A Tennessee family is dead after the father allegedly murdered his wife and two children before committing suicide, the Tennessean reports.
On Friday, 32-year-old James Travis Pitts reportedly called 911 and said he shot his wife, 32-year-old Barbara Pitts, and two children, 13-year-old MaKayla Kleinert and 6-year-old Riley Pitts.
James told a dispatcher that he intended to shoot himself and that he had been experiencing mental health issues when he “snapped,” according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
The dispatcher attempted to keep James talking and negotiated with him. Meanwhile, a sergeant who was on his way home from work was the first officer to arrive at the family’s residence in Goodlettsville, a northern suburb of Nashville.
The sergeant tried to communicate with the father using his patrol vehicle’s loudspeaker. However, the sergeant reported hearing a gunshot at 6:38 a.m. and subsequently entered the home, where he found James dead in the living room.
Barbara was found in the master bedroom and the daughters were found in their respective bedrooms.
Barbara and MaKayla were still alive and medics rushed them to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. MaKayla died on arrival and Barbara died in surgery, according to the newspaper.
Investigators found a suicide note and a Glock pistol inside the home.
Ronnie Van Kleeck, a neighbor who lives next to the home, told the Tennessean that he would hear gunshots outside the residence regularly, even at night.
“We hear gunshots a lot,” Van Kleeck told WSMV-TV. “Probably every other day. It’s like boom, boom, boom. And it’s dark out, so it’s like, ‘What are you shooting at?’”
The family had been living in the home for three to four years, Van Kleeck told the Tennessean.
In 2017, James posted on Facebook about obstacles in life that he had overcome and talked about how he was attempting to turn his life around.
“I will not stop, I’ll never give up, and I will not rest or slow down until all my children are under my roof where they belong,” James wrote.
The slayings have shocked the community and members of Bethlehem Baptist Church, where the family was part of the congregation, Senior Pastor Joshua Culver told WKRN-TV.
“When it was confirmed I just called my associate pastor and we just cried on the phone, just not knowing exactly what to do,” Culver told the television station.
The church held a vigil on Friday night in response to the tragedy.
Culver described Barbara as “a woman of God who was hungry to grow, she wanted to know more about Jesus,” according to the television station. As for the children, he said “they were bright and beautiful and full of life. They were a blessing for sure.”
“What happened is a horrific tragedy. Our hearts are broken, and our staff is shocked by this devastating event,” Culver told WKRN-TV. “Right now, we simply ask for prayers for this family and our staff as we grieve this tragic loss.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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[Feature Photo: James Travis and Barbara Pitts with their children/Facebook]