Authorities identify killer, four of seven slain in small south-central Missouri town

The Kansas City Star

Seven people were found killed late Thursday and early Friday in residences in Tyrone, Mo., a small community in south-central Missouri, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

An eighth person, whom authorities said was the killer, was found dead in an adjacent county.

The Highway Patrol identified four of the victims Friday afternoon: Garold Dee Aldridge, 52; Julie Ann Aldridge, 47; Harold Wayne Aldridge, 50; and Janell Arlisa Aldridge, 48.

The shooter was identified as Joseph Jesse Aldridge, 36, of Tyrone, a cousin of the four identified victims. Investigators did not release a motive.

Joseph Aldridge’s mother, Alice L. Aldridge, 74, was found dead in her home, apparently from natural causes.

All the victims lived with three miles of one another, the Highway Patrol said.

The names of the three other victims have not been released because relatives have not been notified.

Another shooting victim was taken to a hospital.

Joseph Aldridge used a .45-caliber handgun, Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said at an afternoon news conference. He said Aldridge had only minor offenses in his criminal history.

Sigman said there were three crime scenes with two victims and two with one victim. There were no signs of forced entry.

“This is a horrific tragedy, and our hearts go out to the victims of these senseless acts and their families,” Gov. Jay Nixon said in a written statement. “... I ask all Missourians to join us in sending thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and loved ones.”

Authorities were alerted about 10:15 p.m. Thursday to one of the shootings in Tyrone, an unincorporated community in Texas County about 95 miles east of Springfield. A female called authorities after hearing gunshots and running to a neighbor’s house.

Deputies found two persons dead inside the residence she fled.

The body of Joseph Aldridge was found about 5:30 Friday morning in a vehicle alongside a road in Shannon County, directly east of Texas County. He died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, said Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder said.

“I think the whole area is in shock right now,” said Jack Watson, who lives in Solo, Mo., about five miles west of Tyrone. “It’s going to affect it (the area) big time.”

Watson, president of Cass Township board which oversees road maintenance for a portion of Tyrone, has lived in Texas County 64 of his 74 years. Residents in the area, he said, are just waiting for names and more details to be released.

Scott Dill, superintendent of the Houston R-1 School District, received a call Thursday night about the killings. He was waiting for more details, any specifics to shed light on what happened and why in a community where a good portion of his students live.

“I spoke to bus drivers this morning; that’s what the kids are talking about,” Dill said. “We have a lot of scared and confused students here today trying to make sense of this.… My kids are shaken up, every single one of them. “

Teachers met with administrators Friday morning, and counselors have been working with children one on one.

Many Tyrone residents have lived there for decades. Years ago, there was more of a town with a store, even a small school, Dill said.

Now it’s mainly homes and rural fields.

“It’s a place that if you don’t have business here,” you wouldn’t end up there, Dill said. “It’s not on the way to or from places.”

Authorities say names of the victims may be released as early as Friday afternoon. With social media and the nature of how word spreads in small towns, Dill said his staff is prepared to help and support the 1,000 children K-12 when those names are known.

“If you’re not related by blood, you are related by bonds of friendship,” Dill said. “This is small town America. When we cry, we all cry together down here.”

Glenn E. Rice, grice@kcstar.com, Laura Bauer, lbauer@kcstar.com and Keith Robison, The Star