

The spree began in Geneva County, Alabama, with gunshots inside a house in the town of Samson, just off Highway 52. Local reports indicate that the gunman killed 5 people in that house, 4 adults and a child. They were said to be his relatives. Two more were found dead at two other residences in the area. Then the gunman headed into downtown Samson. He shot a man walking down the sidewalk there, killing him. He entered the Big/Little Store where he killed one person. A local report indicated that the victim was a woman. She was found face-up behind the counter inside the store.

Law enforcement swarmed the area as the reports came in. Meanwhile, the killer traveled a quarter mile or so up the highway to a True Value Hardware Store, where he again opened fire, shooting an assault rifle out the window of his vehicle. The killer then headed towards the town of Geneva, allegedly shooting at vehicles along the way.

An investigator named Ricky Morgan spotted the shooter near a Wal-Mart, still firing away. Morgan barrelled into the maniac with his own vehicle and was shot at for his trouble Then Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey confronted the shooter, who fired at Lindsey, striking him in the shoulder. Lindsey was not seriously injured.

The final showdown with the still-unnamed gunman came in the parking lot of Reliable Metal Products on Alabama Highway 27. There he exchanged gunfire with a Geneva County Sheriff’s Deputy and a local conservation officer. The killer managed to flee to the building, where he shot himself.

After the killer took his own life and the investigation began, some reports suggested that the number of dead may rise.

According to local media, the FBI, Alabama Bureau of Investigation and multiple county sheriff’s departments are investigating. 

This is a developing story. Updates and revisions will follow.

[The Southeast Sun, NBC15Online.com, DothanEagle.com. Also: an online guest book has been created for the victims of the spree.]

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Map of approximate locations where shots were fired.

CBS News report on the shooting of Pastor Fred Winters.

Terry Joe Sedlacek, age 27, has been named as the suspect in the murder of First Baptist of Maryville (IL) Pastor Fred Winters during a church service early Sunday. Police have not confirmed that Sedlacek, a resident of Troy, Illinois, is the man in custody. Sources have confirmed to St. Louis-area media that Sedlacek is the suspect in this dramatic assault. Sedlacek suffers from Lyme Disease, and it has affected his brain. A July, 2008 post on the St. Louis Lyme Foundation website indicated that Sedlacek suffered “temporal lobe damage” from the disease. According to Wikipedia, the temporal lobe “is involved in auditory processing and is home to the primary auditory cortex. It is also important for the processing of semantics in both speech and vision. The temporal lobe contains the hippocampus and plays a key role in the formation of long-term memory.” [CBS]

Welcome To all my friends

Murder victim Jeri Lynn Cole in a video she posted on a MySpace profile she abandoned after meeting Scott Abbott.

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Jeri Lynn Cole and Scott Lamar Abbott

Quadruple homicide suspect Scott Lamar Abbott, age 24, will be in court today in Bessemer, Alabama. Police in Hueytown, AL believe Abbott murdered William Chad Gilbert, 31, Nika Sandlin, age 24, 26-year-old Joshua Gilleo and Jeri Lynn Cole, age 27.

Scott Abbott lived in the residence where the murders occurred up till a few weeks ago, when he was told to leave.

Authorities believe Abbott wasn’t happy with that arrangement, to say the least. They think the 6’7″ male stripper entered the home where the murders occurred around 3 a.m. Saturday. He stabbed each victim several times, creating what one veteran cop termed “one of the most horrific” crime scenes he’d ever seen.

Then, fortunately for justice, Abbott pulled an idiot move and showed up at a hospital in Gadsden, Alabama. Hospital staff found his excuse for his own knife wounds a little suspect and called Gadsden police. The Gadsden PD eventually delivered Abbott to the Hueytown cops.

Based on reports that Abbott dated one of the victims and was a “jilted lover”, as well as evidence found on MySpace.com, it looks as though Scott Abbott was dating Jeri Lynn Cole, aka lyricsmom27.

On February 25, Cole’s profile headline read “~Happy with Scott~.” By her last login on the 6th of this month, it said, “~Having fun~.”

