A Mississippi man is accused of hunting down his abused girlfriend and murdering five people who were sheltering her with an ax and gun, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
Police say Derrick Dearman is in custody for the grisly Citronelle, Alabama, mass murder — in which he may have wielded an ax, NBC News reports — after turning himself in across the state line in Mississippi, where he lived in Leakesville, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.
Dearman, 27, is accused of then kidnapping his girlfriend, Laneta Lester, and an infant who was the child of two of the victims, after the family was killed, the sheriff’s department said. The Associated Press says he used an ax as well as a firearm to kill the victims, according to police.
The victims were identified as Chelsea Reed, 22; Justin Reed, 23; Joseph Adam Turner, 26; Robert Lee Brown, 26; and Shannon Randall, 35. Chelsea Reed was pregnant, police said.
Authorities called the scene “horrific” and “gruesome.” The five adults’ bodies were found in a home near Citronelle on the afternoon of August 20.
Dearman is expected to be charged with six counts of murder because Chelsea Reed was pregnant, WALB-TV reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Victims, Who Were All Family Members, Were Attacked & Killed While They Were Sleep Authorities Say
Chelsea Reed, one of the five adults killed, was five months pregnant, but that didn’t stop Derrick Dearman from killing her, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department said in its press release.
Overall, five people plus the unborn child died, said the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department. Lester and an infant boy survived the massacre, according to the release.
On August 21, authorities said they believe the victims were attacked and killed while sleeping.
A GoFundMe account created to help with burial expenses indicated the victims were tied to the same family. “As most of you may know 6 of our family members were taken from us in a cruel way,” the site said. “They were murdered. Their lives taken to soon from this world. Shannon Randall and husband (Joseph) Adam Turner leave behind 4 children and 2 grandkids. Chelsea was expecting her first child a lil boy that her or our family will never meet. Robert Lee Brown leaves behind his only son Waylon.”
The Associated Press said Lester was Turner’s sister and Turner and Randall were married. All of the victims lived in the house together, said AP.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Department said in the news release that the sheriff’s office responded at 4:45 p.m. on August 20 to the home at 17160 Jim Platt Road in Citronelle, Alabamam and found the five people deceased.
The Citronelle police had requested the Sheriff’s Department’s help when Lester, “arrived at their office earlier that afternoon and informed them that her boyfriend … had murdered multiple people at the address on Jim Platt Road,” the release said, adding that she identified the killer as Dearman.
The property consisted of two mobile homes, Al.com reports.
The infant who escaped with Lester was the child of Randall and Turner, Fox 10 News reports.
2. The Victims Called 911 to Report Dearman Trespassing, Police Say
On August 19, Lester went to stay with a relative at the Jim Platt Road residence “in an attempt to leave an abusive relationship with Derrick Dearman,” the sheriff’s department said in its news release. At 1 a.m. on August 20, someone inside the residence called 911 to report Dearman being on the property, the release said.
“Citronelle Police responded to the call, however, Dearman left before police arrived,” police said.
The release says Dearman returned to the residence and entered it unlawfully, attacking the victims “while they were sleeping” sometime between 1:15 a.m. and daylight.
Inside the home were six adults and one 3-month-old infant.
Robert Brown, the father of victim Robert “Lee” Brown, spoke to WKRG-TV about his loss. The station said he had to be held back at the scene; he remembered his son as a talented mechanic. Brown told WKRG his son was at the house to help his brother-in-law, Joseph “Adam” Turner; Brown’s sister was Randall. Brown said that one of the victims, Turner, had brought Dearman to his house three days before. “You don’t get over this,” the father told WKRG.
On Facebook, Lester had indicated she began a relationship with Dearman in January. In June, one friend commented on her wall: “He’s a peace (sic) of sh-t you can do better my new fishing buddy.”
One relative of Citronelle victims wrote on Facebook, “I would like for my fb family to do this please tell your whole family you love em everyday and if you mad at get over it this weekend as showed life is short!!!! Bc I’ll never get to call Shannon Randall to BITCH or go drinkin coffee or get to finish telling my Lil cousins (Chelsea n Justin) about our family history so they will know with their son my right hand Lee Brown will never be here with me anymore Adam Turner is not here to fight with me everyday………….my Lil brother and sister no longer has their mother or stepdaddy with em my niece’s don’t have a meme….wayland has no daddy to take him riding anymore…my moot and Darren has no mother or father anymore. My aunt Mattie doesn’t have two of her sons her only daughter her oldest granddaughter her grandson in law….never will meet her first great grandson…… And for all the dope heads that reads this this is what dope gets you!!!!!!!!!!! It’s not worth it!! Just love each other everyday!! Tell em you love em everyday!!!!!!!!”
A friend of Turner’s wrote on Facebook, “I’m gonna miss all the name calling, fishing into the night, workin on trucks, breaking the trucks, hunting while drinking those buschs(heavys). I love you bubba go ahead and find the fishin hole for me up there and tell Shannon Randall to have the coffee ready.”
3. Dearman Has a Criminal Record & Was Wanted on a Warrant
Dearman will be charged with six counts of capital murder, WALB-TV reported, adding that Dearman “already had a criminal history with an outstanding warrant for burglary.”
During the same time frame that Lester was turning to Citronelle police to report the murders, “the suspect, Derrick Dearman, walked into the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to turn himself in and cooperate with authorities,” the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department said.
Dearman’s Facebook cover photo is a picture of a burning fire. Within hours of the murders, people were leaving angry comments on the page.
One woman wrote, “I knew one of the victims. This breaks my heart! He done more than just send them to heaven, he mutilated them. This has to be the sickest piece of sh-t to ever walk this earth!! He deserves to burn in hell for eternity and I hope he feels every bit of it…”
Another woman simply wrote: “What a sad sick world we live in!”
Dearman’s ex-wife wrote on Facebook, “According to a news report earlier this afternoon my ex husband is in custody for the murder of five people in citronelle. I am writing this post to let everyone that me and my children were not involved and prayers for those involved whoever they are and their friends and family are in order. Thanks to all my fb friends in advance.”
The ex-wife, Crystal Dearman told WALA-TV that Derrick Dearman “always had a temper, especially when he doesn’t get his way,” according to the AP, adding that Crystal said “I woke up to him holding a knife to my throat in bed with my baby in the crib.”
4. Multiple Weapons Were Used in The Crime, Including a Gun & Ax, Authorities Say
WKRG reports Dearman used a gun to commit the crime, but did not stop there. Authorities say “multiple weapons” were used to murder the people, says the station.
WPTV quoted a sheriff’s captain as saying, “there was some type of instrument other than a firearm used on them.”
“Following the murders, Dearman forced Laneta and the 3-month-old infant (belonging to one of the murder victims into a vehicle at the residence,” the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release. “All three drove to Mississippi to the home of Dearman’s father. Once they arrived, Dearman released Laneta and the 3-month-old.”
Dearman and his father went to the Green County Sheriff’s Office to turn himself in, and that’s when Lester went to Citronelle police to inform them of the murders, said the release.
Dearman told the news media that drugs caused the slayings, and he doesn’t deserve to live, said The Associated Press, which added that Dearman “expressed regret for the deaths and professed love for the estranged girlfriend whose relatives and friends were slain.” The prosecutor has indicated she will likely seek the death penalty,” says The AP.
5. Authorities Said They Had Never Seen a Scene so Awful Before
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told WKRG that “in her entire career she’s never seen a crime scene as horrific as this one.”
Authorities said they expected to be at the crime scene for days, said WKRG.
Rich said the victims were “brutally and viciously murdered,” said AL.com.