PAINTSVILLE, Ky. – A Kentucky gunman killed his parents, his girlfriend and his girlfriend's mother in a weekend shooting spree before ending his own life, State Police said Sunday.
State Police Trooper William Petry on Sunday released the victims' names and their relationships with the presumed shooter, Joseph Nickell.
Nickell's parents, James and Arlene Nickell, were gunned down Saturday at a residence in the McKenzie Branch area of Flatgap, Kentucky, and Joseph Nickell's girlfriend, Lindsey Vanhoose, and her mother, Patricia Vanhoose, later were fatally shot at an apartment in nearby Paintsville, Petry said in a statement.
Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price said Joseph Nickell's body also was found at the apartment in what authorities described as a murder-suicide.
"This has been a horrific murder spree," Price said in a Facebook post Saturday night. "The lives of four innocent victims were taken. The perpetrator then took his own life. There are no words to describe the heartbreak in seeing four lives taken due to the actions of one man. I have worked in law enforcement for 34 years. This is one of the most disturbing acts of violence I have ever seen."
The statement didn't specify the ages of Joseph Nickell and the four other victims or give a motive for the shootings, which remain under investigation.
Price said authorities in Paintsville, about 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of Louisville, received a 911 call on Saturday afternoon about a shooting and two victims were found dead in the kitchen of the residence. After receiving a tip on the whereabouts of a suspect's vehicle, three more bodies, including that of Joseph Nickell, were later found at the apartment complex, Price said.
"As officers, one of our first concerns is for the surviving family members. Our intent is to honor them with as much privacy as possible during their time of grief," Price said later in another Facebook post. "Working a murder is never easy. Working the murders of four innocent people that are part of your community is even tougher."