A slideshow of photos showed Cole in alluring poses, nothing truly exposed, but clearly topless. In her “About me” section she wrote:

MY NAME IS JERI I AM 27 I AM FROM HUEYTOWN BESSEMER AREA I LIVE IN HUEYTOWN AL ***U CAN FIND ME ON YAHOO MESSENGER “LYRICSMOM27” I HAVE A WEB CAM ALSO :) ADD ME IF U WANNA CHAT*** I LOVE SHOOTING POOL AND HAVING FUN! I LOVE THE OUTDOORS AND SPENDING TIME WITH THE ONE I LOVE. I LIKE TO FISH,JET SKI,MOVIES,GOING OUT TO EAT,SINGING AT BARS SOMETIMES,MUD RIDING,AND SWIMMING.I LOVE BEING A MOM TO 2 HANDSOME LITTLE MEN […] SINGLE MOM TRYING TO MEET THE RIGHT PEOPLE TIRED OF DRAMA!!! I LOVE EATING OUT I LOVE ALL TYPES OF PLACES LIKE:CAJUN STEAMERS…YUMMY VOO DOO CHICKEN!SHOGUNS,YENGS ASIAN GRILL YUMMY,COSTAS ITALIAN..OH YEAH!,HABENEROS IS SO GOOD!,SHANGHI AWESOME CHINESE FOOD,AND JOHNNY CARINOS..HA HA ALOT OF DIFFERN’T ONES. I LOVE THE BEACH AND LOVE ROMANCE, I AM A BIG CUDDLER AND LOVE TO BE AFFECTIONATE,I LOVE JUST HAVING FUN!

In contrast to that inviting bio and the come-hither photographs, Cole once wrote the following under “Who I’d like to meet”:

FRIENDS ONLY I HAVE FOUND A AWESOME MAN SCOTT YOUR AWESO ME THANKS FOR GIVING ME A CHANCE I KNOW YOU WILL NOT DO ME WRONG I ♥ YOU BABY! CAN’T WAIT TO START OUR LIVES RIGHT AND GROW OLD WITH U

By March 6, that blurb had been changed to this:

I AM READY TO MEET A REAL MAN WHO IS NOT ABOUT GAMES AND DOES NOT LIKE A KID… WHO LIKES TO PARTY AND HAVE FUN AND LOVES ROMANCE.. I AM TIRED OF THE BULL SHIT 24-35YRS WHITE ONLY! MUST BE ATTRACTIVE HIT ME UP.. I LOVE MUSCULAR BUILT MEN

On February 19 this year – about two weeks ago – Scott Abbott left this almost indecipherable comment on Jeri Lynn Coles’s profile:

Hey baby yea it is hard but there will be times like this but they just make our love stronger and us closer so just hang in there with me and it will get better im just waiting on a unanswered prayer impen god will hear my call but he you love you got to respect my word and what i say more often i dont say no to be mean i say it cause i wont the best for us just pence i love you always and soon you will have my last name and not just my heart

On March 1st, Abbott left these comments, the top at 9:09 p.m., the bottom just 4 minutes before:

you erased our pics but please not our love […]

hey i am not much 4 words but these 3 i love you and all i wont is you just the way you are plase for give me

In January and February, Abbott left longer comments for Jeri Lynn Cole, and they seemed to reflect some kind of ongoing turmoil between the two. Read them here.

Abbott’s own personal profile was private, but beside a photo of himself and Jeri Cole he posted these words: “in love with my woman and future wife.” His boldface headline read, “scott hoping to get married soon to my beautiful little ladie.” His last login was on March 1st.

Scott Abbott was no stranger to violence. A 2004 press release from police in Fort Payne, Alabama listed an arrest for a then-19-year-old Scott Lamar Abbott for “domestic violence.” Abbott pleaded guilty that year to a charge of child abuse and was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

The three remaining victims – Nika Sandlin, Joshua Gilleo and William Chad Gilbert – also had private MySpace profiles. Sandlin’s and Gilbert’s emphasized their love for their children.

Police have said that though there was evidence of drug use in the home, these murders were not drug-related.

It sounds like they had much more to do with a 6’7″ psychopath who couldn’t handle rejection.

[Birmingham News]

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Logo of First Baptist, Maryville

It happened during early services this morning at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois. A gunman mounted the stage and opened fire on the pastor and congregation. Up to 5 people [Fox News reports 6 people] were transported to nearby medical centers by helicopter, including the pastor, who was hit by at least 3 bullets. Early televised reports stated that the gunman was stabbed after he was bum-rushed by church members. It has since been reported that the attacker stabbed himself. 

