ARKABUTLA, Miss. (AP) — A gunman authorities say killed six people in Mississippi busted into his ex-wife’s home and smashed her boyfriend in the head with the butt of a gun before shooting her in the head, her boyfriend told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The fatal shooting of 60-year-old Debra Crum in the home she shared with boyfriend George Drain in Coldwater, in rural northern Mississippi, came some years after her divorce from the man authorities identified as the shooter, Richard Dale Crum, 52, also from Coldwater. Drane said the murder of his girlfriend — whom he often called his wife — “didn’t seem real” as he lay on the ground of their home, bleeding and dazed.

Drane said Richard Crum had come straight from a convenience store in nearby Arkabutla, Mississippi, where, according to Tate County Sheriff Brad Lance, Crum had shot Chris Boyce, who was sitting in the driver’ seat of a pickup outside. The sheriff said deputies arrested Crum at his home after the shooting of his ex-wife and then found the bodies of two fatally shot handymen outside, as well as the bodies of his stepfather and the stepfather’s sister inside a neighboring home.

Drane hadn’t seen Richard Crum in years before he broke or kicked down the door of the home she shared with Drane, he said Saturday outside the same convenience store where the previous shooting occurred. Drane, 64, wore a bandage over his left ear and said that when Crum left the convenience store, he came straight to Drane’s house, ran up to the porch and busted in. Authorities said the shooter was armed with a shotgun and two handguns.

Drane said he fought with Crum, got smashed in the head, and Crum fired at his ex-wife, after telling Drane not to make noise or move or he would be killed as well. Drane said Crum went outside to get a second shell.

“I couldn’t get up to do anything,” Drane said. “He reloaded, come back in the house, and shot her at point-blank range in the head, killing her instantly. Right between the living room and the kitchen.”

Investigators still were looking for clues Saturday for what motivated the rampage in Arkabutla, a town of 285 people about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Memphis.

“Without being able to say what triggered this, that’s the scary part,” Lance said in an interview Friday.

Crum was jailed on a single charge of capital murder over the first killing outside the convenience store, of Chris Eugene Boyce, 59, of Lakeland, Florida. Boyce’s brother was in the truck with him at the time and fled, according to the sheriff. Lance added that Crum chased the brother through a wooded area before he escaped unharmed.

Besides Crum’s ex-wife, authorities identified the others killed as Charles Manuel, 76; John Rorie, 59; George McCain, 73; and Lynda McCain, 78. Drane said he didn’t know about the first shooting when Crum burst into his home.

Drane said Richard and Debra Crum divorced about seven years ago, after five or six years of being separated. Drane said she had a stroke in October and the two of them had been at a physical therapy session Friday morning. Drane said she had a daughter and a son living nearby.

Drane said he hadn’t seen Crum in seven or eight years.

“I thought it was a random act. I don’t know about the rest of it,” Drane said. “He left us alone. We left him alone.”

In the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office, Norma Washington told The Associated Press that Boyce was her nephew. She said he and the brother, Doug, who lives in Alaska, had been in town cleaning up a property they inherited from their deceased uncle.

“I lost my brother, and now this one,” Washington said. “This has been something else.”

It was unclear whether Crum knew either of the brothers.

The sheriff, who has lived in the area his entire life and served in law enforcement for 25 years, said he could recall no prior problems with Crum.

The U.S. has seen a deadly start to 2023, including six mass killings in a three-week period in January, according to an Associated Press/USA Today database. It defines a mass killing as four or more people dead, not including the perpetrator.

There have also been a number of mass shootings in which fewer people were slain, such as Monday’s shooting at Michigan State University in which three people were killed and five were wounded.

In a statement, President Joe Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were mourning the six victims and praying for the survivors. He urged Congress to act now on gun law reforms to address what he called “an epidemic” of gun violence.


Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Also contributing were Emily Wagster Pettus from Jackson, Mississippi; Jeff Amy in Atlanta; and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia.