Wife targeted, last to die in Fayetteville rampage
July 21, 2009 04:49 PM CDT
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. - The man accused in last weekend's deadly rampage that claimed the lives of six people in two states was targeting his estranged wife and killed the others first so they wouldn't interfere, Tennessee authorities said Tuesday.
In a press conference held Tuesday afternoon, the Lincoln County sheriff called the crime scene the "largest and most gruesome" his department has ever worked.
Jacob Shaffer, 30, of Fayetteville, a small rural town in southern Tennessee, is charged with five counts of homicide in Tennessee and another in Alabama for the killings.
According to authorities, the killing spree began either late Friday or early Saturday when Shaffer beat an acquaintance to death at a business in Huntsville, Alabama.
He then headed 30 miles north to Fayetteville where his estranged wife and her family lived across the street from each other.
Tennessee authorities said Tuesday Jacob Shaffer was targeting his estranged wife and killed her father, brother, teenage son and his friend first, so they couldn't stop the attack on her.
Kristin Helm, spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said agents believe 38-year-old Traci Shaffer was the last person to die.
She said Shaffer "went out of his way" to kill Traci's father, 57-year-old Billy Hall, and brother, 34-year-old Chris Hall, to make sure they "wouldn't interfere with him killing his main target."
Helm said investigators think Shaffer then crossed the street to a duplex and killed his stepson Devin Brooks and a neighbor, Robert Berber, both 16, before killing his wife.
The only person left unharmed inside the home was Jacob Shaffer's four-year-old daughter, Helm said.
"She was probably asleep," Helm said. "As far as what she witnessed, I don't know, but she was awake and there when police showed up and found him."
Helm said investigators are still trying to figure out the motive in the beating death of 50-year-old Sidney Wade Dempsey, the first victim to die.
He was attacked at Hall Cultured Marble Granite, where he worked and was allowed to live.
Helm said Shaffer made a statement to police, but would not say if he confessed to the murders.
"It's a pretty solid case for us," Helm said. "We've got everything we need to prosecute him."
The only adult survivor in the family is Traci Shaffer's sister, Jennifer Hall, who lived with her father and brother but spent the night Friday with her longtime boyfriend, James Wilson.
Wilson said they found out the family was dead when they stopped by Saturday to invite Billy Hall on a camping trip.
Traci Shaffer also has a nine-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
The family is seeking donations to pay for the burials.