MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Loved ones gathered Tuesday in Spring Hill to mourn the loss of a family of three tragically murdered in Maury County.

Investigators said Nathaniel Pipkin killed his mother, 44-year-old Traci McNeely, his 20-year-old brother Carson Pipkin, and his half-sister 11-year-old Kailee Warren.

The tragedy has left family and friends heartbroken and the community shaken.

“This has taken a toll on all of us,” Sarah Seiber, a former teacher of Kailee told News 2.

Kailee was just 11 years old and a 6th grader at Battle Creek Middle School.

“[She] had the heart of gold really and just loved people. Super sweet, just had a smile when she walked in the classroom you knew she was there,” said Seiber. 

The teacher also knew Kailee’s brother, Carson. She said the two were former classmates.

“He also had a smile that lit up the room when he walked in, he was a jokester and funny,” Seiber reflected.

The brother and sister both had a deep love for animals and the outdoors, according to their obituary.

The family of three was killed Friday morning, investigators say, at the hands of 22-year-old Nathanial Pipkin.

According to warrants, Pipkin “knowingly, intentionally and with premeditation” killed all three family members and attempted to kill his stepfather, Jesse McNeely. Investigators said Jesse was able to escape through a window to a neighbor’s house and call 911.

Pipkin was arrested in Monteagle and when brought into Maury County for questioning he claimed “self-defense” when News 2 asked for comment. It’s a comment that’s left the community baffled.

“No way it could have been self-defense,” Seiber shook her head asking for prayers for the heartbroken family and friends.

Next door to the funeral home, Wild Root Florist & Gift Shop has seen an outpouring of support for the devastated family.

“We all have children and everything, we can’t, I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine the heartbreak,” the owner of the shop Kathy Miller told News 2.

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She is putting the finishing touches on the arrangements that will go on the family’s caskets.

“Always these pieces that go on the casket are always the most emotional,” she said.  

Miller says loved ones and even some strangers have been flooding their shop to offer condolences to the family, by purchasing an arrangement. 

“On something like this you get an extraordinary, not support, but amount of people in and it’s just maybe they know the mother or not a particular person and they still want to show their love and respect,” she said.

A family member told News 2 that they are far too broken to speak but asked for prayers.

Funeral services are set to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Pastor Dave Brown, who says he is the uncle of the survivor Jesse McNeely, will be officiating.

The family is raising money to help with funeral services. For more information CLICK HERE.