Original article no longer available
By Matt Elofson – Staff writer
July 19, 2005
LUMBERTON – Family members believe depression may have led Gene Britt to kill his 70-year-old mother then himself Wednesday morning.
Police found Nelda Britt in her bed with two gunshot wounds to the head. Beside her lay her 51-year-old son. Both had been shot in the head with a small-caliber revolver, according to Lumberton police Sgt. Steve Sutton.
“We’re treating it as a murder-suicide,” Sutton said. “It looks like he laid down beside her and shot himself. She was found under the blankets like she was going to sleep.”
Police Chief Robert Grice said Nelda Britt was shot once on each side of the head. The bodies were sent to the state Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.
Grice said police are investigating a motive. Grice said Gene Britt left no note.
“We don’t know anymore than he was going through a state of depression,” Grice said. “It’s anybody’s guess … things happen like that with questions never answered.”
Libby Cain, one of Nelda Britt’s daughters, reported the shooting about 7:48 a.m. She had stopped by the house at 912 E. Seventh St. for coffee and a chat, the same as she had every morning for years.
“I went over to see her this morning and called her but she wasn’t in her chair like usual,” Cain said Wednesday afternoon.
She said she was not sure what caused her brother’s actions, but said he was seeing a doctor and had been taking medication for depression. Gene Britt worked as a maintenance worker at Lumberton Apartments.
“No matter what the circumstances, we had a good brother,” she said. “He wouldn’t hurt nobody intentionally. He’d been going through some depression.”
Sharon Davis, another sister, also was at a loss to explain the shootings. There did not appear to be any outward signs that Gene Britt was having problems. Davis said Gene and Nelda had no quarrel with each other.
The mother and son shared the home across from Rowland-Norment Elementary School and less than a mile from the Lumberton Police Department. Gene Britt enjoyed spending time with his 11-year-old son, Ricky, and was an avid NASCAR fan. Britt’s other son, Michael, 30, lives next door, with his wife Melissa.
“I think he just went over the edge or something,” Davis said.
Davis and Cain said their mother was the glue that held the family together. Nelda Britt retired from working retail after 30 years.
“She battled cancer and heart disease and still held strong for her kids,” Davis said. “She loved her family and she loved the Lord. She would’ve died for anyone of us.”
Rodney Edwards, a friend of the family, called the killings a tragedy for the whole family. Edwards attends church with Sharon Davis and Libby Cain at Zion Hill Baptist Church on Elizabethtown Road.
“It’s just heart-breaking for them to have to go through all this,” Edwards said. “Gene was always a nice guy and he always had a smile on his face.”