A man fatally shot his sisters and dad before setting their home on fire and turning the gun on himself, according to the Lenoir Police Department.
Officials told Channel 9 that the victims were found inside a house on Laurel Place NW in Lenoir.
According to police, 29-year-old Ronald James “Jimmy” Ward shot and killed his father, 58-year-old Ronald Albert Ward and sisters 18-year-old Katlyn Nichole Ward and 15-year-old Emily Grace Ward.
He then set their home on fire using an accelerant and fatally shot himself, officials said.
Police said evidence gathered during the investigation indicates that Jimmy was the only suspect involved in the case.
Firefighters said the family of five lived at the home. The mother of the household was at a doctor’s appointment when it happened, investigators said.
Channel 9 crews could see several emergency vehicles on the scene.
Firefighters confirmed that around 9:30 a.m. there was some type of explosion inside the home. When they got to the scene, fire crews said there was very little damage on the main floor of the home — most of it was confined to the basement, but the victims were not found in that area.
Three of the victims were found on the main level of the house, while a fourth was found near the entrance to a carport.
Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty spoke with a couple who were working in a garden just down the road. They described hearing gunshots coming from the home just before the explosion.
”We heard what sounded like a couple of gunshots up at the end of the road, so we turned and we were looking and it looked like the roof of the house kind of
lifted for a second and a huge plume of smoke shot out the right side of the house,” said Lisa Price.
”As far as we know, we think that there is still some people in there,” said Cody Price. “So, I’m just curious about how it started, what is was. What would cause it that we didn’t see or hear anything from anyone from in the house?”
Family members who spoke to Channel 9 said the couple who lived at the home had adopted four children over the years. The father was involved with his church, leading its choir.
Investigators said the mother was not home at the time of the explosion because she was at a doctor’s appointment.
Channel 9 spoke to Mary Ellen Foster, an aunt in the family, who said the rest of the family is waiting for answers. She said there were oxygen tanks inside the home, but it is not clear if they contributed to the explosion or fire.
Investigators told Channel 9 that the fire was intentionally set by Jimmy after killing his family members.
“I did pray, I did pray,” Foster said. “I prayed that Karen would have peace. I mean that’s her whole family. Her whole family was taken.”
Along Laurel Place, Channel 9 could see neighbors coming together Thursday morning, bringing food and other items to the woman who was not home when the shooting happened. She told reporter Dave Faherty that she is asking for prayers from the community.
”We love them and we hate what happened to them,” said neighbor Francis Lee. “We’ll do anything we can to help them. It’s certainly sad.”