MATOACA, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man shot his wife and their two young children to death on Father's Day and then killed himself, police said.
Chesterfield County police said in a news release Monday that the night before, Barry C. Jernigan, 35, killed his 30-year-old wife, Renotta; his 9-year-old stepdaughter, Alexis F. Kellas; and 2-year-old son, Seth.
Officers went to check on the family at their home just after 10 p.m. Sunday when they heard gunshots and saw bystanders trying to help the mother and the boy outside, police said.
Barry Jernigan and his stepdaughter were found inside the small, white, ranch-style home with a plastic play set on the front porch and trampoline in the backyard. They and the mother died at the scene. The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital.
On Monday morning, neighbors tried to cope with the tragedy while standing near the house with two cars in the driveway that was surrounded by yellow police tape.
"It saddens me to think, Father's Day, of all days; (you) go home and shoot your kids, really?" said next-door neighbor Cindy Nguyen, 29, whose husband and brother-in-law tried to help revive Renotta Jernigan. She had stumbled out of the front door Sunday before collapsing on the lawn. A nurse that lives down the street helped perform CPR on the baby, whose crib, neighbors said, was covered in blood.
Nguyen said that she didn't know the family too well but that the father worked nights, "seemed fine," and typically made small talk with neighbors since the Jernigans moved into the home about two years ago. Barry Jernigan even wished her husband, 30-year-old Harry, a happy Father's Day as he walked along the street Sunday afternoon. The Jernigans recently installed a fence after complaining about items being stolen from their backyard, she said.
Nguyen called the youngest of the victims a "sweet baby boy" and said her son played with the 9-year-old, who was known by her nickname, Lexi.
Jernigan's 67-year-old father, Barry, said he last spoke with his son — who went by Chris — on the phone shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday. He said his son wished him a happy Father's Day and told him he planned to hang around the house until he left for work that evening.
While he had helped the family financially, Jernigan said his son didn't talk to him much about family business, adding that he had been in and out of jobs since graduating from Dinwiddie High School in 1997.
"He was the type of person that he figured he could do everything ... he could deal with it. Over the years, that was his attitude," Jernigan said. "I just wish he would have called me."
Jernigan said he couldn't understand what would've led his son to kill his family and then himself, saying he sounded normal when they last spoke.
"I don't know why he took that little baby, that little baby was the world to me," he said. "Seems like something you'd seen on TV, you'd never think it would happen personally."
Police continued their investigation Monday, with investigators carrying paper bags out of the home. Officers on the scene declined to comment.
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com
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- Father's Day