NEW SUMMERFIELD, Texas (KETK) — Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson says evidence from a gruesome crime scene connects three men to the shooting deaths of four people at a trailer home in a rural area north of New Summerfield.
It appears to be a case of a plot between three people to commit a robbery that spiraled out of control, Dickson said Wednesday of the largest mass shootings in Cherokee County history.
More information is emerging about what happened in the shooting deaths of John Clinton, 18, Jeff Gerla, 47, Ami Hickey, 39 and Amanda Bain, 39, at a home on Texas Highway 110 in a rural area area north of New Summerfield.
Jesse Pawlowski, 20, Dylan Welch, 21 and Billy Dean Phillips, 37, all of Jacksonville, are in the Cherokee County Jail in Rusk are charged with capital murder. They were arraigned Tuesday afternoon by District Judge Chris Day who set bond for each at $1 million.
The suspects could get the death penalty if found guilty.
During a news conference Wednesday morning, Dickson said a tip from the public provided the key information that led to the arrests of the suspects and good criminal investigation work by multiple agencies led to the recovery of evidence and capital murder charges being filed.
Evidence, including a car stolen from the property and items stolen from the trailer home where the victims were shot, tie the suspects to the murders, the sheriff said.
During questioning, Pawlowski confessed to his involvement in the crimes, Dickson said. Court records show that all three have asked to be represented by a court-appointed attorney.
Dickson said that Pawlowski and Clinton were in a same-sex relationship and that Pawlowski and the other two suspects were friends.
Dickson said investigators believe on the night of the shootings, Clinton met Pawlowski, Welch and Phillips at the end of the driveway of the home in New Summerfield. During the encounter, at least one of the suspsects took a 9 mm handgun that Clinton was carrying and shot him to death with it and then continued to the trailer home in which the others were staying.
Inside the home, one of the suspects shot one of the victims sleeping in a bedroom and then killed the other two who reacted to the gunshots, Dickson said.
The sheriff said those in the trailer did not have a chance to fight back.
The suspects stole guns and clothing from the trailer, the sheriff said. One of the men also stole a Dodge Challenger from the home and other the two left in a different vehicle.
The woman who lives in a brick home in front of the trailer, and is related to some of the victims, called 911 Tuesday morning when she saw the body in the driveway.
Authorities found the other victims when they searched the property.
Dickson said the sheriff’s office later that day received a tip that led them to a home on Devereaux street Jacksonville owned by the family of Palowski.
Pawlowski and Welch were at the home and then when they left it in a car were arrested.
The men provided information that led to the recovery of the stolen car at residence in the 1000 block of West Rusk Street in Jacksonville along with the gun investigators believe was used to kill the victims, the sheriff said.
More information led to authorities acquiring a warrant for the arrest of Phillips at the Castle on the Lake RV Park in Jacksonville. Some of the items taken from the trailer home were recovered from the home Phillips was staying in at the RV Park , the sheriff said.
Multiple agencies are continuing to collect evidence an interview people.
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