The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

October 25, 2012

Fayetteville relives past violence with new homicides


As investigators try to unravel the case, some in the community can't help but be reminded of the July 2009 killings. Like the events of that year, the latest crimes have left them in shock.

In the 2009 case, sheriff's deputies found 38-year-old Traci Shaffer, her son, Devin Brooks, and neighbor Robert Berber, both 16, dead in their home. The bodies of Traci Shaffer's brother, Chris Hall, 34, and father Billy Hall, 57, were found in a home across the road.

Jacob Shaffer and his unharmed 4-year-old daughter were found by authorities sitting on the porch of one of the homes where the bodies were found. Authorities then found 50-year-old Sidney Wade Dempsey beaten to death at a business in Huntsville, Ala., about 30 miles south.

Shaffer pleaded guilty to five counts of murder in the Tennessee slayings and was given five life sentences. He has not yet gone to trial in Dempsey's slaying.

Sheila Brannon, 50, has lived in Fayetteville her whole life and works just over the state line in Alabama at a fast food restaurant not far from where one of the bodies was found this week. Brannon said she immediately thought back to the Shaffer family.

"I never expected it to happen here again," she said, while standing outside the Fayetteville courthouse in the town's bustling downtown square.

She said the latest slayings have made her skittish and fearful, and she doesn't understand why anyone would kill a child.

"I thought it was sick. It's horrible," she said. "It's not like the baby could talk."

Blackwelder said there are similarities between this year's case and the 2009 killings.

While he said he couldn't go into detail, in both instances, family members and acquaintances were targeted, some children were killed while others were left unscathed, and the crime scenes were in both Tennessee and Alabama, miles apart.

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