Victims of family slaying identified

January 18, 2010 2:46:02 PM PST
Five people are dead following a shooting in Austin County. It happened in the community of Buckhorn, which is around 15 miles outside of Bellville, just off of FM 1456 Sunday. Sheriff's deputies tell Eyewitness News that four adults and a child were found dead at around 2:15pm.

Sgt. Paul Faircloth of the Austin County Sheriff's Office said a 69-year-old man, his 54-year-old wife, a 25-year-old woman and a child who was about 3 years old were found shot to death inside the small brick house. An adult male was found shot to death in the woods just behind the house, Faircloth said.

Austin County sheriff's deputies, along with the Texas Rangers, were still at home Sunday night gathering evidence. Relatives of the victims gathered nearby throughout the day. They say they are waiting for more information from sheriff's deputies. One relative tells us that some of the relatives made this discovery after stopping by the home after church.

"Both of them, real good folks to be around and they loved to get along and they loved talking. They enjoyed talking a whole lot and they wouldn't mind helping you out when you needed help," said Leonard Davis, a relative of the victims. "They were really good people. That is what makes it so sad, that good folks, you know, died the way they did."

The 20-year-old man being held for questioning was arrested after trying to break into a nearby car and house at about 3 a.m. Sunday, after the slayings, Faircloth said. The man was held at gunpoint by a neighbor until authorities arrived, Faircloth said.

The man is charged with burglary and attempted burglary, and the district attorney's office is reviewing the case to see if capital murder charges will be brought against him as well.

Four of the victims were identified were George T. Washington, 69; Debra Washington, 54; Kiana Shree Thearse, 25; and Khalilah Masse-Chambers, about 3. Authorities were still trying to identify the man found in the woods, Faircloth said.

The victims and the man in custody were living together, but the relationship between them hasn't been determined, Faircloth said.

"It's a devastating loss to this community, everybody up here pretty much knows everybody. They are either related or have grown up together, school together," said Faircloth. "So it's a devastating loss when something of this magnitude takes place."

The bodies have been sent to the Travis County medical examiner's office for autopsies.

This is the second time in five months that the small town of Bellville has been rocked by violence. Dr. Jorge Mario Gonzalez was shot and killed at his weekend ranch in August. Gonzalez was the chief of critical care at Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Four suspects are charged with capital murder.