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 Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015

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Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015 Empty
PostSubject: Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015   Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015 Icon_minitimeSun Mar 24, 2019 3:42 pm

TYRONE, Mo. • A black billboard with yellow and white letters notifies drivers rolling down U.S. Highway 63 near here that they are entering a “prayer zone.”

Last winter, in this deeply rural and religious part of south-central Missouri, a man momentarily caught the nation’s eye by carrying out one of the deadliest mass shootings of 2015.

It has since been overshadowed by even deadlier ones in Charleston, S.C.; Waco, Texas; and Roseburg, Ore. And yet the reasons for it remain more elusive because its mastermind knew all of his victims but left investigators with few clues.

At daybreak, police tape wrapped the snow-covered front yards of several houses in the tiny, unincorporated and little-known community of Tyrone about 165 miles southwest of St. Louis, replacing an otherwise pastoral panorama with an aura of danger and distrust.

Residents say the killings not only decimated well-known families but also changed the culture of a community working to move on.

They’d grown used to seeing people leave over the decades to chase better jobs in the city, choosing the luxury of thermostat warmth over wood heat. Now, eight months since the shootings, the “For Sale” and “No Trespassing” signs are slapped up in yards for reasons other than economic decline.

Homes of the victims still sit vacant. Public auctions have sold off equipment at what was Tyrone’s biggest business, owned by a family that lost three members in the rampage.

Police say Joseph Aldridge, 36, acted alone when he methodically picked off his victims one by one in their homes.

Early on, police and reporters were quick to presume that Aldridge snapped upon finding his cancer-stricken mother dead in their home.

Records, however, suggest the gunman planned ahead to execute a nighttime raid with near-perfect precision, leaving some to question whether they could have acted on warning signs before the attack.

“I’d give anything to have had five minutes with him,” Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said in a recent interview. “If nothing else, we might have gotten an answer to why.”

The same worn-out questions that follow other mass shootings have followed this one.

Some cut to the heart of the national gun-control debate, such as how Aldridge, a convicted felon, came to illegally possess three firearms — including a gun of unknown origin.

Other questions are born of hindsight and regret.

“What could I have done or any of us done to save him and all those people?” said Barb Jester, 67, a former teacher in Summersville, where Aldridge attended school. “I don’t know if there is an answer. Sometimes we just don’t see people and we don’t hear them until it’s too late.”

But Aldridge was visible. Though people say they didn’t think he was capable of such a brazen crime, they weren’t surprised either when his name emerged.

‘THE CROW’


Joe Aldridge was the child in middle school who played with knives on the bus. Yearbook photographs show a smiling young boy, whose hair in high school seemed to get longer each year. He was held back for a while until he caught up on credits.

Some former teachers and peers described him as quiet; others as arrogant. Sometimes he was bullied, wrestled into a Dumpster. Art was his favorite course; he had a taste for dark themes.

He was the guy in a graduating class of about 30 people who wore a long black trench coat. If there would have been a vote his senior year for who best fit the main character in the cult-classic goth movie “The Crow,” it would have been Aldridge.

“He was more on the fringe, but not like an outcast,” said Phil Rohrer, a former counselor at Summersville. “He was always quiet, reserved and kind of shy.”

His older sister told officials that he read a lot, liked to walk in the woods and couldn’t do wrong in his mother’s eyes.

“Joe and I got along, he’s just always been the baby,” the sister, Deana Kelts, 54, told police.

After high school, Aldridge worked short stints at a floor mill, grocery store and natural gas company. A former boss said Aldridge didn’t have an aggressive bone in his body.

He mostly mooched off his mother and relished drugs and weapons, said a former friend of his who also said Aldridge was a good marksman who preferred a handgun.

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Aldridge used this .45-caliber pistol to shoot dead his victims before committing suicide. Police still do not know how Aldridge, a convicted felon who served 21 months for possession charges, obtained it

His friends were much younger. He had wide mood swings and got in serious trouble in 2007.

