PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (KT) - A Johnson County community was reeling after a man shot and killed four people and then turned the gun on himself Saturday night in what police are describing as a murder-suicide.
Two of the people shot and killed were the parents of the assailant, according to the Kentucky State Police. The son of the killer was in the parents’ home during the shooting but managed to escape unharmed, police said.
State Police Trooper William Petry on Sunday released the victims' names and their relationships with the shooter, Joseph Nickell.
Petry said Nickell's parents, James and Arlene Nickell, were gunned down Saturday at a residence in the McKenzie Branch area of Flat Gap, Kentucky.
He said Joseph Nickell's girlfriend, Lindsey Vanhoose, and her mother, Patricia Vanhoose, later were fatally shot at an apartment in nearby Paintsville.
Joseph Nickell's body was found at the apartment.
Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price said in a Facebook post that Paintsville 911 received a call at 3:33 p.m. Saturday about a shooting in the McKenzie Branch area. Price and two deputies arrived at the home and found Nickell's parents dead in the kitchen.
Witnesses said Joseph Nickell left the scene in a black Toyota Camry. The sheriff’s office, Kentucky State Police and Paintsville police searched for the suspect together and notified neighboring counties to be on the lookout for Nickell who was considered armed and dangerous.
The car was spotted on Mill Street in Paintsville near an apartment complex. Authorities found the bodies of Lindsey and Patracia Vanhoose, along with Nickell, inside one of the apartments.
“This has been a horrific murder spree. The lives of four innocent victims were taken. The perpetrator then took his own life,” Price said in a Facebook post Saturday night.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and KSP are working the case.
A motive for the shootings had not been determined, Petry said.
Price asked for prayers for the families involved in a Facebook post late Saturday night.
"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 in the post. “Working a murder is never easy. Working the murders of four innocent people that are part of your community is even tougher. The scenes are never the same but the chilling outcome is always heart-wrenching.”