WEST UNION - Authorities are investigating a shooting near West Virginia 18 in Doddridge County that left three family members dead and a male juvenile facing murder charges.
The shooting occurred at the top of a hill in a residence about three miles north of West Union, which has a population of about 800 people.
News releases from the Doddridge County Sheriff's Office Tuesday morning and afternoon confirmed three people died from gunshot wounds in a triple homicide around 6 p.m. Monday.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Crime scene tape blocked Mastons Road outside West Union in Doddridge County. Three people were shot and killed Monday evening with a male juvenile facing murder charges.
"Three are dead from gunshot wounds and a suspect (juvenile) is in custody," Deputy C.W. Modesitt stated in a release. "The juvenile suspect is related to the victims. Juvenile suspect will be charged with three counts of first degree murder."
Officials declined to release the names of those involved.
They did, however, say the victims were members of the same family, including Dixie Spencer, a Ritchie County Middle School science teacher; her husband, Frederick Spencer, and a daughter.
Doddridge County Commissioner Ralph Sandora said he knows the family and confirmed that the daughter attended Doddridge County Middle School, while the suspect is a junior at Doddridge County High School, according to the Associated Press.
Spencer's death was confirmed by Carolyn Bowie, president of the Ritchie County Board of Education.
"This is just a horrible, horrible tragedy," Bowie said Tuesday.
Bowie said she was contacted Monday evening by Ritchie County Schools Superintendent Ed Toman. The superintendent and Michael Dotson, principal of Ritchie County Middle School, arranged to have grief counselors at the school Tuesday and to hold an assembly for students and staff.
"Our first concern when we first heard about this was making sure the students and staff were taken care of," Bowie said. "No words can describe how shocked we were. My prayers go out to all involved."
Dotson declined to comment on the incident and said school officials were taking their cues from area law enforcement.
Dotson did confirm the district office had sent grief counselors to the middle school Tuesday.
"We're still reeling from this," he said.
Bowie said the family lived in Doddridge County, but said she knew little of the family.
Doddridge County Schools Superintendent Rick Coffman did not return a call Tuesday, but an official with the school system said professionals were made available to students in the aftermath of Monday's shootings.
"We've had lots of different professionals in the schools," Coffman's assistant said.
The shooting occurred around 6 p.m. Monday, according to reports. The West Virginia State Police and Doddridge County Sheriff's Department responded. A call to the Doddridge County detachment of the State Police was referred to the sheriff's department.
Doddridge County Sheriff W.C. Underwood said Modesitt was on the scene most of the day Tuesday conducting follow-up investigations.
Doddridge County Prosecuting Attorney Brooke Fitzgerald was in court Tuesday and unavailable for comment.
Roland Kniceley, Doddridge County coroner, said the bodies were transported to state medical examiner's office for autopsies.
A receptionist at the sheriff's office Tuesday morning said additional information may be released later after officials "had time to catch their breath; it's kind of a touchy situation."
The Doddridge County EMS officials declined to comment about the incident Tuesday evening. Officials said they are there to support and help the community, but wanted to remain out of the investigation.
Other residents approached by News and Sentinel staff Tuesday declined comment, saying they "don't think people are supposed to be talking about it."
A deputy with the Doddridge County Sheriff's Office said Deputy C.W. Modesitt was off duty Tuesday evening and not authorized to comment further.