The Appling Middle School principal was reeling from the murder of his parents and younger brother when he received another blow — the person accused of shooting his family and setting them on fire was another one of his brothers.
Mr. Ryan David Jones, 26, was charged Thursday with three counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators said he shot and killed his parents and brother at their home, then set their bodies on fire miles away. It’s still unclear, however, why he allegedly killed his family.
The investigation began around noon Tuesday when a school janitor called to report a brush fire in a wooded area behind Deer Chase Elementary School.
Firefighters were extinguishing the flames when they found the bodies of two men and a woman off Matthew Court, spokesman Lt. Calvin Chew said.
Later that day, investigators received a phone call from Mr. Steve Jones, who wanted deputies to check on the welfare of his family at 3729 Pinnacle Place Drive, in Hephzibah.
Mr. Jones told deputies that he couldn’t reach his parents, Mr. Roosevelt, 65, and Mrs. Edna Jones, 64, or his brother Mr. Russell Jones, 30, since Monday.
Deputies found the family’s vehicles at the home, and at a family member’s request, forced inside where they discovered large amounts of blood. They realized they had found a crime scene with multiple victims.
“Crime scene investigators who had processed the original scene viewed photographs of Edna Jones, Roosevelt Jones, and Russell Jones located within the residence and found that the bodies discovered earlier had the same appearances of Roosevelt Jones, Russell Jones and Edna Jones,” Lt. Chew said.
“During autopsies of the three bodies located in the fire it was determined that each victim had been shot at least once.”
Ballistics evidence recovered during autopsy and at the home was later compared to a firearm belonging to Mr. Ryan Jones and recovered at the time he was taken into custody, proved to be a match.
Acting Bibb schools Superintendent Ms. Susanne Griffin-Ziebart issued a statement to school administrators Wednesday morning about the incident, according to media reports.
“As you can imagine, the loss is beyond devastating for the family,” she said.
Ms. Cynthia Daly, who lives nearby on Pinnacle Way, told the Augusta Chronicle that Mr. Roosevelt Jones had once taught at Paine College before joining the faculty at Tutt Middle School.
Mrs. Edna Jones had retired from teaching at Jamestown Elementary School, where Ms. Daly has worked as a teaching assistant for 20 years.
“She was working at Jamestown when I started there,” Mrs. Daly told the Chronicle.
Mr. Roosevelt Jones was a basketball enthusiast and his wife a skilled gardener, and both were remembered for their warm and welcoming personalities, the paper reported.
“It’s a shame something like this would happen to a very sweet, religious couple who loved everyone they met,” said Mr. Greg Butler, who knew the Joneses for 25 years. “They truly had a heart of gold.”
Mr. Terrence Everett, 21, told the Chronicle he had been worried about his friend, Mr. Russell Jones, the youngest of the couple’s sons.
Mr. Everett said he knew his friend from Hephzibah High School, and that Mr. Russell Jones was a sophomore at Fort Valley State University.
Neighbor Mr. Walter Woodard said the couple’s daughter was getting married in Atlanta this month, possibly as early as this weekend.
“This is very heartbreaking,” Mr. Woodard told the paper. “The family was always cordial, their children well raised.”
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