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Mayor Gary Skelton of Leggett, N.C., and wife murdered

Leggett Mayor Gary Skelton and his wife, Jackie Dawn Skelton, were found dead Thursday night.
by Laura Barbosa and Ethan Sacks /

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Eight hours after a small-town North Carolina mayor and his wife were found shot to death in their home, police announced the arrest of a suspect in their murders.

Police did not initially release the names of the victims — whose bodies were discovered Thursday night in Leggett, North Carolina — at the family's request. The town commissioner, however, confirmed to local NBC affiliate WRAL that they were Mayor Gary Skelton and his wife, Jackie Dawn Skelton.

"The terror that they had to have felt, going through what they were going through, it's unimaginable," Town Commissioner Teresa Summerlin told WRAL. "It is unimaginable what they came home to last night, that's what sickens me to my core, how they must have felt.

"It sickens me and they were the epitome of good people. They were awesomely good people."

In a news conference Friday morning, Edgecombe County Sheriff Cleveland Atkinson said a local man, identified as Keith Earl Williams, 25, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

A second man, whose name wasn't released, is also in custody on unrelated charges, Atkinson said.

He credited the cooperation of several law enforcement agencies for the swift arrest of Williams.

Leggett, population 55, is roughly 70 miles from Raleigh.

Police checked the Skeltons' home after Jackie Skelton's co-workers at Vidant Edgewater Hospital in nearby Tarboro became alarmed when she didn't show up to her job as a nurse earlier Thursday, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Atkinson also apologized to the Skelton family for the premature release of the couple's name, even though the leak did not come from his department.

The deaths come just two months after Andy Green, the former mayor of nearby Fremont, North Carolina, was found shot to death on a property he owned, according to WRAL.

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