WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On February 26, 2015, Joseph Jesse Aldridge shot and killed 7 relatives and neighbors around the small town of Tyrone, Missouri. He was found dead the next day in his truck after committing suicide.
The shooting was the worst mass murder in the history of the county, which previously only recorded 1 homicide on average per year.
Joseph Aldridge was always kind of a weird kid. He played with knives on the school bus, had long hair that got longer every year, and made bad grades. He was described as quiet and arrogant. (2)
He was sometimes bullied, once wrestled into a dumpster. He was a good art student, but typically only created art with dark undertones. He wore a long black trench coat to graduation. He was described as not an outcast, but kind of on the fringe. Overall, he was quiet, reserved and shy. His sister said he could do no wrong in the eyes of their mother. (2)
He took jobs after high school at various places, including a floor mill, a grocery store and a natural gas company. One boss said that he did not have a single aggressive bone in his body. (2)
He had friends who were much younger than him, and he confessed to providing alcohol and drugs to teenagers, but even when he was arrested for it, he was not violent at all. (2)
He had been jailed another time for illegal possession of a firearm where he stayed for 3 years, a bit longer at the recommendation of his probation officer. He was ordered substance abuse and mental health counselling. He was well known to local law enforcement. (1)
The gun he used had the serial number scratched off, and it was not clear how he was able to access a gun for the shooting. (2)
Just past 10pm on February 26, the police were alerted to the string of area-shootings when a 15-year-old girl ran to her neighbor's home saying she heard gunshots in her house. When the police came to her house, they found both of her parents, Garold and Julie Aldridge, dead. Garold was Joseph's cousin. (1)
A few miles away, officers responded to another call, where they found Garold's brother Harold (yes, take a second with that. Okay, moving on) and his wife, Janell, dead inside of their bedroom. (1)
Citizens were quickly alerted at this point, with authorities telling everyone to stay in their homes with the doors locked. (1)
A few miles away, Darrel and Martha Shriver were also found shot in their home. Darrel died of his injuries, but his wife survived. She was able to identify the gunman while being taken to the hospital. (1) She said that he had come under the guise of needing help, banging on doors and windows, so they let him in, and he began shooting. (2)
Martha asked a relative to go check on her son, Carey. Unfortunately when they arrived, Carey and his wife, Valirea, were found dead on their bedroom floor. Their adolescent son was in his room, unharmed, having slept through the commotion. (1)
The same evening, an elderly woman was found dead in her home of natural causes. It turned out that she was Joseph's mother, who had died of widespread cancer. The autopsy showed the had lung cancer, but a relative said she had breast cancer. Some people believe that finding his mother dead was what triggered his killing spree, while others think that he may have smothered her to death that night, too. (1)
Aldridge was found dead in a pickup truvk in the middle of a 2 lane highway with alcohol and drugs in his system. He had shot himself in the head. (1, 2)
He knew all of his victims. Garold and Harold were his cousins - he was said to have been a bit of a recluse in his family, but his family bad begun falling apart after a physical fight with a different family member and other long-withstanding feuds within the family. The cousins and their wives were 4 of the victims. (1)
Martha and Darrel Shriver were his neighbors. Allegedly, he had asked for a job at their family business, which employed many of the people in the town, but they turned him down for the job. It is not clear when that happened, or if it was motivation for the murders. It did not appear that he had any sort of relationship with the Shriver's son, Carey, or his wife, but they still died at his hands that night. (1)
After the shootings, the Shriver family business could not be sustained, leaving many people jobless. The Aldridge family, who was already falling apart before the murders, was completely torn apart. (2)
The 2 children who survived the shooting, Garold and Julie's daughter Mica and Carey and Valeria's son John, moved away, Aldridge to Michigan and Shriver to St. Louis. (2)
The tragic, horrifying event lead people who's families had lived there for generations to leave Tyrone. But for the people who stayed, the town bonded more after the shootings, but remained forever changed. (2)
Martha Shriver, who was shot that night but survived her injuries, has never given a full interview, but did say that she didn't think she would ever fully get over it. She said her husband and son were gone and she would never get past that. As of 2016, she was still in a wheelchair and it was not determined if she would be paralyzed. (2)
Events like this one remind us that tragedy can strike anywhere. If a town that maybe saw 1 murder in an entire calendar year can have 7 occur within a few hours, what does that say about every other town out there? We often see big cities and "bad areas" as the places that crimes can occur, but our safe, small towns can house people who are able and willing to commit the unthinkable.
That night, 2 children lost both of their parents in a senseless, horrible crime, and many others lost family members and loved ones.
Tyrone, Missouri was once a small, religious town with a sizable portion of its residents working for a family-owned cabinet shop, and within a few hours, became the backdrop for a heinous, grizzly series of murders. But, the residents were able to pull themselves up, to move away or continue on as needed, and figure out how to best move on after 7 people died at the hands of their friend and neighbor, who died 5 years ago today.