ATLANTA (AP) — The five people slain in a massacre at a south Alabama home included a woman who was five months pregnant, Mobile County authorities said. The suspect, Derrick Dearman, attacked them as they slept and then abducted his estranged girlfriend, Laneta Lester, and an infant from the home, a sheriff’s captain said. Both of them were found alive.
Dearman, 27, of Leakesville, Mississippi, will be charged with six counts of capital murder, Mobile County sheriff’s spokeswoman Lori Myles said Sunday. Five counts stem from the killing of Shannon Melissa Randall, 35; Justin Kaleb Reed, 23; Joseph Adam Turner, 26; and Robert Lee Brown, also 26. The additional count is because 22-year-old Chelsea Marie Reed, was 5 months pregnant, Myles said.
The bodies were found Saturday afternoon inside the home in Citronelle, a small town 30 miles northwest of Mobile. The crime was of a magnitude rarely if ever seen in this corner of rural, southern Alabama, Mobile County sheriff’s Capt. Paul Burch said.
“It’s unprecedented here,” Burch told The Associated Press. “It has touched a lot of people in the community,” said James Landers, a Citronelle city council member. “It’s just such an awful, awful tragedy.”
Earlier Sunday, Burch told reporters that investigators expect to be at the scene for a couple of days. “It’s obviously a horrific scene,” he said. Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told reporters near the scene that in her 20-year career as a prosecutor, she’s never encountered a crime “where there were five people who were brutally and viciously murdered, and that’s what we have here.”
She said “multiple weapons” were used. Dearman was taken into custody after he walked into the sheriff’s office in Greene County, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of Citronelle, Burch said. Dearman was accompanied by his father when he showed up at the sheriff’s department and surrendered Saturday afternoon, the Alabama sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Dearman has confessed to the crimes, Burch told the news site Al.com. “He’s been cooperative,” Burch told the AP on Sunday. Prosecutors have already begun the process of trying to extradite Dearman from Mississippi to Alabama, Burch said Sunday. The sheriff of Greene County, Stanley McLeod, could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Though connections between Dearman and the five people killed were not immediately clear, investigators have determined that Lester had gone to the home on Aug. 19 to get away from an abusive relationship with Dearman, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Lester was staying with a relative there.
Around 1 a.m. Saturday, someone inside the home called 911 and reported that Dearman was on the property, the statement said. Citronelle police came to the house, but Dearman had left before the officers arrived, sheriff’s officials said.
Later, sometime between 1:15 a.m. and daylight Saturday, Dearman returned to the home and attacked the victims while they were sleeping, the statement said. After the killings, Dearman forced Lester and the 3-month-old infant — the child of the one of the murder victims — into a vehicle at the home. The three drove to the Mississippi home of Dearman’s father.
After they arrived there, Dearman released Lester and the infant and then turned himself in at the Mississippi sheriff’s department, Burch said. Dearman “always had a temper, especially when he doesn’t get his way,” his ex-wife, Crystal Dearman, told WALA-TV.
“I woke up to him holding a knife to my throat in bed with my baby in the crib,” said Dearman, who said the two divorced in 2010. “He’s made threats the entire time we were together and after we separated.”
The killings happened about 150 miles southwest of Rutledge, Alabama, another south Alabama town where six family members were found shot to death at their rural home on Aug. 26, 2002. In that case, Westley Devon Harris was given a death sentence after being convicted of slaughtering his girlfriend’s relatives. Prosecutors said he was angry because he thought they were trying to keep him away from her. After the killings, Harris fled with his girlfriend and child. The girlfriend, who was 16 at the time, ended up testifying against him.