Family members and friends of the deceased speak to Bristol, Tenn., police as they arrive on scene at the Edgemont Towers complex. Photo by Erica Yoon
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BRISTOL, Tenn. — A 26-year-old Watauga man fatally shot four Bristol residents at a public housing complex Wednesday morning then killed himself on a family farm near his home after a police pursuit.
Bristol Police Chief Blaine Wade described the incident as the “worst homicide” the city has seen in years.
Wade said Rusty Lee Rumley, 26, shot Francis Watson, 43, and her neighbor, Roy Malone, 55, with a 45-caliber handgun after luring them to a breezeway outside Edgemont Towers, 100 Ash St., under the pretense of needing help moving some furniture.
Rumley was the ex-boyfriend of Watson’s daughter, Wade said.
Immediately after shooting Watson and Malone, police say Rumley returned to the eighth-floor apartment and asked his former girlfriend — whose identity has not yet been released — for a drink. When she opened the refrigerator, police say Rumley slipped by and shot her current boyfriend, Brandon Roskos, 20, of 1273 Bristol Caverns Hwy., and a family friend, Danny Wayne Murray, 53.
Rumley fled the complex in an S10 pickup after the girl managed to lock him out of the apartment while he was “messing with his gun,” Wade said. He apparently ran out of ammunition.
Investigators are checking into reports that Rumley was “distraught” just before the shooting. Other than that report, there has been no indication that there were any warning signs prior to this tragedy, Wade said.
Police received a 911 call at 10:41 a.m. reporting shots fired. Authorities arrived at the complex within two minutes of the 911 call and found the bodies of Watson and Malone on the lawn and Murray upstairs. Roskos was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment and was later pronounced dead.
About a half hour after the shootings, Sullivan County authorities spotted Rumley’s truck near the Bunker Hill Road intersection of Elizabethton Highway and gave chase. It was later found near a wooded area not far from his home at 207 Rasnick Hollow Road, Wade said.
A single gunshot pierced the air as police attempted to surround Rumley after combing the woods on foot and by air. Police then found Rumley’s body about 1.5 miles from the abandoned truck. Police slogged through mud and snow for about an hour and a half before finding the body, Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said.
A 15-page letter Rumley left for his family will be turned over to Bristol investigators, Mathes added. Rumley’s family found the letter and handed it over to Carter County authorities.
Mathes declined to release information regarding where the letter was found other than to say it was “with immediate family” in the area where his body was found.
The woods where police found Rumley’s body is part of an approximately 100-acre farm owned by 20 or so members of his family, Mathes said.
Rumley’s body will be autopsied at the Quillen College of Medicine, Mathes said.
Police said Rumley had a criminal background and experience as a National Guardsman.
According to court records from 2002, Rumley faced federal charges of conspiracy to sell stolen firearms, possession of stolen firearms, stealing firearms and transporting firearms in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.