Joseph Jesse Aldridge is accused of committing eight murders in Southwest Missouri, and county officials say the rampage may have been sparked when the 36-year-old man found his mother dead on her couch.
Police say Aldridge went on a door-to-door shooting rampage with victims that included his own cousins before turning the gun on himself. Authorities discovered the Southwest Missouri murders on Thursday night after a 15-year-old girl ran to a neighbor’s house to say that someone was shooting in her home.
“She was barefoot, in a nightgown with no sleeves at all and her legs were all scratched up from briars,” the neighbor told the Springfield News-Leader. “She said she seen a man in her dad’s bedroom, talking to him in a normal voice. Then she said she heard gunshots and screaming.”
When sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they found bodies spread across five different houses.
“In our job we see a lot of bad stuff, and this is bad, this is also hard on the police officers who are working that there,” Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kinder told reporters. “It’s not natural to see that sort of thing.”
Now, the county coroner in the rural, tight-knit community said Joseph Jesse Aldridge may have snapped after finding his mother dead in the small house he shared with her. Police said that 74-year-old Alice L. Aldridge was found dead on her couch from what appeared to be natural causes.
Authorities have not yet released all the names of the victims, but said at least four were cousins to Aldridge — Garold Dee Aldridge, 52; Julie Ann Aldridge, 47; Harold Wayne Aldridge, 50; and Janell Arlisa Aldridge, 48.
There are some clues that Aldridge may have been struggling with something. A neighbor, Warren Barnes, said his family had to cut off contact with Joseph Jesse Aldridge last year because they believe he was spiraling into drug addiction.
“He had just got too strange-acting, and was saying real off-the-wall crazy stuff,” Barnes said.
But Barnes said that he once knew Aldridge as a quiet man who didn’t stick out or get into any trouble.
“He was quiet, nice – didn’t get into fights at school, stuff like that,” he said.
Authorities noted that Aldridge did have a “minor” criminal history, but did not elaborate as to what that involved.
Police say they do not know a motive for the Southwest Missouri murders, and may never be able to tell. Suspect Joseph Jesse Aldridge was found dead inside of his pickup truck, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He did not leave a suicide note.