A gunman killed seven people — four of whom are family members of the suspect — in a door-to-door shooting spree in Missouri on Thursday before killing himself, officials said Friday. The rampage may have been triggered by finding his mother dead of apparent natural causes, officials added.
Gunman Joseph Jesse Aldridge, 36, was later found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a car in a neighboring county after the killings in the rural community of Tyrone, a small town of about 50 people, authorities said.
Texas County coroner Tom Whittaker told NBC affiliate KSDK that the body of a woman identified by authorities as Aldridge’s mother, 74-year-old Alice Aldridge, had been dead for 24 hours before she was found by authorities Thursday night, and she is thought to have died of natural causes.
Whittaker said the suspect’s discovery of the body may have sparked the killing spree, but investigators said a motive has not yet been determined. Texas County Sheriff’s deputies first learned of the rampage — which spanned six crime scenes in a three-mile radius in Tyrone — just after 10 p.m. local time after a juvenile female called 911 and said there were gunshots in her home.
Four of the seven victims were identified as husband and wife Darrell Aldridge and Julie Aldridge and husband and wife Harold Aldridge and Janelle Aldridge, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder said at a news conference Friday, adding that some were cousins of the suspect.
The other three victims were not members of the suspect’s family and have not yet been identified.
Texas County Sheriff's deputies were alerted to the trail of slayings Thursday night when a juvenile female called 911 to say she heard gunshots in her home and fled. Deputies responded and found two people dead inside the home.
After investigating further, another five people were found fatally shot in three other residences in Tyrone, about 90 miles east of Springfield. There was also one person injured at one of the scenes who was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover, Texas County authorities said.
Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said during a news conference Friday that investigators “checked a wide area door-to-door” for additional victims. He added that investigators weren't looking for any other suspects.
Aldridge pleaded guilty to federal charges of possessing a firearm, described as a .22-caliber pistol, while using marijuana in 2008, according to KSDK. Following his 21-month sentence, he was ordered to participate in counseling programs, the station reported. The gun Aldridge allegedly used Thursday was a .45-caliber handgun, Sigman said.
Sigman said “everybody knows everybody” in the small community, which isn’t accustomed to homicides. “Start locking your doors,” he advised residents Friday. “The world is changing.”