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Pastor Fred Winters

CNN reported that one person died from their injuries. Multiple sources including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have indicated that the deceased is pastor Fred Winters. There are conflicting reports that another victim has passed away as well.

The injured gunman is in custody.

The following quote from an article on MSNBC’s website tells more about how the events unfolded:

Church Member Ashley Shank, interviewed by KSDK, was not in the church at the time of the shooting but she did talk to others who said the gunman was wearing a hoodie and pulled the weapon out of the hoodie.

Just before the shooting, the pastor had reportedly asked the gunman, who was standing in the aisle of the church, whether he needed help with anything.

The following statement comes from the website for the church: “A prayer service will be held tonight at 6:00pm, March 8, 2009, at Metro Community Chuch in Edwardsville, IL.”

Updates and revisions to follow.

According to The Birmingham News, a quadruple homicide occurred sometime overnight at

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Photo of living room at 225 Woodland from real estate website

225 Woodland Drive in Hueytown, Alabama. From Blog.al.com:

The victims are two men and two women, all believed to be in their 20s, [Police Chief Chuck] Hagler said. He would not reveal their identifies. A man described as a person of interest has been taken into custody, he said…

Few other details are available at the moment, but I was able to find a listing online for the residence where the murders occurred. It included photos of rooms inside the house, and seeing them cleaned up and camera-ready was eerie.

I’m going to beat the shit out of you when we get home!” – According to court papers, a statement from Chris Brown to Rihanna on the night he allegedly beat the crap out of her.

Singer Chris Brown has been hit with a double dose of felony charges for his alleged assault on his girlfriend, Rihanna, aka Robyn Fenty.

The LA Times posted the court documents here.

I know that writing about crime seeks in part to re-tell the stories found in court documents in an interesting manner, leaving the dryness of legal reportage behind, but sometimes the plain facts of what allegedly happened are just as compelling as anything cooked up by any journalist. Go here to read the court papers in a format that may load a little more easily than the pdf posted by the Times.

Looks like Elmo was lucky to get away unscathed.

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UPDATE

Nope, according to Memphis authorities, the explosion today was no crime, and not linked to last month’s mysterious bombing in West Memphis. It was an accident. Evidently “a woman lighting a cigarette ignited fumes from cleaning products inside the vehicle.”

So there ya go. No serial bomber, just a pretty decent anti-smoking PSA in the making.

Original post

Anyone who took note of the mysterious car bomb that gravely injured West Memphis physician Trent Pierce will view this new incident with concern. The AP is reporting that one person has been injured in a vehicle explosion in Memphis. A woman in the parking lot of a building at 5545 Murray noticed something on the passenger side of a parked Nissan Maxima. When she approached the vehicle, it blew up. She has been taken to the Burn Unit at a Memphis-area hospital. Police and Federal law enforcement officials are on the scene. WMC TV currently has choppers over the area, with a live video feed showing a bomb squad prepping a robot.

Also of interest: Twitter posts (tweets) about the incident

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Bomb squad on the scene

I can pretty much guarantee that local news, at the very least, is already gearing up to pose the question to alarmed Memphians: is there a serial bomber on the loose in Memphis?

Chances are there isn’t (serial bombers are rare), but you never know.

This post will be updated as needed. 

Who knew child-like joy could be found in the wake of the knife murder of a roommate? Italian police giving testimony in the Knox trial today have indicated that Amanda Knox’s ‘inappropriate’ behavior after her roommate was found brutally murdered wasn’t confined to just cuddling with Raffaele Sollecito. From the AP/Fox News: “Italian investigators testified Friday in the murder trial of an American student and her former boyfriend, with one saying the American turned cartwheels in the police station after the killing…” Wow. If this is true, well, yeah – it gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘inappropriate’.

ABC report on previous testimony in Amanda Knox’s murder trial.

After initial, intense interest stateside, coverage of the trial of alleged killer Amanda Knox for the November, 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, has been a little muted here in the U.S. Washington State media are reporting, as are a few national outlets (NBC’s Today Show reports every week, like clockwork), but the ongoing trial of the pretty Seattle college student has been shunted to the back pages of the papers that still exist and left to various message boards and blogs to parse – and parse they do.

