Nearly two weeks after three people, including a toddler, were found dead in a small Middle Georgia town, state and local authorities have no clue what led to the fatal shootings.
At a news conference Monday, GBI officials confirmed Willie Merrell shot and killed 47-year-old caretaker Priscilla Adams and 17-month-old Jashun Ingram at a Byromville home on Jan. 25.
Merrell was found just yards away, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His rifle was found “within arms reach” of his body, GBI agent J.T. Ricketson said.
A 17-year-old girl, who has not been identified, was also injured during the gunfire.
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Ricketson said Merrell walked across the street and fired several rounds from his gun, killing Adams and Ingram. He then walked back to his home and fatally shot himself. His body was found by police dogs nearly five hours after the first shooting was reported.
Merrell’s prints were on the gun and the bullets matched the rifle used in the shooting, Ricketson said.
But the big question in the investigation has left authorities wondering: Why?
“We would like to know the ‘why’ and sometimes we get that when we’re working these cases,” Ricketson said, “but in this case the ‘why’ is with Mr. Merrell ...”
Dooly County Sheriff Van Peavy said there hadn’t been a history of conflict between the two homes. Authorities had been called to the home where Adams and Ingram were found dead about disturbances, but Peavy didn’t elaborate on the nature of those calls. Officials did not say who lived at the home where the bodies were found.
“I don’t know of anything in our file that would go back to any confrontation,” Peavy said at the news conference.
For now, Ricketson said he’s sticking with the facts of the case.
“There are a lot of theories in the community,” he said, “but again, we have to find the facts and stick to the evidence.”
Peavy said he is not sure how the fatal shooting will affect the quiet community of 500, but he said his job now is to help the city and county heal: “There’s no good ending to this story.”
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