BROOKHAVEN, Miss. – Head in hands, his voice tense, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little yellow house and tried to understand how a family dispute led to a massacre that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe.
“I’m devastated. It doesn’t seem like it really is,” Mitchell said shortly after the arrest of his stepson-in-law, Willie Corey Godbolt. “Him and my stepdaughter, they have been going back and forth for a few years with domestic violence.”
Godbolt is evident from Mitchell’s house in the southern Mississippi town of Bogue Chitto shortly before midnight Saturday to demand that his estranged wife give their two children. She and the children had been staying for them, and in about three weeks, Mitchell told The Associated Press.
“He would come to his children. The deputy was named,” and asked him to leave, and it seemed Godbolt would be in line on the first, Mitchell said.
“He acted like, gesturing like he was fixing to go. Then he reached into his pocket and grabbed a gun,” Mitchell said. “He just started shooting everything.”
Mitchell said he escaped along with Godbolt’s wife, but Mitchell’s wife, her sister and one of the wife and daughters were killed. Also killed was Deputy William Durr, a two-year sheriff’s department veteran and former police officer in nearby Brookhaven, where authorities said Godbolt fled and killed four people at two other homes.
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said prosecutors plan to charge Godbolt, 35, with murder, but it is still too early to say what the motive was. The authorities gave no details about his relationship with the victims, but a member of Godbolt the church told the AP that everyone but the governor in connection with Godbolt by blood or marriage.
Godbolt himself to shed some light on what happened, in an interview he gave to The Clarion-Ledger as he sat with his hands cuffed on his back on the side of a road in Brookhaven, about 70 miles (110 km) south of Jackson.
“I had a conversation with her stepdaddy and her mom and her, my wife, about me and my children home,” he said. “Someone called the officer, people who don’t even live in the house. That’s what they do. They intervene.”
“They have cost him his life,” he said, apparently referring to Durr. “I’m sorry.”
“My pain was not designed for him. He was just there,” Godbolt said. “I am not fit to live, not after what I done.”
Godbolt was admitted to the hospital in good condition with a gunshot wound, though it was not clear who shot him.
“Everyone who was killed was related to him, with the exception of the deputy,” said Johnny Hall Sr., a former member of the New Zion Union M. B. Church in Bogue Chitto, not far from the scene of the crime, where he said Godbolt also was a member.
At least seven hours elapsed between the first shootings and Godbolt’s arrest in the near of the last scene of the crime, in a subdivision of ranch houses.
“It breaks everybody’s heart,” said Garrett Smith, a 19-year-old student who went to high school with one of the victims. “Everyone knows everyone for the most part.”
Durr, 36 years, was married and had an 11-year-old son, Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said.
Off-duty, he was a ventriloquist, who are puppets to schools and churches. Two weeks ago, Durr entertained preschoolers at Brookhaven Academy, a Christian school in the city. The message he shared was that, just as the fireflies — people can use their inner light to help the people around them.
“His character: top-notch,” said the Page, Nelson, the school’s elementary principal.
Godbolt had a different message, he said, he had not planned to be captured alive.
“My intention was to God kill me. I ran bullets,” he said. “Suicide by cop was my intention.”
Associated Press writers Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Jeff Amy in Metairie, Louisiana; and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.