Paulding deputy, family killed in apparent murder-suicide

When a veteran Paulding County deputy didn’t show up for a court appearance Tuesday morning, his colleagues were concerned. It wasn’t characteristic of the hard-working, dependable Cpl. Samuel Driskell.

At Driskell’s home, two deputies found a crime scene and immediately called for additional deputies. Driskell, his wife, daughter and stepson had all been shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide, the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office said. Investigators believe Driskell’s stepson, 21-year-old Felix Almonte, used his stepfather’s county-issued Glock .45 to kill his family and then himself, Cpl. Ashley Henson said Tuesday afternoon.

Driskell, 52, appeared to have been shot once in the head as he slept inside the family’s Ridge Road home, Henson said. Also killed were Muachin Driskell, 36, and the couple’s 12-year-old daughter, Carolyn, Henson said. The four bodies were found within 15 feet of each other, Greg Ramey, GBI special agent, told reporters across the street from the crime scene.

After securing a search warrant, investigators entered the home late Tuesday afternoon. Though early in the investigation, all indications were that Almonte had been the gunman, Ramey said. A possible time frame wasn’t released, but autopsies will be conducted on the four at the GBI crime lab, he said.

Late Tuesday, investigators had not removed the gun involved in the shootings. But Sheriff Gary Gulledge said it appeared to be the same make and model given to deputies. Driskell’s gun was missing from its holster, Gulledge said.

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Neighbors gathering along the two-lane road were shocked to learn of what happened inside the single-story home. But even more devastated was Gulledge, who said he graduated from Paulding County High School with “Sammy” in 1980 and considered him a friend.

“We’ve lost one of the best guys we’ve ever had,” Gulledge said. “He can’t be replaced.”

Sam Driskell grew up in Paulding and entered the military after high school, Gulledge said. While in the military, Driskell met his wife, a native of the Dominican Republic. The family later returned to Paulding, where Sam had worked for more than 10 years at the sheriff’s office, Gulledge said. In addition to Muachin Driskell’s son, Felix, the couple had a child of their own, Carolyn. All four lived together in the south Paulding home, near Hiram.

During his time at the sheriff’s office, Driskell was recognized by the GBI and the Georgia Sheriff’s Association for his work, Henson said. In addition to handling the local sex offender registry, Driskell worked in the Crimes Against Children unit. In September, he was awarded the Paulding County Board of Commissioner’s Public Safety Award for his exemplary service.

Investigators declined to speculate on any motive or problems within the household, but planned to interview family members and friends, the GBI’s Ramey said. The GBI is handling the investigation because it involves one of his own men, Gulledge said.

“I’ve got a whole office of people upset,” Gulledge said. “There’s no getting over this.”

Gulledge said pastors were called to the sheriff’s office to help those grieving.

Almonte had no prior criminal history, according to investigators. He graduated from Hiram High School in 2013, and Megan Ash said she rode the school bus with Almonte while attending Austin Middle School and Hiram High.

“He never got in any trouble,” Ash said.

Investigators remained at the home for several hours late Tuesday. More information is expected to be released Wednesday morning.

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