James Perkins, a police officer in nearby Mountain View, had traced alcohol and drugs found in a car full of teenagers to a tiny house where Aldridge lived with his girlfriend. Inside was a cache of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Though several people were in the house, including minors, Perkins said Aldridge took full responsibility. He said Aldridge was nonviolent and cooperated with police by taking time to describe the drugs in explicit detail.

“I took it more as a cry for help,” said Perkins, now police chief.

Aldridge eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges for being an addict in possession of drugs and a firearm. He was sentenced in 2008 to serve 21 months in federal prison.

Perkins said the last time he visited with Aldridge he had recently finished a rehab program and was proud to tell him about it.

“He got some kind of certificate and showed it to me,” Perkins said.

Perkins had forgotten about Aldridge until he heard about the Tyrone shooter. Perkins said he thought: “That is the guy I arrested a few years ago, and he’s not supposed to have a firearm.”

THE RAMPAGE

On Feb. 26, Aldridge surprised his victims as they were winding down for the evening or already in bed.

Investigators still aren’t sure which of the four houses he hit first, but they know from 911 calls his rampage began about 10 p.m.

Aldridge shot neighbors Carey and Valirea Shriver on Highway 137 and killed them in their bedroom. He shot Carey Shriver, 46, twice in the chest and once in the head, police say. His 44-year-old wife, wearing a robe, was shot in the neck and shoulder. The Shrivers’ son John, then 13, apparently slept through the gunfire and was not hurt.

Aldridge drove about 1½ miles down Highway H to the home of his first cousin, Garold “Dee” Aldridge, 52, and his wife, Julie Ann Aldridge, 47. Records say their daughter, Mica, 15, heard heavy footsteps in the house and a man’s deep voice coming from her parents’ bedroom. Then gunfire. Then her mother’s screams.

Mica slipped out a back door and ran through a farm field toward a neighbor’s home, scraping her legs on heavy brush, snow and ice. She and her neighbor called 911 at 10:08 p.m.

Joe Aldridge also invaded another cousin’s home a few houses away, shooting Harold Wayne “Weasel” Aldridge, 50, in the head, abdomen, chest and hand. His wife, Janell Aldridge, 48, was shot in the face.

Examining the scene, one officer noted the helpless position of Janell Aldridge in her bed: “Clinging a pillow that was pulled to her face as if she was covering her eyes from the bedroom light or possibly shielding her face from the display of the handgun involved.”

Police believe Joe Aldridge’s last target was Carey Shriver’s parents, Darrell and Martha Shriver, off Highway 137 near Joe Aldridge’s home.

He tricked them by pleading for help, according to Martha Shriver, 67, who survived the attack.

“Darrell and I were laying in bed in the bedroom watching the 10 o’clock news and all of a sudden someone starts hollering behind the house, ‘Help me, help me, help me!” she told detectives the morning after the shootings.

“I thought it was our son,” she said. “I thought something must be wrong.”

They let him in through the family room and her husband asked how he could help. Aldridge said, “‘You deserve this,’ and he started shooting,” she said.

Aldridge chased her husband through the home, shooting him, stood over his body and shot him again. He shot Martha several times, too. Bleeding and unable to move her legs, she dragged herself through two rooms to the telephone and called 911 at 10:36 p.m.

An overnight search for Aldridge led police to a gravel road about 25 miles southeast of Tyrone in neighboring Shannon County. Aldridge, bundled in a camouflage coat and pants, was slumped in the cab of his family’s red pickup with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

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Aldridge's body was discovered that night by police in his red pickup truck

GRASPING FOR CLUES
Police investigated several leads but could not pin down Aldridge’s motive. Nor can they say why he lashed out against the particular group of relatives and neighbors. Some speculate that many of the victims were adversaries of Joe Aldridge’s brother, but not necessarily of Joe.

