Struggle to understand family slaying in small Kentucky town

Police in Corbin, Kentucky are investigating the murder of a family in Corbin, Kentucky.
Yellow tape surrounds a home in southeast Kentucky on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2014, where a family was found slain. A couple and a young girl were reportedly found dead in the home on Saturday. Police are investigating to see if the case is connected to the shooting death of a young man in Baltimore on Saturday. (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

CORBIN, Ky. (AP) – Friends and relatives of a 16-year-old boy killed in a shootout with police in Maryland struggled to understand how the faithful churchgoer and high school ROTC student could end up as the suspect in the slaying of his parents and younger sister in Kentucky.

Jason Hendrix was suspected of killing his family execution-style last week before fleeing his small Southern town to the East Coast, authorities said Sunday.

Saturday’s shootout led police to search the teen’s home more than 500 miles away in Corbin, Kentucky. There, authorities found the bodies of Kevin and Sarah Hendrix and their daughter, Grace, about age 12, Corbin Police Chief David Campbell said.

Police said they believe the victims were gunned down Wednesday afternoon, Campbell said. Jason Hendrix then fled in his parent’s car, armed with four weapons and a backpack full of ammunition, Campbell added.

“Right now all the evidence points toward him as being the shooter,” the chief said.

Police didn’t know why the suspect decided to flee to the East Coast. The family had no relatives in Baltimore, Campbell said.

“We have no clue why he went up there,” the chief said. Police also found a gas receipt showing that the teen had been in New Jersey on Thursday.

Baltimore County Police said the teenager shot and wounded a police officer Saturday after crashing the parent’s green Honda Pilot into a silver sedan. At least six officers opened fire on Hendrix, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Maryland State Police said they initially sought to pull Hendrix over Saturday for a speeding violation.

Campbell said the teenager was angry at his parents for taking away his computer privileges days before the slayings. “The mother had talked to a co-worker and told her that he was really mad about that,” the chief said.

The father, wearing a sport coat and tie from work, was shot twice in the head, Campbell said. He added that the mother was shot twice in the face and the girl twice in the head and once in the arm.

Jason Hendrix met up with friends at church that Wednesday evening and showed no signs of distress. “They said he was just like he usually is,” Campbell said.

Family and friends in Corbin sought Sunday to understand the series of events, recalling a teenager known for his politeness.

Kevin and Sarah Hendrix were beekeepers who sold honey in the local farmers market, and Grace Hendrix was a middle school cheerleader. A spokesman for Union College in Barbourville confirmed Sarah Hendrix was a professor at the school.

Drew Mahan, the founding pastor of Forward Community Church where the Hendrixes attended, said officers questioned him extensively about Jason on Saturday night after discovering the bodies. He described Jason Hendrix as a faithful member of his 3-year-old church, which holds services at a local movie theater.

Hendrix would arrive at the theater every Sunday at 7 a.m. to help set up the church’s equipment and was baptized at a service in December.

“People want to ask questions. Why? How? I simply looked at folks today and said, ‘I don’t know,” Mahan said after finishing the Sunday morning service. “The guy has been here. He’s been an influence on our students, he’s been an influence on my own kids. They love him.”

Michelle Payne, a 30-year-old mother who lived across the street from the Hendrixes, said they were “your classic small town family,” adding she had not seen the family since Tuesday night when Kevin was walking the family’s dog.

The police officer who was shot was treated at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and released Sunday, according to a statement.

Officials said the six Baltimore County Police officers who fired their weapons during Saturday’s shootout will be placed on administrative status pending a review.

___

Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky. Matthew Barakat contributed to this report

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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