The five people found dead in an Arkansas home on Christmas Day were family members that died in a murder-suicide, officials said this week.
Pope County police responded to a call of a possible homicide a little after 5 p.m. on Dec. 25, the sheriff’s department stated in a Saturday press release. Officers responded to a home where they found five women and girls, who were deemed related to one another, dead. Investigators called it an “isolated incident” at the time, which warranted no known danger to the public.
By Monday, investigators had announced that the family died as a result of a murder-suicide. They also released the names of the deceased: Danielle Collins, 7, Levenah Countryman, 10, Abigail Heflin, 12, Jaquita Chase 31, and Patricia Patrick, 61. Investigators have not said which person they believe is responsible for the murders.
The exact relationships between the deceased were not released by officials. However, a GoFundMe page says that Chase is the mother of the children and Patrick is their grandmother. At least some of the victims were reportedly shot, according to Arkansas Online.
“While all loss of life is heartbreaking, this situation has been particularly tragic," Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones stated in the Monday press release. "Anytime children are senselessly taken from those who love them, the pain is beyond compare. When you add to that the loss of the adults involved, the pain is unfathomable.”
Pope County was also the scene of another Christmas killing 33 years ago, when a man named Ronald Gene Simmons killed 16 people, including some of his own relatives. A total of 14 of the 16 victims in that killing spree were members of Simmons' family, the Associated Press reported in 1987.
A neighbor of the slain family of five told Arkansas Online that Friday’s murder-suicide reminded her of the 1987 killings.
“There are so many family members and friends who are hurting, dismayed and in shock over the events of this past Christmas Day,” Jones stated in the press release of the recent slayings. “We need to keep them in our prayers, as they will need many in the days ahead, and continue to reach out to them to offer any assistance possible."
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