Authorities believe a man who was recently released from jail in Tennessee murdered his mother and stepfather at a Limestone County home before killing himself.
Limestone County Sheriff's Office deputy and public information officer said investigators believe 29-year-old Robert Earl Gilchrist III was responsible for the deaths of 52-year-old Jamie Lynn Phillips and 48-year-old Jerry Thomas Phillips. Young said Gilchrist shot himself to death Wednesday morning after a deputy arrived to conduct a welfare check on the Phillipses.
The Sheriff's Office did not release a cause of death for the couple or say when they died. On Wednesday, Young said recent weather affected the ability to provide an accurate estimate.
“It's difficult to give a time estimate, being that we've had record highs in the past few days,” he said. “There are a lot of conditions to be taken into consideration — air-conditioning, no air-conditioning, location of the bodies, things like that.”
The incident occurred at a home in the 22000 block of Black Road, which is near the intersection of Looney Road. One body was found in an exterior shed behind the home, while another was found in a garage. Gilchrist's body was located in the home.
A deputy arrived at the home at 10:53 a.m. Wednesday. The deputy reported hearing a loud sound after arriving at the scene, which Young said was likely Gilchrist taking his own life.
A woman was transported from the home to the Limestone County Jail, but Young said she was not a person of interest in the case. At least four animals were removed from the home, including a Weimaraner (a large hunting or sporting dog) that appeared to be injured.
A statement from Sheriff Mike Blakely said the tragic incident highlights the importance of domestic violence awareness.
"Seemingly minor altercations can escalate quickly, causing devastation to families and other loved ones,” the statement said. “Anyone who is experiencing the effects of domestic violence or has family members in that situation is encouraged to reach out, not only to law enforcement, but to volunteer organizations, churches, counselors, community members and leaders, and friends. It could save your life or the lives of your loved ones."
The welfare check was prompted by an out-of-state phone call from a relative to the Sheriff's Office. The relative said she had been unable to reach the Phillipses. The relative spoke with Gilchrist, who was living at the residence, and Young said Gilchrist told the caller the Phillipses didn't want to speak to her.
It's unknown how long Gilchrist had been living at the home. Tennessee Department of Corrections records do not show when he was released from jail in Tennessee.
— Jessica Barnett contributed to this report.