ARKABUTLA, Miss. (AP) – Authorities say a gunman killed six people in Mississippi, broke into his ex-wife’s home and hit her boyfriend in the head with the butt of a gun before shooting her in the head, he said her boyfriend at the Associated Press on Saturday.
The fatal shooting of 60-year-old Debra Crum at the home she shared with boyfriend George Drane in Coldwater, rural northern Mississippi came just over four years after her divorce from the man identified by authorities as the killer, Richard Dale Crum, 52, also from Coldwater. Drane said the murder of his girlfriend — who he often called his wife — “didn’t feel real” as she lay on the grounds of their home, bleeding and dazed.
Drane said Richard Crum had come straight from a convenience store in nearby Arkabutla, Mississippi, where, according to Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance, Crum had shot Chris Eugene Boyce, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck. on the outside. The sheriff said deputies arrested Crum at his home after the shooting of his ex-wife and then found the bodies of two fatally shot handymen outside, as well as the bodies of his stepfather and stepfather’s sister inside. of a nearby house.
Drane hadn’t seen Richard Crum for years before he broke down or kicked in the door to the house he shared with Debra Crum, he said outside the same convenience store where the earlier shooting occurred on Saturday. Drane, 64, wore a bandage on his head and over his left ear and said when Crum left the convenience store, he went straight to Drane’s house, he ran onto the porch and entered. guns, authorities said.
Drane said he got into a fight with Crum, was shot in the head, and Crum shot his ex-wife, after he told Drane not to make a sound or move or he would be killed too. Drane said Crum came out to get a second bullet.
“I couldn’t get up to do anything,” Drane said. “He reloaded at her, went back into the house and shot her in the head at point blank range, killing her instantly. Right between the living room and the kitchen.”
Investigators were still looking for leads Saturday as to what motivated the rampage in Arkabutla, a town of 285 people about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Memphis.
“Without being able to say what triggered this, that’s the scary part,” Lance said in an interview Friday.
The United States has seen a deadly start to 2023, including six mass killings in a three-week period in January, according to an Associated Press/USA Today database. Defines mass homicide as four or more people dead, not including the perpetrator.
There have also been a number of mass shootings in which fewer people have been killed, such as Monday’s shooting at Michigan State University in which three people were killed and five injured.
Crum was jailed on a single count of capital murder for the first killing outside the convenience store, of Boyce, 59, of Lakeland, Florida. Boyce’s brother was in the truck with him at the time and fled, according to the sheriff. Lance added that Crum chased his brother through a wooded area before he escaped unharmed.
In addition to Crum’s ex-wife, authorities identified the others killed as Charles Manuel, 76; John Rorie, 59; George McCain, 73; and Lynda McCain, 78. Drane said he didn’t know about the first shooting when Crum broke into his home.
Ashley McKinney, a 38-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, dated Debra Crum’s son Sid Furniss when the two were teenagers and recalled when Debra Crum first started dating Richard Dale Crum. All was well at first, but then signs of Richard Dale Crum’s mental illness became apparent, with him suddenly mimicking the moves of Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan. Sometimes he even had swords.
“He was never right,” said McKinney, who has remained a friend of the family.
He said Debra Crum hoped psychiatric facilities could treat him. But she ultimately felt uncomfortable working her night shifts alone at the Waffle House restaurant, unsure of what Richard Dale Crum would do, and asked McKinney to keep her company.
He said Richard Dale Crum largely did odd jobs, like chopping firewood. McKinney said he told Debra Crum that when he qualified for disability she would leave her. And that’s exactly what happened, McKinney said.
Online court records show Debra Crum filed for divorce in Tate County in September 2018, and a judge granted one just over two months later. A summary of the case listed the reasons as irreconcilable differences, but his complaint and property settlement agreement were not available online on Saturday.
Drane said the two had been separated for five to six years before divorcing. Drane said he had a stroke in October and the two of them had been to a physical therapy session on Friday morning. Drane said she also had a daughter who lived nearby.
Drane said he hadn’t seen Crum in seven or eight years.
“I thought it was a random act. I don’t know anything about the rest,” Drane said. “She left us alone. We left him alone.”
Crum and his stepfather lived on 7 wooded acres owned by their stepfather on the west side of Arkabutla Lake, north of Arkabutla, which has 285 residents. The Rev. Dr. JQ Wooten Sr., pastor of nearby Ella Green Missionary Baptist Church, said he shook hands with Crum two weeks ago after a conversation, and “never thought I’d shake hands with a killer.”
Wooten said McCain, the stepfather, would keep a close eye on problems with the church building or grounds so they could be resolved. Lui said Crum was nice but “seemed a little weird” because at least once every couple of months he would spend hours sitting in his he black SUV listening to country music.
“It’s beyond any explanation or imagination,” he said of the shootings.
In the lobby of the sheriff’s office, Norma Washington told the Associated Press that Boyce was her nephew. She said he and his brother, Doug, who lives in Alaska, had been in town cleaning up a property they inherited from their late uncle.
It was unclear if Crum knew any of the brothers.
The sheriff, who has lived in the area his entire life and served in law enforcement for 25 years, said he could not remember any previous problems with Crum.
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Also contributing were Heather Hollingsworth of Mission, Kansas; Emily Wagster Pettus of Jackson, Mississippi; Jeff Amy of Atlanta; and Russ Bynum of Savannah, Georgia; and Heather Hollingsworth, of Mission, Kansas.