Special Feature...

MURDER IN NICHOLSON - MAY 10, 2000 - THE JACKSON HERALD

Why?
Authorities puzzled why man 'butchered' his young family

It is one of the most brutal slayings in the county's history.
Two young boys, ages 6 and 4, and their 25-year-old mother were stabbed repeatedly at their Nicholson home Monday evening by the boys' father. The man, Calvin Barney Griffin, 32, then took his own life with a gun, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Depart-ment.
Killed were Laury La Sharon Griffin, 25, Ryley Drake Griffin, 6, and Joshua Tyler Griffin, 4.
Jackson County Sheriff Stan Evans said these were the most brutal murders he had ever seen in his 15 years of law enforcement. Chief investigator David Cochran said the family had been "butchered." Neither official could recall any other triple murders in the county's history nor any domestic murders that involved children.


TRAGIC END TO YOUNG FAMILY
Back: Laury La Sharon Griffin, 25, Calvin Barney Griffin, 32. Front: Joshua Tyler Griffin, 4, Ryley Drake Griffin, 6.


More haunting, however, is the absence of a clear motive for the killings, especially those of the two young children. There were few apparent warning signs that suggested such a burst of violence was imminent.
"I don't know if we will ever answer the question 'Why?'" said Cochran. The investigator said that usually domestic murders follow a pattern of escalating violence. More often than not, previous incidents of domestic problems are reported to law enforcement, or the parties have some kind of criminal record.
That was not the case here, said Cochran. The family did have some domestic problems. Laury had been separated from her husband for about a month and was living with a relative in Commerce. But there were no visible signs that the family would end in violence. Neither adult had a criminal record and only two unrelated incident reports involving the family are on file, one alleging that Calvin Griffin had shot a neighbor's dog, the other a vandalism report filed by Griffin himself.
Others familiar with the family were also puzzled about the murders.
"I would never in a million years have expected this to happen," said Benton Elementary School principal Lamar Langston. Ryley was a kindergarten student at Benton. "The parents have always been very cooperative. There was never any indication that anything like this would have happened."

Sheriff Stan Evans and investigator David Cochran look over the scene of Monday's murders.


Cochran said the incident has been difficult for those at the sheriff's department to handle and compared the killings of the two children to the infamous Susan Smith case in South Carolina.
"Really, I don't know which case was worse for the children," he said.
Langston said the school was also shaken by the murders.
"We had counselors here early (Tuesday) morning and they were helping with any students who had questions," he said. "But I don't think the full impact has hit yet. I can't comprehend it either. It just tugs at my heart every time I think about it."


The killings took place inside this mobile home on Hawk's Court near Nicholson.


NEIGHBOR'S CALL LEADS TO DISCOVERY OF BODIES
The killings took place sometime between 6:30 and 7:20 Monday evening in the family's mobile home on Hawk's Court in Nicholson, a dead end dirt lane off J.S. Williamson Road. A neighbor reportedly saw the woman lying partially on the front stoop of the home and called the JCSD to check the scene. When a deputy arrived at 7:39 p.m., he found the bodies lying in the living room of the home.
Both children had apparently been living with their father, who was partially blind and wasn't employed. Until a few years ago, he had worked for Fresh Frozen Foods in Jefferson, until his eyesight failed. Laury Griffin was living with a sister near Commerce. Authorities said the sister's child had also been staying with Calvin Griffin earlier in the day. The sister reportedly picked her child up around 3:30 that afternoon. Laury worked at Baker & Taylor in Commerce.
Authorities said Calvin Griffin had called Laury at her sister's residence Monday evening and asked her to take him to the doctor. It wasn't clear, said authorities, if the killings had been planned, or if they took place in a fit of rage after she arrived. Nor was it clear in what sequence the murders took place.

CUTE LITTLE BOYS
Tuesday morning, Sheriff Evans and investigator Cochran were back at the crime scene, still shaken from the brutality of the killings. As two dogs barked in the fenced back yard, they looked around the home, noting a blood stain on the wooden front stoop. On one end of the mobile home, a child's blanket covered a window on the inside.
Cochran pulled out little Ryley's school notebook in which the youngster had drawn pictures of his family, labeling each person by name and with the words, "I love mommy" and "I love daddy."
"This really shakes me up," said Cochran.
Langston said Ryley stood out in a crowd.
"He was a little chubby-cheeked boy who always had a smile and hug as he walked down the hall," Langston said. "He was never a moment's trouble at all. He was just an ideal student, a good student."
"They were cute little boys," said Evans. "Any man would have been proud to say they were his sons."


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