Joe Aldridge’s family was neighbors with the Shrivers, who owned 1,200 acres in Texas County. Joe’s family had 50 acres and a house barely standing. Darrell Shriver, 68, was known as a tough, sometimes ornery patriarch of the family business. A recent dispute was also noted over Carey and Valirea Shrivers’ teenage son who upset the Aldridges by riding a minibike near or over the Aldridge property line.

Martha Shriver told police she couldn’t recall any problems with Joe Aldridge. She said he had briefly worked in the Shriver family’s cabinet shop years ago and had been her student when she taught seventh- and eighth-grade science in nearby Summersville.

“When he went to high school, I thought he was strange,” she told police. “He’d always wear a black coat and black clothes.”

The night of the shooting, Aldridge “appeared all stressed out, but I thought it was because his mama had died,” she said.

The coroner said Joe Aldridge’s mother, Alice Aldridge, 74, died of widespread cancer, and had been dead 30 to 36 hours when police found her body while searching for her son. Joe Aldridge lived with his mother and was her sole caregiver.

“He was probably there with her when she took her last breath,” said Sigman, the sheriff. “She’d been down for quite some time” before the shootings.

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The report also mentioned a physical fight in recent years between Joe’s older brother Lyndell, and their cousins Dee and Weasel Aldridge, who, along with their spouses, were slain in the shootings.

Lyndell, Dee and Weasel grew up together and often fought when they were young, said a relative. As adults, they didn’t make up well. The recent fight was serious enough to keep the cousins from visiting their aunt — Joe and Lyndell’s mother — as she battled cancer, police said.

Lyndell, 53, who lives on a wooded property near his mother’s old house, declined to comment for this story. He told police that his brother had drug connections years ago with some members of the large Aldridge and Shriver families, but he never talked of hurting people.

He said Joe wanted to move to Oregon after their mother died and had asked Lyndell for help raising money for the trip. He said his brother grew quiet in the weeks leading up to their mother’s death. When Lyndell visited, Joe would usually get up and go to his room and shut the door. He said Joe didn’t even call him after she died.

According to police photos, investigators found her dead under a pile of blankets on the couch. The small home with weather-worn white siding was cluttered and messy except for two rooms that, oddly, had been entirely cleared.

A study, believed to be Joe’s room, had a mattress piled with camouflage clothing. Next to the door hung an air gun that resembled a submachine gun. Sprinkled here and there were glass pipes for smoking marijuana, books, DVDs, boxes of ammo and a flier for buying online: “The Post Office is only a click away.”

There was a 1969 copy of the U.S. Army “Improvised Munitions Handbook” and a field guide to North American mushrooms. Other books are considered cookbooks on how to make psychedelic drugs.

The only clear spot in the room seemed to be where the computer used to be placed. Police found it torched in a burn barrel behind the house, but couldn’t restore anything from the hard drive.

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Pictured is photo of weapons, including knives, that were found in Aldridge's truck

DRUGS AND GUNS


The truck in which Joe Aldridge killed himself was found on a gravel road that night, running and nearly out of gas. There were multiple guns and knives on the front seat, a black skull mask, a Budweiser can in the cup holder and an empty bottle of Evan Williams whiskey.

Aldridge’s autopsy showed he had a 0.256 percent blood-alcohol content — more than three times the legal limit to drive in Missouri — as well as marijuana and over-the-counter painkillers and allergy medicine in his system.

The gravel road led to the home of Beau Barnes, 34, an old friend of Aldridge’s from high school.

“I am curious why he would come here because the last time we talked it had been a year,” Barnes said. “We thought we were done with him.”

Barnes said Aldridge had been bragging about buying legal substances online and mixing them into illicit drugs.

“I just wanted to get away from him because he was getting absolutely weird,” Barnes said.

Barnes, who said he doesn’t use the Internet, said Aldridge talked about visiting a lot of chat rooms regarding drugs and weapons.

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Aldridge's bedroom, very disgusting

“I am surprised that whoever monitors that didn’t already have him arrested for as much as he bragged about,” he said.

