- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. | A southern Tennessee woman and her husband, who is accused of killing her and five other people in two states, had been having marital troubles and were not living together, a man who says he knew the couple told the Associated Press on Sunday.

Jacob Shaffer, 30, faces six counts of homicide. His wife, 38-year-old Traci Shaffer; her son, Devin Brooks, 16; and a neighbor, Robert Berber, also 16, were found dead Saturday in Mrs. Shaffer’s home in rural Fayetteville, said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm. The bodies of her brother, Chris Hall, 34, and her father, Billy Hall, 57, were found in a home across the road.

Jacob Shaffer is also accused in a killing at a business in Huntsville, Ala., about 30 miles south.

The Shaffers were no longer sharing a home but had not filed for separation, said 29-year-old James Wilson, who was gathering belongings from Mrs. Shaffer’s home in Lincoln County. He said he is the boyfriend of Mrs. Shaffer’s sister, Jennifer.

The Shaffers had a 4-year-old daughter, and Mr. Wilson said police told him the girl was home during the killings but was not hurt. He said he had met Mr. Shaffer when they were installing drywall, but they had stopped being friends about a year and a half ago.

Mr. Shaffer was still installing drywall around Huntsville, and Billy Hall had been driving him back and forth to work before the couple split, Mr. Wilson said.

The sixth victim was found at Hall Cultured Marble Granite, which Mr. Hall’s family owns, Mr. Wilson said. The business was closed Sunday.

“Her dad done everything he could for Jacob,” Mr. Wilson said. “I have no idea why he walked across the street to her daddy and her brother. Her daddy never done anything wrong.”

Ms. Helm said Mr. Shaffer’s motive was domestic, but authorities have not released a chronology of the killings or many details, including how the six died.

Mr. Wilson said the couple had “gotten into it” as far as fighting, but he never would have expected such violence.

“As far as seeing him do something like this, you just can’t see it,” Mr. Wilson said.

Mrs. Shaffer’s slain son and a 9-year-old daughter, who was not home during the killings, were from a previous relationship, Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Shaffer of Fayetteville was being held without bond at the Lincoln County Jail, and no lawyer for him was listed.

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, and Mr. Wilson said police would not tell him how the family was killed.

Ms. Helm said that the family members died Friday night or early Saturday and that Jacob Shaffer was sitting on the porch of one of the houses when authorities first arrived.

Huntsville police said information from him led them to the body at the granite business. They have not released the name of the sixth victim.

At Lincoln Memorial Presbyterian Church, just up the road from the crime scenes, members discussed what little they knew about the killings.

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

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.”

A neighbor said the family had moved into the homes earlier this year. Children’s toys lay in the yard of one after police finished investigating near the town of 7,000 people about 90 miles south of Nashville near the Tennessee-Alabama line.

Mr. Wilson refused a request to talk to Mrs. Shaffer’s sister, saying she was devastated by the loss.

“She’s not handling it, and I can’t blame her,” he said. “What can you say to someone who has lost everybody?”

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