Four Liberty Deaths Remain Unsolved
A preliminary autopsy determined the cause of death for three victims, one remains undetermined
Officials say it's too early to tell exactly what happened on Friday morning when sheriff's deputies discovered four dead family members at their homes in Liberty.
"We haven't eliminated anybody or anything at this point," said Assistant Pickens County Sheriff Tim Morgan. "It's too early for that."
Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley told Patch that preliminary autopsy information has not given a complete picture of what happened that day.
"The manner of death for three of the victims is homicide," Kelley said. "The manner of death for one is pending."
Kelley did conclude in an earlier report on Saturday that all four victims were killed by gunshot wounds. Who pulled the trigger is what remains unknown.
An incident report from the Sheriff's Department obtained by Patch said police received a 911 emergency call from Evelyn Burns, Susan Hendricks' sister at 6:20 a.m. and deputies were dispatched just before 6:30 a.m. Friday morning reporting a possible suicide at a home at 236 Pinedale Road. What deputies found upon their arrival went beyond a single suicide.
Evelyn Burns arrived at the residence before police and greeted the first deputy on the scene. The deputy described her as "very emotional" and said she told him that her "whole family was dead."
There was a significant trail of blood leading from the front door into the living room of the home, the deputy said. Susan Hendricks was seated on the floor in the living room speaking with rescue personnel, the report said.
Matthew Hendricks, 23, was found lying on a bed in the rear bedroom of the home with a gunshot wound to the side of his head. A handgun was lying on the bedside table next to him, the report said.
A trail of blood also led from the rear bedroom to a second bedroom where Linda Burns was found bleeding from a gunshot wound to the torso, according to police.
Susan Hendricks told police that she had last spoken to her son Matthew at 2 a.m. when he repeatedly told her "she was a good mother." She told police her son had problems with controlled substances and had been suicidal in the past, the report said.
Susan also told police that she had been home all night and hadn't heard any gunshots but that she discovered a note Matthew had left on the kitchen counter. The contents of the note have not been released.
Evelyn Burns received a call early in the morning from Susan telling her to come right away, there was an emergency. Burns, who had just gotten home from working all night, rushed over to her sister's house, the report said.
When Burns arrived at the home she told police she saw Matthew and immediately called 911. While speaking with the first deputy on the scene, Burns advised them of two other family members who lived in the next house down the street and expressed concern for their well being.
When detectives arrived at the scene they were told to check on the residents at the second home. As the detective approached the home, he noticed a blue blanket on the front porch and noticed a person's foot protruding from underneath the blanket, the report said. The detective also noted a smear of blood beside the body.
The body found on the porch was Marshall Wayne Hendricks, 20, and he had been shot twice — once near his shoulder and once in his stomach, reports said.
"I could hear a radio or television playing inside and saw a candle flame through the window," the report said.
After entering the home, detectives discovered the body of Mark Wayne Hendricks, 52, who had been shot once in the chest as he sat on the couch inside the home.
Based on initial investigation and testimony, the deaths were thought to be a murder/suicide at the hand of Matthew Hendricks. However, both the Sheriff's Department and Coroner's office have not concluded anything for sure.
"We're still waiting on forensics, autopsies, and ballistics reports," Morgan said.
Kelley said it was clear that three of the victims — Mark, Marshall, and Linda — had all been killed by someone else. What wasn't clear was how Matthew died, and she said to be certain, "It's just going to take some time."
Relatives and friends said they found it hard to believe that Matthew would kill his family members. Stephanie Hopkins, Matthew's cousin, said things were looking up for him and all of them seemed to be getting along very well.
"My daughter was just there last night until midnight and said everything was fine," family friend Tammy Powell said on Friday.
Hopkins couldn't believe that the incident took place the way she had been told either.
"I know my cousin Matthew didn't do this," Hopkins said. "Matthew would have never done this. He loved his brother and his daddy. He would never do this to them."
Friday wasn't the first time the Sheriff's Department was dispatched for a shooting to the Hendricks' property. Morgan said Susan Hendricks had been investigated for killing an intruder at the Pinedale Drive home in 2006, but she was never charged.
Morgan said Susan Hendricks has been questioned regarding Friday's shootings and would remain a person of interest until her involvement was ruled out by further investigation.