When an elderly couple died in a late-night fire last month, investigators in southeast Missouri's Ripley County dismissed the deaths as accidental -- a gnarly ending to two full lives.
But when the bodies of two more elderly people were found in a burning home last week -- and it turned out one had been shot twice before burning up in the house -- sheriff's deputies were faced with a barely conceivable possibility: a pack of young people preying on the elderly.
According to the Daily American Republic, prosecutors have charged four people -- including two teenagers -- in the murder of Edgar Atkinson, 81, and Bonnie Chase, 69, whose bodies were found in a burning Ripley County home on July 10. An autopsy revealed that Atkinson died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest, and a tip reportedly led investigators to four locals: David Youngblood, 46; Melissa Mae Youngblood, 33; their 17-year-old daughter, Chantale Youngblood; and her boyfriend, Keith Boyles, 18.
"I'm telling you, these are bad people," Sheriff Ron Barnett said, according to the AP. "We don't need these kinds of people running around in our community."
The arrests caused the sheriff's office to reopen an investigation into the June deaths of another elderly couple whose bodies were found in a burned out home. Loyd Eugene Piatt, 77, and wife Gladys, 80, died in a June 23 fire that investigators ruled an accident. Now they're not so sure. They'll exhume the bodies and perform an autopsy -- an exam that could tell Ripley County whether it had a pack of elderly-preying serial killers on their hands.