Murder-suicide victims had planned to get married soon, Ashe County sheriff says
By Monte Mitchell
Published: March 20, 2010
An Ashe County woman who was killed in a murder-suicide apparently ran from her home without her shoes, chased by a boyfriend who fatally shot her with a rifle before turning the rifle on himself, authorities said yesterday.
Sheriff James Williams said that the bodies of Sherry Ashley, 48, and Richard Creal Hailey, 51, were both found beneath a tree Thursday afternoon outside the house at 160 Whispering Pines Lane.
Williams said that the couple had been together a few years and had planned to get married soon.
The sheriff said that Hailey had a history of being treated for mental-health issues and was on medication for bipolar disorder.
"We'll never know exactly what happened between them, if he just snapped or what," Williams said. "There was no indication they had any domestic problems between them."
Court records show that Hailey pleaded no contest in 1997 to communicating threats and assault by pointing a gun in connection with an incident on Jan. 19, 1997. The complainant was a different woman, who was his wife at the time.
No contest is a plea in which a person neither admits nor denies guilt, but is not contesting the charge.
Neighbors said they heard several gunshots Thursday, but nobody saw what happened, the sheriff said.
The couple had been staying in the basement of a house owned by friends, but the other people who lived there were not home at the time of the shootings.
People who spoke to Ashley earlier in the day told authorities that she did not seem to be having problems.
Autopsy results yesterday showed that Ashley was shot twice with an assault rifle. Hailey then used the same rifle to shoot himself in the head, Williams said.
The neighbors who heard the shots called 911 at 2:20 p.m. Much of the Ashe County law-enforcement community was at a funeral at that time for a West Jefferson police officer who died of natural causes Saturday after his shift.
The location of the murder-suicide was in the town limits of Jefferson, off N.C. 221 and Glenn Bare Road. Williams slipped out of the service and went to the scene with a number of detectives and road deputies so Jefferson police officers could stay to honor their comrade.
Officers were still working at the crime scene as the funeral procession to the cemetery passed by on N.C. 221, about a quarter-mile away.
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