- Associated Press - Monday, September 27, 2010

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A South Florida man spared his two biological children when he fatally shot his estranged wife and four stepchildren early Monday before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Seven children were inside the home when Patrick Dell, 41, shot Natasha Whyte-Dell, 36, and her four children, who were all pronounced dead at the scene. A 15-year-old at the home was brought to the hospital.

Investigators believe Mr. Dell acted alone when he shot his family with a handgun. Neighbors said he was kicked out of a club Sunday night because he was drunk and making threats. It was unclear if the threats were directed at his family.

Police said there was a restraining order against Mr. Dell. The details of the restraining order were not immediately known.

Chief Clarence Williams said authorities would not comment on a motive, other than a pending divorce.

The 15-year-old, who was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital, was responsive before going into surgery Monday morning, Chief Williams said.

“All indications are that he’s doing well,” Chief Williams said.

Two of the couple’s biological children, believed to be ages 1 and 3, were being cared for by relatives, police said.

A police officer was checking a suspicious vehicle around 2 a.m. when he heard what sounded like muffled gun shots, Riviera Beach police spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown said. When officers approached the home, Mr. Dell went outside and shot himself, she said.

Inside the home, officers found the bodies of the woman and four children identified as 10-year-old Daniel Barnett, 11-year-old Javon Nelson, 13-year-old Diane Barnett and 14-year-old Bryan Barnett.

Neighbor Keisha Gordon said she was with Mr. Dell at a club late Sunday night when he was asked to leave because he was drunk and causing trouble. Mr. Dell didn’t go out a lot, but he did have a temper, she said.

“He was talking about chopping up somebody,” 30-year-old Ms. Gordon said, standing across the street from the yellow house with the green trim now cordoned off by police tape.

They left the club and continued partying at a nearby park, where Mr. Dell also was asked to leave, she said.

“He always felt like people was against him,” she said.

Dora Pouncey said her children were playing with the victims earlier Sunday. When her son came home, he said Mr. Dell and the two oldest boys had been arguing on the front lawn, but she didn’t know why.

“I don’t care what it was. He didn’t have to come and take it out on that family,” Ms. Pouncey said.

LaShara Fulwood said she hadn’t seen Mr. Dell’s car in the neighborhood in more than a month. But when he did come by, “he would park his car in the alley” instead of parking near the house where the family had lived for about a year.

Neighbors said the house was a popular hangout for kids in the area because they had a basketball hoop in the driveway and lived across the street from a park.

“The kid didn’t really do nothing. They was just kids,” 11-year-old David Hobley said as he waited for the school bus near the crime scene. He said the Barnett kids liked to rollerblade and play basketball.

Palm Beach County School District officials plan to have grief counselors available at each of the children’s schools.

The shootings occurred in a run-down neighborhood near a small brick church.

Jeanette Walker, a 56-year-old hairstylist who lives nearby, said she was awakened by gunfire, which is not an uncommon sound in the neighborhood.

“They over there shooting at each other again,” she remembered thinking. “I didn’t pay any attention because I didn’t hear no sirens,” she said.

Ms. Walker said there have been several shootings in the area since she moved there about three years ago. It wasn’t until she turned on the morning news that she learned of the deaths.

Associated Press writer Suzette Laboy in Miami contributed to this report.


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