Coroner: Jenkins man killed girlfriend, two others, then committed suicide

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comAugust 2, 2013 

JENKINS — A veteran with a history of alcohol problems killed his girlfriend and two people he apparently believed had stolen his wallet or money, then killed himself, police said.

Timothy L. Shelby, 58, shot his girlfriend Jennifer Walters, 35, once in the head at the home they shared in Jenkins, apparently about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Jenkins Police Chief Roland Craft said.

Shelby then went to a house a few minutes away in the historic coal town and shot and killed Josh L. Wyatt, 25, and his girlfriend Amy L. Ratliff, 31, early Friday.

Shelby then turned the 10mm pistol on himself, Craft said.

Craft said it appears Shelby thought Wyatt and Ratliff had been involved in stealing his wallet or money.

It was not clear Friday whether Shelby shot his girlfriend because he thought she was involved in stealing from him, Craft said.

Shelby may have known he wasn't coming home alive and decided to kill Walters as well: "He figured he wasn't coming back. Everyone he was involved with, he took out," Craft said.

Police told the family that Shelby shot Ratliff three times in the chest, said her mother, Tammy Ratliff.

Amy Ratliff had taken a bath and laid down in a bed to sleep, her head lying on her folded hands. She didn't see the attack coming, her mother said.

"She didn't suffer. I thank God for that," Tammy Ratliff said.

Shelby shot Wyatt in the head at close range, execution style, Craft said.

Jenkins police have helped in the investigation, which is being led by state police.

Police went to Shelby's house about 11:30 p.m. Thursday to check on a report that he was drunk and had killed someone, but the house was quiet at the time, so there was no reason to kick down the door and investigate, Craft said.

Craft said he did not know who placed the call.

Shelby and the victims knew each other and had been together Thursday evening, according to family members and police, so Wyatt would have let Shelby in when he showed up early Friday, Craft said.

Jenna Johnson, a first cousin of Amy Ratliff, said Ratliff's 17-year-old son and found the scene of the killings at the home Ratliff shared with Wyatt.

Letcher County Coroner Marty Baker confirmed two juveniles found Shelby dead and that police found the other two bodies after responding to the 911 call.

Police found Walters dead at Shelby's house about an hour after finding the three bodies, Baker said.

State police got the initial call about the shootings at 1:56 a.m. Friday, according to a news release.

Shelby had been in the military at some point and had told people he served in Vietnam, but he was not old enough to have been there during the war, Craft said.

Craft said family members reported he had been on anti-depression medication but had not been taking it for some period.

Shelby said in a court record he was a retired postal worker and also received disability payments.

Court records indicate Shelby had a long history of problems with alcohol, and had had financial problems.

He was charged with drunken driving or public intoxication in Letcher County 10 times between 2001 and this year.

In 2002, he was charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon, and in 1997, a woman said in a court petition that he had threatened to kill her and had thrown a beer at her. When he ran to get a gun, she left, the woman said.

In 2007, he allegedly tested positive for cocaine while on probation from an earlier charge, according to a court record.

Shelby completed drug court in July 2010, according to a court record.

In the most recent criminal case — in which Walters signed a bond to get him out of jail — police charged Shelby with DUI in May after he drove up to a safety checkpoint drunk.

He said he'd had at least four beers in the hour before he got to the checkpoint, according to the citation.

Shelby was sentenced July 18 to six months in jail, probated for two years.

In March, a loan company sued to foreclose on his home and force a court-ordered sale, saying he had defaulted on a $106,000 loan from 2011.

Shelby did not answer the claim. However, he filed for bankruptcy in late June.

Court records show Walters, Wyatt and Ratliff also had faced charges involving drugs or alcohol.

In one case in June 2010, a Jenkins officer said Ratliff wrecked a car while driving impaired.

Craft said Shelby was well-known and liked in Jenkins, and Johnson, Amy Ratliff's cousin, said Walters was a friendly person.

"They were good people," she said of the three victims.

Walters had a son, while Shelby had three children, Tammy Ratliff said.

Amy Ratliff and Wyatt each had two children, according to family members and records.

Tammy Ratliff said her daughter had had multiple sclerosis since she was a teen, but had been taking a new medication that helped her.

Ratliff said her daughter had a bubbly, outgoing personality, loved doing things with her two sons and didn't let the disease stop her.

"Amy was happy, jolly," Ratliff said.

Ratliff said she was relying on her faith and family to cope with her daughter's death, and had forgiven Shelby.

"I think he had to completely snap to do what he did," she said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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