Five people shot to death in southeast Texas

BELLVILLE, Texas (AP) – Five people who lived in a small home in an isolated area of southeast Texas were gunned down, and a man who lived with them was being held for questioning, authorities said Monday.

Sgt. Paul Faircloth of the Austin County Sheriff’s Office said a 69-year-old man, his 54-year-old wife, a 25-year-old woman and a child who was about 3 years old were found shot to death inside the small brick house over the weekend. An adult male was found shot to death in the woods just behind the house, Faircloth said.

Investigators are still determining how many times each person was shot and what the motive may have been.

The 20-year-old man being held for questioning was arrested after trying to break into a nearby car and house at about 3 a.m. Sunday, after the slayings, Faircloth said. The man was held at gunpoint by a neighbor until authorities arrived, Faircloth said.

The man is charged with burglary and attempted burglary, and the district attorney’s office is reviewing the case to see if capital murder charges will be brought against him as well.

Four of the victims were identified were George T. Washington, 69; Debra Washington, 54; Kiana Shree Thearse, 25; and Khalilah Masse-Chambers, about 3. Authorities were still trying to identify the man found in the woods, Faircloth said.

The victims and the man in custody were living together, but the relationship between them hasn’t been determined, Faircloth said.

The bodies have been sent to the Travis County medical examiner’s office for autopsies.

The home, an aging single-story home, sits on a large lot off a two-lane farm-to-market road across the street from a large plot of pasture land. The closest neighbors are several hundred yards away, and the home backs up to thick woods.

Several sheriff’s department and Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles were parked in front of the home early Monday.

Bellville is a town of about 4,000 people located 55 miles northwest of Houston. The area drew attention in August with the shooting death of a physician at his ranch. Two suspects were arrested days later and charged with killing Dr. Jorge Mario Gonzalez of Houston.

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