ATLANTA – A Mississippi man admitted to at least one slaying when he turned himself in after slaughtering five people at an Alabama home and abducting his estranged girlfriend and an infant, a sheriff said Monday.
The suspect, Derrick Dearman, attacked the victims with “multiple weapons” as they slept Saturday in the small town of Citronelle in southern Alabama, authorities said.
Dearman kidnapped his estranged girlfriend, Laneta Lester, and an infant from the home, Mobile County sheriff’s Capt. Paul Burch said. Both were later found alive.
One of Lester’s relatives lived at the home, and she had gone there Friday to get away from an abusive relationship with Dearman, authorities said.
Police have not released a motive for the slayings.
Dearman, 27, of Leakesville, Mississippi, will be charged with six counts of capital murder, Mobile County sheriff’s spokeswoman Lori Myles said. He was being held Monday in a Mississippi jail.
After initially refusing to sign paperwork to be returned to Alabama, Dearman later agreed to be taken there for prosecution, Greene County, Mississippi, Sheriff Stanley McLeod said.
Hours after the killings, Dearman walked into the Green County sheriff’s department “stating that he had killed someone or more than one person in Citronelle, Alabama,” McLeod said in a statement. The sheriff’s office is about 20 miles west of Citronelle.
The magnitude of the crime was unprecedented in this rural area, Burch said.
“It has touched a lot of people in the community,” said James Landers, a Citronelle city council member. “It’s just such an awful, awful tragedy.”
The slain were identified as Shannon Melissa Randall, 35; Justin Kaleb Reed, 23; Joseph Adam Turner, 26; and Robert Lee Brown, also 26. The additional murder count is because 22-year-old Chelsea Marie Reed was five months pregnant, Myles said.
It wasn’t immediately clear who was related to Lester or what Dearman’s relationship was to the slain.
Around 1 a.m. Saturday, someone inside the home called 911 and reported that Dearman was on the property, the statement said. Citronelle police came to the house, but Dearman had left before the officers arrived, sheriff’s officials said.
Later, sometime between 1:15 a.m. and daylight Saturday, Dearman returned to the home and attacked the victims while they were sleeping, the statement said.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said “multiple weapons” were used.
After the killings, Dearman forced Lester and the 3-month-old child of one of the victims into a vehicle and they drove to Dearman’s father’s house in Mississippi. When they arrived, Dearman released Lester and the infant and turned himself in, authorities said.
Dearman “always had a temper, especially when he doesn’t get his way,” his ex-wife, Crystal Dearman, told WALA-TV.
“I woke up to him holding a knife to my throat in bed with my baby in the crib,” said Dearman, who said the two divorced in 2010. “He’s made threats the entire time we were together and after we separated.”