Riverside mayor mourning family involved in triple murder-suicide
ST. CLAIR CO., Ala. (WBRC) - Four people are dead including two teenage girls following a triple murder-suicide in the small town of Riverside on May 22.
Riverside is a town of only around 2,000 people. The mayor says everyone knows everyone, and right now everyone is hurting.
“This is a tragedy that came out like a lightning bolt,” said Riverside Mayor Rusty Jessup. “Nobody saw this coming.”
Sunday was a dreadful day in the town. The mayor said when he heard the tragic news, he was in shock.
“It’s got everybody in town just walking around with our chins on the ground going: How did this happen?” he said.
A 911 call came into dispatch around 9:45 a.m. and Riverside Police Chief Jake Heath says officer received the call of a suicidal man in the 2300 block of Depot Street.
Mayor Jessup says from what he understood, the man “told the officer that he had done something bad, that things were going bad, and please come and please come now.”
St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, Riverside Police and Pell City Police responded to the call.
Riverside Chief Heath says when police arrived on the scene, officers saw a man armed with a handgun. According to officers, he shot himself a few minutes after they started talking with him.
“Officers begin to go inside the residence to clear it for safety reasons, and find three female victims,” said Chief Heath.
The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as 51-year-old Florence Diane Vance, a 13-year-old girl, and a 16-year-old girl. Investigators identified 54-year-old William Huntoon Vance as the offender in the shooting.
“Everybody knows everybody in this town, it’s something that was not expected at all,” said Chief Heath.
“I know this family personally,” said Mayor Jessup. “Known them for a number of years. They’re good citizens, good people, a great family.”
The mayor says William and Florence were both hearing and speech impaired, and they communicated with sign language. He added they could read lips as well.
“They were always here for all the city functions,” said Jessup. “They’d bring their kids. They love this city, they love their neighbors. They were just loving people and we loved them.”
Jessup says he can’t wrap his mind around the tragedy.
“I wish he’d have called me,” he said. “I wished you know, he would’ve reached out to somebody. I just hurt right now. I just hurt. Our whole city just hurts right now.”
The Pell City school system where the girls attended school released a statement following the girl’s deaths.
Law enforcement officers are now hoping to figure out what led up to the shooting. The mayor and the police chief are asking for thoughts and prayers for everyone involved right now.
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