David Vowell is a 70-year-old Martin, Tennessee, retired businessman who is being sought by authorities who believe he murdered two men while duck hunting. The search has now been suspended, even though no sign of Vowell, a retired lumber company executive, has been found.
“TBI Special Agents are asking for help in locating a person of interest in a homicide investigation in Obion County. David Vowell, 70, of Martin is considered armed and dangerous,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation wrote on Twitter. “If you have seen him or know where he may be located call 1-800-TBI-FIND.”
According to TBI, the deaths occurred on Reelfoot Lake in Obion County on the morning of January 25. The victims were identified as Chance Black, 26, and Zachery Grooms, 25, both of Weakley County.
Field and Stream reported that Reelfoot Lake has a controversial history: “Reelfoot Lake is a tough place, one that’s legendary for blind burnings, fist fights, and boat ramp justice against anyone who doesn’t follow the rules.”
“We lost a member of our team today, Chance Black. He was shot and killed, along with his friend, while duck hunting on Reelfoot Lake,” wrote Final Flight Outfitters, the sporting goods store where Black worked. “Chance was a full-time manager in our gun department, and what an honor it has been for us to have him on our team. We ask for prayers for Chance’s family, friends, and all others involved as we navigate the impact of their deaths.”
There is a GoFundMe page set up to help the victims’ families.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Vowell Shot the Men ‘for No Apparent Reason’ After Asking to Join the Duck Hunt, Reports Say
According to journalist Nick Beres, a witness says Vowell “had asked to join the duck hunt… and then simply shot the two young men for no apparent reason.”
The Union City Daily Messenger reported that a witness said the men were shot while at a duck blind. Vowell is accused of approaching it alone, coming from another nearby blind, and asking whether he could hunt with the men.
The witness says Vowell then shot the two men without provocation. The witness wrestled the gun away and hit Vowell with the butt of it, the newspaper reported, knocking the older man into the water, along with the gun. He saw Vowell getting up to head toward the nearby bank, the newspaper reported.
According to WREG-TV, the witness said that “Vowell was in the process of getting out of his boat.” The witness said he “thought it odd that Vowell was loading his gun.” Then Vowell opened fire, the television station reported.
“As the search for David Vowell continues, warrants have been issued for his arrest on two counts of First Degree Murder,” TBI wrote on Twitter.
The two men were shot during an argument while they were duck hunting, the local district attorney told ABC News.
Vowell is accused of shooting the two men, ABC News reported.
2. Vowell Has No Criminal History in Tennessee
Tennessee authorities ran Vowell’s criminal history, and they say he has no history of one in Tennessee.
“In response to media inquiries, we’ve run and provided to the public the Tennessee adult arrest history for David Vowell, which returned no record in our state,” wrote TBI.
It’s not clear whether Vowell knew the victims, ABC reported.
3. Authorities Recovered Vowell’s Boat
Vowell left the area on foot, according to ABC, which reported that authorities recovered his boat and car, but a rainstorm made it difficult to search the area.
The DA told WJHL-TV that there was a witness to the shootings who was in the same duck blind as the victims when it occurred.
Tommy Thomas, the district attorney, said the search was suspended for Vowell and he either got away or drowned in the lake, according to WREG-TV.
It appeared Vowell fled the scene on foot. His boat was recovered and the car he drove to the boat ramp has been seized, Thomas said.
4. Vowell Used to Run a Lumber Company
According to WREG-TV, Vowell is “a retired businessman who is part owner of Vowell Lumber Company.”
His cousin told the television station that Vowell was “one of the most mild-mannered folks you’ll ever meet.”
The only pictures visible on Vowell’s Facebook page are a couple photos of him, including one with his wife, and a picture of a boat. The Facebook page for Vowell and Sons, said it was a family-owned lumber company. The page is deleted.
A company profile says, “Vowell and Sons, Inc. has 25 total employees across all of its locations and generates $5.63 million in sales (USD). There are 2 companies in the Vowell and Sons, Inc. corporate family.”
5. One of the Victims Was the Son of a Local Sheriff’s Department Official
According to WJHL-TV, Black’s father is the chief deputy of the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department.
A duck hunting guide named Jackson Seales told the television station that Black managed an Union City sporting goods store called Final Flight Outfitters.
“He was just a great. Never met a stranger, always had a smile on him,” Seales said to the television station. “Always, ‘Hey man, how’s the duck hunting today?’ Just a good all around guy. I didn’t know the other boy as well, but Chance, I bought a gun off him this summer.”
The statement, posted to Facebook by Final Flight Outfitters, also read, “Death is certain and so is our hope in Jesus, who gives peace that passes all understanding in these times of loss, hurt, and confusion. Praise be to God that because he loves us, he sent his only son, Jesus, to die so we don’t have to fear death but have everlasting life (John 3:16). What has taken place today is hard to process. No duck is worth the life of a man. What we do know is that God is our refuge and strength, even in the hardest of times.”
WREG-TV reported that Grooms recently graduated from Bethel University, where he was on the archery team.
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