Police investigating Memphis slayings say they have no suspects

By Woody Baird

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Police were trying Tuesday to reconstruct what happened inside a small brick home were six people were found brutally killed. But answers were hard to find: They had no suspects, few clues and no apparent motive.

The bodies of two men, two women and two children were found at the home when police forced their way inside Monday night. Authorities believed the killer or killers fled, but knew little more.

“We’re working with a blank sheet of paper,” police spokeswoman Monique Martin told reporters at a news conference.

The killings stunned the working-class neighborhood about six miles from downtown Memphis. The community experiences some drug- and gang-related violence – two men were critically injured in a robbery and shooting as police investigated the killings Tuesday morning – but neighbors said the slayings were unusual.

At a prayer service nearby, about 30 people gathered to pray for the victims, including three children who survived the attack. One was in serious condition, while two others were considered extremely critical, police said.

“This is a breach in our community, and we as a church are the repairers of that breach,” First Baptist Church member Cheri Wells said. “I feel a sense of vulnerability, I feel pain and hurt. … Our peace has been snatched from us.”

Investigators said it was possible the victims were slain sometime between Saturday night and 6 p.m. Monday, when a relative called police when he got no answer after knocking on the door. No one had contact with anyone in the home during that time, police said.

When police got inside, they found the bodies of the six victims and three other children clinging to life. Most victims had been shot and at least one child had been stabbed, authorities said. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 12 years old.

Police begged community members with information to come forward.

“The most important thing … is we need the community’s help,” Lt. Joe Scott said. “These are children who were brutally murdered.”

The home was still cordoned off with police tape Tuesday morning. Wayne Bolden, who lives across the street from the scene of the shooting, said that a man who lived in the house periodically fired shots in the yard.

“He’d shoot on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve,” Bolden said. “He’d have company over and I’d hear the shots.”

He said the family there kept to themselves, but he would see four or five children from the house riding bicycles occasionally.

Rob Robinson, who owns the brick, single-family home where the shootings occurred, told The Commercial Appeal the house was rented, and that a man, his girlfriend, a baby, and at least one other child lived there.

“They were very nice, very polite to me,” Robinson said, adding that the man paid $550 in cash every month for rent. “It’s kind of surprising, actually. I’ve never had any trouble with them, no damage to the property. They paid their rent and even helped with repairs and stuff.”

Robinson said the man had problems with a former girlfriend. “When I was over there, there were a lot of heated conversations over the phone,” he said.

Neighbors said there had been a disturbance over the weekend, and a woman was outside the home, blowing her car horn.