Aldridge’s 2008 felony drug conviction barred him from owning guns, but he got them anyway. Inside the pickup next to Aldridge’s body, police recovered the .45-caliber pistol used to kill himself and shoot the eight others. They also found a .22-caliber rifle and pistol, several knives, extra magazines and ammunition.

Police aren’t sure how Aldridge obtained the .45-caliber pistol. The serial number was scratched off. Police reports say Aldridge’s mother bought the other pistol in 2014 from a gun shop in nearby Cabool, Mo. The rifle was purchased in Montana in 1992; police suspect Aldridge obtained it through a private seller.

Sigman said he had hoped the investigation would have at least revealed how Aldridge got the guns. But Sigman, a Republican sheriff, firmly supports gun rights, reflecting the views of many Texas County residents.

“You’ll never hear me blame any one of these tragedies on a firearm,” he said. “A gun is nothing but an inanimate object — it takes someone behind it. Nothing different than a knife or a rock. The truth of the matter is, it all comes down to the heart.”

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Police found Aldridge's computer torched in a burn barrel outside his house, the hard drive unrecoverable

TYRONE TODAY

Joe Aldridge’s rampage diminished the Shriver family business and drove his own family apart.

Some of the Aldridge and Shriver children left Tyrone and now live with out-of-town relatives. Mica Aldridge, now 16, moved to Michigan. John Shriver, 14, moved in with family in the St. Louis area.

The Shriver family’s business had been focused on cattle, cabinets, construction and cars. Only the farm remains.

Mike Sherman Jr., 45, who worked for the Shrivers for 14 years installing kitchen cabinets across the country, says the shootings not only destroyed a prominent family business but also killed a sense of trust in the community.

“I’ve seen people who lived out there most of their lives who have left because of this,” Sherman said.

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Bullet holes can be seen below the windows of the home of Harold Wayne 'Weasel' Aldridge, 50, and his 48-year-old wife Janell. Harold was Aldridge's first cousin

Sherman still helps with the Shrivers’ cattle business but he says it’s not the same without Martha and Darrell Shriver running things.

“You would not have met a better family to work for,” Sherman said.

Sigman, the sheriff, said Tyrone residents bonded after the shootings, but the town is forever altered.

“The Shrivers were the center of the Tyrone community with the cabinet shop — they employed a lot of people,” Sigman said. “That’s all gone. So that’s definitely going to have a lasting effect.”

Fred Stenger, Texas County’s presiding commissioner, says the community has coped with the tragedy and unwanted attention as best it can. He pointed to one sign of progress: the completion this spring of the county’s new 911 center. It was a $180,000 renovation project the Shriver family’s in-laws bid on and won well before the shootings.

“It was a real blessing that the family honored the contract,” Stenger said.


Martha Shriver, the only surviving shooting victim, now lives with her daughter in a small town near Springfield, Mo. She’s still recovering but uses a wheelchair and may have a paralyzed leg.

Last month, a development company in Marceline, Mo., the boyhood home of Walt Disney, named her one of Missouri’s 10 “best grandmothers” as part of an essay contest that her granddaughter entered.

Martha Shriver declined an in-depth interview for this story but told a reporter she doubts she’ll ever fully recover.

“I don’t think you really ever get over it,” she said. “You run a business for so long and the next thing you know your husband and son are gone. It just takes your whole life away.”

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Some of the victims
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Darrell Shriver was killed. Martha, who was shot multiple times and remains in a wheelchair today, dragged herself through two rooms to reach a phone and call 911 at 10.36pm
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PostSubject: Re: Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015   Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015 Icon_minitimeSun Mar 24, 2019 3:54 pm

This was a great read, thanks for posting it.

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PostSubject: Re: Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015   Anatomy of a rampage: One of the worst shootings of 2015 Icon_minitimeSun Mar 24, 2019 4:18 pm

Tommy QTR wrote:
This was a great read, thanks for posting it.

No problem, glad you enjoyed it!
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