ATLANTA » The suspect in the killing of five people at a home in Alabama attacked them while they slept and then abducted his estranged girlfriend and an infant — both of whom were found alive, authorities said today.
It could take investigators days to sort out the grisly murder scene in Citronelle, a small town 30 miles northwest of Mobile. Authorities said the dead included a pregnant woman and were found Saturday afternoon inside the home.
The crime was of a magnitude rarely if ever seen in this corner of rural, southern Alabama, Mobile County sheriff’s Capt. Paul Burch said.
“It’s unprecedented here,” Burch told The Associated Press.
Earlier, Burch told reporters at the scene that investigators expect to be at the scene for a couple days. “It’s obviously a horrific scene,” he said.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told reporters near the scene that in her 20-year career as a prosecutor, she’s never encountered a crime “where there were five people who were brutally and viciously murdered, and that’s what we have here.”
She said “multiple weapons” were used.
Derrick Dearman, 27, of Leakesville, Mississippi, was taken into custody after he walked into the sheriff’s office in Greene County, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of Citronelle, Burch said. Dearman was accompanied by his father when he showed up at the sheriff’s department and surrendered Saturday afternoon, the Alabama sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Dearman has confessed to the crimes, Burch told the news site Al.com.
“He’s been cooperative,” Burch told the AP on Sunday.
Dearman will be charged with six counts of capital murder, Mobile County sheriff’s spokeswoman Lori Myles said Sunday. Five counts stem from the killing of the adults, and the additional count is because one of the slaying victims, 22-year-old Chelsea Marie Reed, was 5 months pregnant, Myles said.
The other four killed were identified by sheriff’s officials as Shannon Melissa Randall, 35; Justin Kaleb Reed, 23; Joseph Adam Turner, 26; and Robert Lee Brown, also 26.
Prosecutors have already begun the process of trying to extradite Dearman from Mississippi to Alabama, Burch said on Sunday. The sheriff of Greene County, Stanley McLeod, could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Though connections between Dearman and the five people killed were not immediately clear, investigators have determined that his ex-girlfriend, Laneta Lester, had gone to the home on Aug. 19 to get away from an abusive relationship with Dearman, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Lester was staying with a relative there.
Around 1 a.m. Saturday, someone inside the residence called 911 and reported that Dearman was on the property, the statement said. Citronelle police came to the house, but Dearman had left before the officers arrived, sheriff’s officials said.
Later, sometime between 1:15 a.m. and daylight Saturday, Dearman returned to the home and attacked the victims while they were sleeping, the statement said. After the killings, Dearman forced Lester and the 3-month-old infant — the child of the one of the murder victims — into a vehicle at the residence. The three drove to the Mississippi home of Dearman’s father.
After they arrived there, Dearman released Lester and the infant and then turned himself in at the Mississippi sheriff’s department, Burch said.
Dearman has some criminal history, including an active warrant for a burglary charge, Burch said.
The killings happened about 150 miles southwest of Rutledge, Alabama, another town in the southern part of the state where six family members were found shot to death at their rural home on Aug. 26, 2002.
In that case, Westley Devon Harris was given a death sentence after being convicted of slaughtering his girlfriend’s relatives. Prosecutors said he was angry because he thought they were trying to keep him away from her.
After the killings, he fled with his girlfriend and child. The girlfriend, who was 16 at the time, ended up testifying against Harris.