Investigators and residents of a small southern Missouri town struggled to put the pieces together Saturday after a gunman killed seven people in a spasm of violence that ended when he shot himself to death on a rural county road.
Joseph Jesse Aldridge, 36, went to four homes in the unincorporated town of Tyrone in Texas County late Thursday, killing relatives and neighbors but sparing two teenagers. He was later found dead in a vehicle in neighboring Shannon County, about 25 miles away.
Aldridge’s 74-year-old mother, Alice, was found dead in a home she shared with her son as officers went door to door to search for other victims. An autopsy performed Saturday found she died of natural causes, Texas County Coroner Tom Whittaker said.
Alice Aldridge had a history of breast cancer and had lung cancer, said Whittaker, adding that investigators assumed she was not a victim of violence but wanted to be “100 percent” sure.
Autopsies were not performed on the other victims, who all lived in Tyrone, not much more than a spot on the map about 40 miles north of the Arkansas border.
Texas County Sheriff James Sigman on Saturday identified three of the victims as Darrell Dean Shriver, 68; his 46-year-old son, Carey Dean Shriver; and Carey’s wife, Valirea Love Shriver, 44. The name of a 67-year-old woman who was injured was not released, although relatives told The Star that Darrell’s wife, Martha, had been shot and had undergone surgery.
John W. Shriver, 72, said he found the bodies of Carey and Valirea Shriver on a bedroom floor of their home Thursday night after his cousin Darrell’s wife called screaming and asking him to find Carey.
Shriver told The Associated Press on Saturday that it’s still unclear why his cousins were killed.
“We had heard maybe he (Joseph Aldridge) asked Darrell for a job and didn’t get it, but we don’t know that for sure,” he said.
Residents also speculated that the death of Aldridge’s mother might have triggered the rampage, but investigators were still trying to determine a motive.
Authorities identified the other victims as two couples, Garold Dee Aldridge, 52, and his wife, Julie Ann, 47; and Harold Wayne Aldridge, 50, and his wife, Janell Arlisa, 48. Both men were cousins of Joseph Aldridge, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder.
Pastor Terry Brown, 61, lead pastor at Maness Memorial Baptist Church in Cabool, about 17 miles from Tyrone, said he was acquainted with five of the seven victims, though none were members of his church.
“They were hardworking people who were reserved,” he said. “They would help other people in that community with anything, and they would not charge them money for it. It means they were friends. They liked being in that small, rural environment in which everybody knew everybody and many of them were related to one another.”