Sheriff’s office says man kills 6 family members, self in ‘unimaginable’ tragedy

Teenage son tells 911 operator he heard shots, hid in closet

Posted 3/20/20

MONCURE — Larry Ray, the man the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office suspects killed six members of his family Sunday — before fatally turning his gun on himself — had previously been charged …

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Sheriff’s office says man kills 6 family members, self in ‘unimaginable’ tragedy

Teenage son tells 911 operator he heard shots, hid in closet

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Posted

MONCURE — Larry Ray, the man the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office suspects killed six members of his family Sunday — before fatally turning his gun on himself — had previously been charged with assault in connection with complaints by other family members.

The murder-suicide occurred at three separate residences on Moncure-Flatwoods Road in Moncure on Sunday, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday morning. Seven victims — Ray’s wife, Jeanie Ray, 67, his mother-in-law Helen Mason, 93, Ellis Mansfield, 73, Lisa Mansfield, 54, John Paul Sanderford, 41, and Nicole Sanderford, 39 — were all related, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators say evidence at the scene points to Ray, who turned the gun on himself after shooting the other six.

According to state criminal records, Ray was charged in 1993 and in 2003 with assault. Each of those charges stemmed from complaints from family members and were eventually dismissed.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” Sheriff Mike Roberson said in a release. “To lose any family member is devastating, but to lose several at once to unexpected violence is unimaginable. There are no words to describe the sense of loss we feel as a community in the wake of this terrible event.”

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Offices told the News + Record that the Sanderfords were parents of two teenage children. WRAL reported that relatives said Ray first shot his wife, then the three adults at Mason’s house, then the Sanderfords in their home. According to a report on WRAL.com, relatives said the Sanderfords’ 16-year-old son called 911. A second child, a 13-year-old son, was away from home at the time.

In the audio portion of a 911 call obtained by the News + Record, a young male caller tells the operator he ran and hid in his bedroom closet after hearing gunshots at his home. He subsequently left his bedroom and described the scene to the operator, saying that his father appeared to be dead. The operator stayed on the line with the caller until law enforcement officials arrived at the scene. (Although 911 calls are public records, it is the News + Record’s practice not to quote minors who are recorded in such calls directly.)

Sheriff’s deputies closed the portion of Moncure-Flatwoods Road overnight into Monday morning in order for Members of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and North Carolina SBI to investigate the incident. The road was re-opened on Tuesday.

No motive was given. Neighbors of some of the victims, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the News + Record there had been “spats” among the family members in the past, and that Ray’s behavior had, at times, raised concerns among members of the community.

Deputies initially responded to a shots-fired call after 5:30 p.m. Sunday. The Chatham Sheriff’s Office reported later the incident was not considered random and there was “no ongoing threat to the community at large.” Investigators on scene determined the shooting extended to more than one residence and worked through the night to process the scene and “piece together more details,” according to statement from the Sheriff’s Office.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is working with the Sheriff’s Office on the investigation. The Sheriff’s Office added in the release that “those familiar with the area where the shooting occurred describe it as a quiet, close-knit community where violence is out of the norm, making the news even more disturbing.”

Roberson added that the department wanted residents to know that “they are not alone” in the aftermath of the shootings.

“In Chatham County, when one of us hurts, we all hurt, and we pull together,” he said. “We can’t undo what has happened, but we can surround this family and each other with love and support as we decide where to go from here.”

The Sheriff’s Office said Monday afternoon that donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank nationwide to “Flatwood Boys Stay Strong,” a care fund to help provide for the two surviving Sanderford sons who lost their parents in the shooting.

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office is urging survivors affected by the tragedy to “seek emotional support, including reaching out to the N.C. Victim Assistance Network, Triangle Survivors of Suicide, or the Sheriff’s Office Victim Services Unit.”

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