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Va. murder-suicide: 5 shot dead as man kills wife and 3 kids, self, police say

Police are still investigating the horrific scene in Culpepper, Virginia, which was the apparent site of a murder-suicide that left an entire family of five dead. Authorities are searching for a motive but friends and family are pointing at Clarence Washington, the patriarch of the family, as a husband intent on keeping his family intact.

USA Today reported Aug. 4 that the mother of Shauna Washington had grown increasingly worried that she had not heard from her daughter, so, accompanied by another relative, she entered the darkened Washington home through a window at around 10 p.m. Sunday night. On the inside, the mother found all five Washingtons -- her daughter, three grandchildren, and son-in-law -- dead from gunshot wounds.

Sheriff's deputies arrived at the Culpepper home at around 10:30 p.m. (EST).

Police believe the shooting deaths were the work of Clarence Washington. A preliminary investigation revealed that the couple had been engaged in a heated argument for much of the day on Saturday, at one point escalating to where their shouts could be heard by neighbors. However, the police were not called and it grew quiet around the Washington home. None of the neighbors in the area reported hearing even one gunshot.

In recreating what occurred, police believe Clarence retrieved one of the four guns in the home and shot his wife. He then shot his three children. Finally, he turned the gun on himself.

The last time anyone saw any of the Washington family alive was around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Members of Shauna Washingtons family began to grow concerned when the five didn't show up for church Sunday.

Sheriff Scott Jenkins said there was an ongoing "domestic issue" at the Washington home, according to the Associated Press, but the sheriff's office was never called. He added that the argument between the Washingtons had "got heated," but would not divulge details. Friends said Shauna Washington had not wanted to get police involved.

Although autopsies are pending, Detective Angela Deavers of the Culpeper County Sheriff's Office said Monday that the shooting deaths appear to be a murder-suicide. A gun was recovered at the scene. All three children and both adults seemed to be dead from gunshot wounds.

Neighbors recalled Clarence Washington as a quiet man. He had worked as a custodian at Sycamore Park Elementary School at night for the past six years and worked a second job as a foreman at Bingham and Taylor Grey Iron Foundry during the day. Shauna had just taken on a second job. She worked as a home nurse and her first day of selling AFLAC insurance would have been Monday. Both wer 35 years old.

Barbara Washington, Clarence's mother, told WTVR-TV (see video clip above) in Richmond that her son was always on "cruise control," never giving an indication that anything was wrong. She said he must have just "snapped."

But a cousin of Shauna Washington's, Nicole Minor-Melvin, said Shauna had wanted out of her marriage, but her husband didn't. Still, she told NBC Washington, she'd never imagined something like this would happen.

And though members of Shauna Washington's family insist that Clarence, who has no prior criminal history, was not a bad person and was a good provider for his family, undoubtedly was responsible for the crime.

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