An argument between a Mississippi man, his estranged wife and her family over custody of the couple’s children ended in a shooting that killed eight people, including a deputy sheriff.
Police said gunfire erupted Saturday night at a home in Bogue Chitto after the deputy arrived in response to a domestic disturbance call, and spread to two houses in nearby Brookhaven, about 70 miles south of Jackson.
The suspect, Willie Cory Godbolt, 35, confessed to the The Jackson Clarion-Ledger in a video interview, recorded as he sat with his hands cuffed behind his back on the side of a road.
“I ain’t fit to live, not after what I done,” Godbolt told the paper Sunday after he was apprehended. “Not in y’all eyes, not in nobody else’s eyes.”
Godbolt was hospitalized in good condition with a gunshot wound, though it wasn’t clear who shot him.
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said that prosecutors planned to charge Godbolt with murder but that it was too soon to say what the motive was. Authorities gave no details on his relationship to the victims.
Godbolt told the paper that he was talking with his wife and in-laws when somebody called authorities.
“My pain wasn’t designed for him. He was just there,” Godbolt told the paper as he sat on the road, hands cuffed behind his back, waiting to be transported to jail. “We was talking about me trying to take the children home… somebody called the officer…. that’s what they do, they intervene. It cost him his life. I’m sorry.”
The suspect also said he did not intend for police to capture him alive.
“My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets,” he said. “Suicide by cop was my intention.”
Authorities said the deputy who was shot was 36-year-old William Durr, Mississippi News Now reported. Durr had been with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department for two years. He also served four years with the Brookhaven Police Department.
The Daily Herald reported that in a 2014 interview Durr said he loved making children smile.
He told the paper he liked to conduct puppet shows for kids. He had developed an interest in ventriloquism as a boy.
The stepfather-in-law, Vincent Mitchell, told The Associated Press that Godbolt’s wife and their two children had been staying at his Bogue Chitto home for about three weeks after she left her husband because of domestic violence.
When the sheriff’s deputy arrived at the house, Godbolt looked as if he were about to leave, then reached into his back pocket, pulled a gun and opened fire, Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he escaped along with Godbolt’s wife. But he said three family members were killed in his home: his wife, her sister and one of the wife’s daughters.
“I’m devastated. It don’t seem like it’s real,” Mitchell said outside his yellow frame house, in a community of modest houses, trailer homes and small churches set among thick woods.
After fleeing his in-laws’ house, Godbolt killed four more people at two other homes, authorities said. At least seven hours elapsed between the first shootings and Godbolt’s arrest near the final crime scene in a subdivision of ranch houses in Brookhaven, a few miles from Bogue Chitto.
“It breaks everybody’s heart,” said Garrett Smith, a 19-year-old college student who went to high school with one of the victims. “Everybody knows everybody for the most part.”
The Daily Leader reported that Godbolt has a long criminal record, including:
■ Charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault in 2005 after he allegedly struck a man with a pistol and took his cash and jewelry;
■ In 2013, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office charged him with simple assault;
■ Arrested in 2015 for disorderly conduct/breach of peace and failure to comply with a request from a sheriff;
■ Arrested in 2015 for speeding, driving with a suspended license, and no proof of liability insurance by the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
In 2016, Godbolt filed an appeal to a judgment against him in a simple assault and disorderly conduct case.
Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement asking state residents to pray for the victims. He also noted the “sacrifice” made by law enforcement officers to protect and serve their communities.
“Every day, the men and women who wear the badge make some measure of sacrifice to protect and serve their communities. Too often, we lose one of our finest. I thank the law enforcement agencies involved for their hard work,” Bryant said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.