GBI: Paulding deputy, 3 family members shot in head

The four members of a Paulding County family killed in a suspected murder-suicide were all shot in the head, the GBI said Wednesday. But investigators aren’t sure what led a 21-year-old man to kill his family and then himself, leaving a community shocked.

Autopsies conducted Wednesday on the family, which included a Paulding County deputy who served 20 years in the military, confirmed what investigators believe happened inside the family’s home, according to Greg Ramey, GBI special agent in charge.

“We know what happened,” Ramey told the AJC. “We just don’t know why.”

Cpl. Sam Driskell, his wife, daughter and stepson were found shot to death inside their Ridge Road home Tuesday afternoon, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Police believe Driskell’s stepson, Felix Almonte, was the gunman.

Driskell, 52, appeared to have been shot as he slept, Cpl. Ashley Henson said. Also killed were Muachin Driskell, 36, and the couple’s 12-year-old daughter, Carolyn. Investigators believe the woman and child were awake when they were killed, Ramey said Wednesday.

The deaths shocked neighbors and friends, including Cpl. Driskell’s law enforcement colleagues. Sheriff Gary Gulledge said Tuesday he had graduated from Paulding County High School with Driskell in 1980. Driskell enlisted in the Army after high school and achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class and was a drill sergeant.

“We’ve lost one of the best guys we ever had,” Gulledge said. “What we initially believe is they have had some issues with the stepson. I don’t know how far they go. We’re trying to dig into that right now.”

A man who lives on neighboring property has told investigators he heard muffled gunshots between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday night, Ramey said. That neighbor didn’t think much of the gunshots at the time. But investigators now believe that is when the crimes happened, Ramey said.

A veteran of the Paulding Sheriff’s Office, Driskell failed to show up for a court hearing Tuesday morning, and two of his colleagues drove to his house to check on him. Once inside, the two deputies found all four residents of the home dead.

Almonte, who attended Hiram High and Austin Middle schools, had no known criminal record, according to police. On Wednesday, classmates and staff grieved for Carolyn Driskell, a 7th grader at Austin Middle School.

GBI detectives planned to speak with relatives and friends of the family. But neighbors and friends said they weren’t aware of problems in the home.

“No complaints at all, just a good family,” Derrek Morris, Sam Driskell’s cousin, told Channel 2 Action News. “He was just a good young man. I never seen anything out of the ordinary with him.”

Visitation for Sam Driskell will be held Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. at West Ridge Church in Dallas. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the church, followed by interment at Bethel United Methodist Church Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Sheriff’s Office Cops for Kids Christmas shopping program.

Funeral arrangements for the other family members were pending.

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