A man who got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over his children was arrested Sunday in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including his mother-in-law and a sheriff’s deputy.
“I ain’t fit to live, not after what I done,” a handcuffed Willie Corey Godbolt, 35, told The Clarion-Ledger
The gunfire erupted Saturday night at Godbolt’s in-laws’ home in Bogue Chitto after the deputy arrived in response to a domestic disturbance call, and spread to two houses in nearby Brookhaven.
Godbolt was hospitalized in good condition with a gunshot wound, though it wasn’t clear who shot him.
The slain deputy, William Durr, was a two-year sheriff’s department veteran and former police officer in Brookhaven, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Jackson.
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said prosecutors plan to charge Godbolt with murder, but it’s too soon to say what the motive was. Authorities gave no details on his relationship to the victims, but a member of Godbolt’s church said everyone but the deputy was related to Godbolt by blood or marriage.
Godbolt himself shed some light on what happened, in an interview he gave to the newspaper as he sat with his hands cuffed behind his back on the side of a road.
“My pain wasn’t designed for him. He was just there,” Godbolt said of the deputy.
“I was having a conversation with her stepdaddy and her mama and her, my wife, about me taking my children home,” he said. “Somebody called the officer, people that didn’t even live at the house. That’s what they do. They intervene.”
“They cost him his life,” he said, apparently referring to Durr. “I’m sorry.”
Godbolt’s stepfather-in-law, Vincent Mitchell, told The Associated Press that Godbolt’s wife and their two children had been staying at his Bogue Chitto home for about three weeks after she left her husband because of domestic violence.
“He’d come to get his kids. The deputy was called,” Mitchell said.
The deputy asked Godbolt to leave, and at first, it seemed like Godbolt would comply, he said.
“He acted like, motioned like, he was fixing to go. Then he reached in his back pocket and grabbed a gun,” Mitchell said. “He just started shooting everything.”
Mitchell said he escaped along with Godbolt’s wife, but three others were killed: his wife, her sister and one of the wife’s daughters.
“I’m devastated. It don’t seem like it’s real,” Mitchell said outside his yellow frame house, in a community of modest houses, trailer homes and small churches set among thick woods.
After fleeing his in-laws’ house, Godbolt killed four more people at two other homes, authorities said.
“Everybody that got killed was related to him, except the deputy,” said Johnny Hall Sr., a longtime member of the New Zion Union M.B. Church in Bogue Chitto, not far from the initial crime scene, where he said Godbolt also was a member.
At least seven hours elapsed between the first shootings and Godbolt’s arrest near the final crime scene, a few miles from there in a subdivision of ranch houses in Brookhaven.
“It breaks everybody’s heart,” said Garrett Smith, a 19-year-old college student who went to high school with one of the victims. “Everybody knows everybody for the most part.”
Durr, 36, was married and had an 11-year-old son, Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said.
Off duty, he was a ventriloquist who took his puppets to schools and churches and performed for children.
Two weeks ago, Durr entertained preschoolers at Brookhaven Academy, a Christian school in town. The message he shared was that — like fireflies — people can use their inner light to help those around them.
“His character, top-notch,” said Page Nelson, the school’s elementary principal.
Godbolt had a different message — he said he did not intend for police to capture him alive.
“My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets,” he said. “Suicide by cop was my intention.”