'I Think He Just Broke': Country Star Allison Moorer Talks Parents’ Murder-Suicide In New Memoir

Allison Moorer’s father killed her mother and then himself when Moorer was only 14 years old.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Allison Moorer G

Before country singer Allison Moorer made a name for herself in the music industry, she experienced a hugely traumatic event in her childhood: the deaths of her parents by murder and suicide.

Moorer, 47, opened up about her tumultuous upbringing in her new memoir, “Blood,” which hit shelves on October 29. Moorer grew up with her parents, Vernon Franklin Moorer and Laura Lynn Smith, and her older sister, Shelby, in Frankville, Alabama; the girls’ childhood was anything but peaceful, however, as their father was an abusive alcoholic, CBS News reports.

Moorer's mother left her husband in 1986 and moved with her daughters to a rental home, but everything came crashing down on Aug. 12, 1986, when both girls were awakened by the sound of gunshots outside, according to the outlet. Their father had fatally shot their mother before killing himself.

In an interview with CBS News, Moorer opened up about her father, who was a teacher but always longed for a career in music, and her mother, who often sang harmony with her daughters.

“I think he just broke,” Moorer said of her father.

Moorer, who has been nominated for Grammy and Academy Awards, has avoided talking about her parents and their deaths during her career, but it was an interview with the late author Maya Angelou that led her to reconsider her parent’s story, according to The New York Post. Moorer sat for an interview with Angelou in 2010, shortly after the birth of her son, John Henry, and it was when the poet asked her what she planned to tell her son about his grandparents that Moorer began thinking about telling their story.

“And I did not have an answer for that. So I started thinking about, ‘Well, what am I going to tell him?’” she said, according to the outlet. “It came to me that I should probably start writing this all down … I figured out pretty quickly that I needed to just tell the truth about what happened.”

Moorer believes that her father — who she witnessed hitting her mother and sister, and abusing animals — was mentally ill, according to The New York Post. But while she saw him beat her mother and sister, he never hit her because they both “protected her,” she said, and she “knew how to stay out of the way.”

It was Moorer’s sister, Grammy-winning artist Shelby Lynne, who discovered their parents’ bodies on the front lawn that day in 1986, CBS News reports. Allison was 14, while her sister was 17.

“It’s a difficult thing to walk through the world and not belong to anyone,” Moorer said, according to CBS News. “So, we belong to each other, and we have always felt like that.”

Despite what her father did, Moorer said that, now, she has “nothing but love” for him. She still has his hat, briefcase, and guitar, the outlet reports.

Her mother, whose safety she said she prayed for every night as a small child, always made sure she knew that she was loved, she said.

“My mama was a great mama,” she said. “And she is why I'm okay. She is why my sister is okay.”

Moorer previously opened up about her parents during an interview with The Telegraph in 2002, where she theorized that they “got caught up in a sick cycle.”

“I’ve often wondered whether I can successfully break away from my parents’ sickness. At times it can be a bit of a dark cloud. So far I think I’m doing pretty well,” she said. “It’s just something I'm aware of, and something I want not to fall into. But it’s been 16 years, and you've got to get on with life. I don’t want to sit around talking about stuff that happened and can’t be changed.”

“We all have our victim days, but I try hard not to let it take me over. Everyone has demons in one way or another, and these are mine,” she continued.

Moorer released an album of the same name to accompany her memoir, according to her media relations firm, All Eyes Media. On YouTube, the artist described the album as a “musical companion piece” to the book; one song on it features lyrics that were written by Moorer’s father, which she discovered after his death, according to The Tennessean.

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