MARSHFIELD, MO., OCT. 5 -- The sole survivor of a shooting rampage that killed seven relatives was charged today with murder in the slayings, which had been blamed on a 14-year-old family member who was among the victims.
James E. Schnick, 36, of rural Elkland, Mo., was charged with murder in the Sept. 25 killings of his wife, her brother and the brother's wife and four children.
Webster County officials had said immediately after the deaths that Schnick's nephew Kirk Buckner had gone on a shooting rampage, killing his parents, three brothers and an aunt, before dying in a struggle with Schnick.
Schnick had called authorities to say he needed help, and officials who went to his rural home found him wounded and his wife and Kirk dead. Schnick had suffered abdominal wounds, but the Schnicks' two children were not harmed.
The uncle was arrested and charged with seven counts of first-degree murder this afternoon, and was being held without bond, Prosecuting Attorney Donald Cheever said.
"Charges have been filed, warrants have been issued, and he is in custody," Cheever said. He declined further comment, but scheduled a Tuesday morning news conference.
"Some other evidence surfaced after investigators for the Missouri Highway Patrol were called in, and one lead led to another, and they all had to be followed up," said Bill Bowers, a telecommunications officer for the Sheriff's Department, Knight-Ridder reported. Schnick apparently had no criminal record, Bowers said.
Schnick was released from the hospital last week and used crutches when Chief Deputy Don Roe escorted him into the courthouse this afternoon. Wearing bib overalls and a T-shirt, Schnick showed no emotion.
Jim Murphy, a neighbor of the Buckners, said tonight he was "totally surprised" by Schnick's arrest. "Reaction is just like before -- total disbelief," he said.
Audie DeHart -- principal of Marshfield Junior High, which Kirk Buckner attended for two years -- said the arrest "did not come as a complete surprise. There's been rumors going around ever since the murders were committed."
DeHart said, "From the school's point of view, in a sense it's a relief. We kind of feel responsible for what our young people do. We assumed like everyone else that Kirk had done the killings. We are relieved to know he didn't do them, if in fact he didn't."
The family members were buried Sept. 28. Lining the front of the First Baptist Church were the flower-covered caskets of Steve Buckner, 35; his wife Jan, 36; sons Kirk, Dennis, 8, Timothy, 7, and Michael, 2; and Steve Buckner's sister, Julie Schnick, 30.
Authorities had said Kirk had gone on a rampage with a .22-cal. pistol, called a Saturday Night Special, before dawn Sept. 25. Authorities said last week that they had not determined a motive for the shootings, but neighbors said the boy may have been frustrated about his family's financial situation.
About 500 people, including 34 pallbearers, attended the memorial service.
The Rev. Wilburn Steward, a longtime friend of the family, spoke at the memorial service. At the time the community believed young Kirk was responsible for the slayings.
"Everything man makes has a breaking point. In mankind, there's a point of breaking, too. Something in Kirk had reached that point, and he just snapped," Steward had said.
Investigators had said Kirk apparently shot his brothers as they slept, shot his parents outside their small farmhouse and then drove to the farm of his aunt and uncle, where he killed his aunt before dying in a struggle with his uncle.