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BETHLEHEM TWP. Stark County has seen its fifth and sixth shooting deaths since Sunday.
The Sheriff's Office is investigating a double homicide Thursday at the home of the Stockdale family, a group of local bluegrass music performers. Two family members are dead, Sheriff George T. Maier confirmed early this evening, and a third who is believed to be the shooter, is fighting for his life in a Cleveland hospital.
James W. Stockdale, 21, and Kathryn B. Stockdale, 54, the mom are both dead. Deputies believe Jacob T. Stockdale, 25, shot his mother and brother then turned the gun on himself. He was taken by ambulance to Aultman Hospital and then by helicopter to Cleveland Metro Hospital, the sheriff said.
The sheriff said a 911 call came in at 4:36 p.m. as a hang-up. He said storms were occurring at the time and cellphone reception is spotty in the rural area. Maier said two deputies were sent to their home in the 9000 block of Dolphin St. SW to investigate and found the bodies and the injured Stockdale when they entered the house. Authorities weren't sure who made the 911 call.
Maier said he did not yet know what sparked the shootings.
"We didn't see anything that would raise suspicion (indicate an intruder). It's another tragedy in our community," he said, referring to homicides earlier this week in Lake Township and Canton.
The sheriff said a shotgun was used but had no other details about the weapon or how many shots were fired. The Stark County Coroner's Office was at the scene and crime scene investigators were collecting evidence.
Neighbors told The Independent they heard shots ring out from the Stockdale property, which sits back a long, private lane about 200 yards from the road, between 1 and 3 p.m., but assumed it was target practice. The rural area of mostly sprawling farms, rolling hills and trees is a quiet location where neighbors say outdoor shooting is a common pastime. Pastures enclosed by livestock fencing span both sides of the roadway.
"They are a religious family and conservative and this seems out of place," said Michael Fuller, a next-door neighbor, as he shook his head in apparent disbelief. He said he didn't hear any arguing coming from the property prior to the shootings.
Harry McNutt, who lives two houses to the west of the Stockdales said he also heard shots — "at least 10 or 12" — coming his neighbor's property sometime after 1 p.m.