- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 18, 2009


FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. — A southern Tennessee man faces homicide charges in the slayings of his wife and her father, brother and teenage son, along with two other people in two states, authorities said Sunday.

The bodies of the relatives, along with a teenage neighbor, were found Saturday in two rural homes near Fayetteville in southern Tennessee, said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. A sixth body discovered at a business about 30 miles south in Huntsville, Ala., has not been identified, and authorities have not said how the killings are linked.

Jacob Shaffer, 30, of Fayetteville in Lincoln County, faces six counts of homicide, his motive described as domestic, according to TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. She identified the victims as as Mr. Shaffer’s wife, 38-year-old Traci Shaffer; her son, 16-year-old Devin Brooks; her brother, 34-year-old Chris Hall; her father, 57-year-old Billy Hall; and a neighbor, 16-year-old Robert Berber. Mr. Shaffer was being held in the Lincoln County jail without bond, and no lawyer for him was listed at the jail.

Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder said Saturday that his department was investigating three crime scenes and would not confirm the causes of death in what he called “horrendous” killings and “one of the worst crimes Lincoln County has seen.” Autopsies were being performed Sunday.

Ms. Helm said the Tennessee victims were killed Friday night or early Saturday. Mr. Shaffer was sitting on the porch of one of the Fayetteville houses when authorities first arrived Saturday. Huntsville police said, based on information from Mr. Shaffer, they found the sixth victim at Hall Cultured Marble Granite on Saturday morning.

At Lincoln Memorial Presbyterian Church, up the road from the crime scenes, members discussed what little they knew about the killings before a worship service started Sunday.

“It sent cold chills down my spine,” Mary Jane Thompson said of the deaths about four miles from her home.

Ms. Thompson, who has spent her whole life in Lincoln County, said the community has changed since she was younger and crimes seem to be more common.

“Things are not the way they used to be,” she said.

Killing two teenagers was especially difficult for her to understand.

“I don’t see why anybody would want to kill children,” Ms. Thompson said. “It’s just so sad.”

Karon Weatherman, who lives about a half-mile away, said she saw children as young as 4 and 5 running back and forth between the Tennessee houses across the road from each other. She did not know the family but said they moved in earlier this year. Children’s toys lay in the yard of one of the homes on Sunday after the police finished investigating near this town of 7,000 people about 90 miles south of Nashville near the Tennessee-Alabama border.

“I wouldn’t expect nothing like this to happen,” she said.

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