I’ve said this before in television appearances and online – I stopped blogging about this case in any detailed way after it became clear that it has produced heated, somewhat obsessive reactions in people who follow it online. At my True Crime Weblog, a single blog post about Knox eventually garnered in excess of 3000 comments.

I feel the case can’t be ignored, though. It will eventually produce some of the most interesting true crime media – books, movies, Lifetime miniseries – you are ever likely to see, no matter the outcome. If Amanda Knox is found not guilty of the charges against her, she will be a celebrity, of a sort (she’s already a bona-fide celeb in Italy). I will be quite surprised if she doesn’t embrace that, as she seems to like attention, regardless of the nature of that attention. I am also fairly certain this young woman – who already had writerly ambitions – will pen her own account of the experience – and probably make quite a bit of money from selling it.

The Italian judicial system is peculiar – the trial of Knox and her former lover, Raffaele Sollecito, will apparently drag on for months, as it is only in court on Fridays and Saturdays.

Nick Squires of the London Telegraph has published an account of this week’s activities in Perugia, so far:

[Amanda Knox] appeared more sober and downcast than on previous occasions as she was led into court in Perugia, where she and her Italian ex-boyfriend are on trial for murdering the Leeds University student.

As soon as she sat down she bowed her head and appeared to start crying, after greeting her father, Curt Knox, with a nervous smile.

She was comforted by her translator, a uniformed prison guard and one of her lawyers, who patted her gently on the back. Her demeanour was in marked contrast to previous hearings, when she smiled and joked with her lawyers…

Squires also quoted part of a statement by Knox that has been accepted as evidence in the case. In it, Knox was disavowing written ‘confession’ to the murder of Meredith Kercher that she’d made after police interrogation:

In regards to this ‘confession’ that I made last night, I want to make clear that … [it was]made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion.

Not only was I paranoid I would be arrested and put in jail for 30 years, but I was also hit in the head when I didn’t remember a fact correctly. It was under this pressure and after many hours of confusion that my mind came up with these answers…

Police are expected to testify about Knox’s treatment during her interrogation.

The trial continues Saturday.

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Screen capture of the masthead for FinalExitNetwork.org

In June 2008, a 58-year-old resident of Cumming, Georgia passed away from helium intoxication. Police suspected assisted suicide, and the Georgia Burea of Investigation launched a probe into the Final Exit Network.

Today, the GBI’s investigation led to the arrests of Atlanta resident Claire Behr, age 76, and a Kennesaw man, 63-year-old Thomas E. Goodwin. Authorities in Maryland also charged two others they believe to be part of the alleged assisted suicide network: Baltimore residents Dr. Lawrence Egbert, age 81 and 60-year-old Nicholas Alec Sheridan.

The GBI became involved after Cumming Police and the Forsyth County coroner suspected the unnamed suicide in Cumming had received assistance and relatives found material related to Final Exit in the man’s possession.

According to Atlanta’s ABC affiliate, WSB TV, the arrestees all “have been charged on warrants out of Forsyth County with assisted suicide, tampering with evidence, and violation of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.”

The GBI performed a sting to determine how Final Exit works.

Members apparently pay a fee and fill out an application. Then they are assigned “Exit Guides.” Exit Guides instruct the new member on the materials they should purchase; these include helium tanks and a hood the Network calls an “exit bag.”

The day of the member’s suicide, they are attended by the Exit Guide and a Senior Exit Guide.

Atlanta’s Fox affiliate [link] interviewed a GBI official on-air, and he reported that the suicide process put an emphasis on the “assisted” portion of the term. The GBI believes that Final Exit guides actually hold the suicide down to complete the act even if the person in question has second thoughts.

WSB reports that Final Exit is under investigation in 7 states: “Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, and Montana.”

More arrests may be made soon.

Assisting someone with learning a method of suicide could be considered a debatable topic to some. Allegedly holding the dying person down after they have second thoughts and begin to struggle seems like it’d be a pretty clear-cut case of homicide.

Here’s how the Final Exit Network explains what they do:

We believe the needs of those who are suffering are paramount. We applaud the work of organizations that seek legislative action to strengthen our right to die a peaceful and painless death at the time and place of our choosing. However, we feel that legislative change will not come soon enough for the many people who need help NOW and in the interim!

This is definitely a developing story, and its scope dictates you’ll hear a lot more about it in the days to come. This entry may be updated and revised.

Additional link: Wayback Machine link for Final Exit’s website.