A gunman killed seven people in multiple homes in the southern Missouri town of Tyrone before turning his weapon on himself, authorities said Friday.
A ninth person — an elderly woman — was found dead in the course of the police investigation but “appeared to have died from natural causes,” according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The seven victims were killed within Texas County at numerous residences, the highway patrol said. Police said the shooter was a 36-year-old man, Joseph Aldridge, who was found slumped over the steering wheel of his GMC truck in the middle of the highway, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
By Saturday, police had identified all seven deceased victims, including four individuals thought to be Aldridge’s cousins: Garold Dee Aldridge, 52; Julie Ann Aldridge, 47; Harold Wayne Aldridge, 50; and Janell Arlisa Aldridge, 48.
The other three deceased victims include Carey Dean Shriver, 46, Shriver’s wife, Valirea Love Shriver, 44, and his father, 68-year-old Darrell Dean Shriver. A 67-year-old woman was also shot and is recovering, according to police.
The motive is also still under investigation.
“It is a small community out there. Everybody knows everybody. But as far as what their personal relationship is, I couldn’t tell you,” Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said at an afternoon news conference.
Authorities said a juvenile girl called police at approximately 10:15 p.m Central on Thursday to report a “disturbance” at her home. When she heard gunshots, she immediately fled to a neighbor’s house, she said. Police responding to the call found two bodies at the girl’s home.
Later, five other bodies and an injured woman were found at three other residences in Tyrone. The elderly woman, 74-year-old Alice Aldridge, who police confirmed was the shooter’s mother, was discovered at a fifth residence. The injured victim was transported to a local hospital with gunshot wounds.
“In our job we see a lot of bad stuff, and this is bad,” Sgt. Jeff Kinder, a spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said at a news conference. “This is hard on the police officers out there. I’m sure they were as shocked as a lot of the people were.”
Texas County Coroner Tom Whittaker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the victims were three women and four men — some of whom were married to each other.
Police said that the victims’ homes were within a three-mile radius in Tyrone. Bodies were found as word of the killings began to spread in the small community, the Post-Dispatch reported:
A woman who survived being shot told police she knew who the gunman was and gave police his name. As word spread of the killings, some additional victims were discovered when worried family members went to homes to check on their well-being, Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder said in an interview. Police also went door-to-door to check for victims.
Alice Aldridge was found dead on her couch when police went to her house looking for the shooter, according to the Post-Dispatch. She had been dead for at least 24 hours, but there were no visible signs of trauma, Whittaker, the coroner, told the paper. “We’re not calling her a victim at this time,” the highway patrol’s Kinder said at the press conference.
Whitaker told KMOX and the Post-Dispatch that investigators think finding his mother dead might have triggered the shooter’s rampage.
“We’re speculating that he came home and found her deceased and then for whatever reason went on a rampage and started killing people,” Whittaker told the Post-Dispatch. “This is just so strange. Right now, with the shooter dead, we don’t know. Is there something that sparked this? We’re still in the information-gathering stage.”
Kinder said the names and identities of additional victims would be released once their next of kin were notified.
The killings took place in a rural, thinly populated part of the state, near the Mark Twain National Forest. The region is known to attract tourists for its hunting, camping and river rafting.
This story originally said nine were killed at multiple crime scenes. It has been updated to reflect the latest information from authorities. The post will be updated as more information becomes available.
[Brian Murphy contributed to this report.]