A Bristol police officer secures the scene of Wednesday’s shooting outside Edgemont Towers in Bristol, Tenn. The bodies of Francis Watson, 43, and her neighbor, Roy Malone, 55, were found in a breezeway of the 10-story housing complex. Erica Yoon photo.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Before Rusty Lee Rumley — called Bo by his friends and family — went on a killing spree at a high-rise public housing building Wednesday, he left behind a 15-page handwritten account of his relationship with a woman he said he couldn’t live without as well as a second note telling his parents and God he was sorry.
Rumley, a 26-year-old convicted felon and Army National Guardsman, killed four people — Francis Watson, 43, Roy Malone, 55, and Danny Wayne Murray, 53, all of Edgemont Towers, 100 Ashe St., and Brandon Michael Roskos, 20, of 1273 Bristol Caverns Highway — in the city’s only mass murder in history.
Bristol Police Chief Blaine Wade said the only time such a large number of people died in any kind of tragedy was in a fire decades ago.
Watson and Malone were shot outside Edgemont Towers after Rumley convinced them he needed help moving some furniture, police said. Investigators later found three spent .45-caliber cartridges near the bodies.
Then Rumley went back to Watson’s eighth-floor apartment, where his ex-girlfriend and Watson’s daughter, Brandy Cloyd, was with a neighbor, Murray, and her boyfriend, Roskos.
“He knocked on the door and told them he needed more help,” said Bristol Tenn. Police Department Capt. Charlie Thomas.
Roskos agreed to give Rumley a hand, but Rumley asked Cloyd for a drink then rushed past her and fired six shots at Roskos and Murray. Both men died, Murray at the scene and Roskos at Bristol Regional Medical Center.
Thomas said a woman who lived near Watson and Cloyd heard the gunshots and commotion and stepped into the hall.
“The way the witness described it, he dragged her out into the hallway. ... One of the witnesses saw him dragging (Brandy) by her hair,” Thomas said.
After Rumley shot Roskos and Murray, his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun either jammed or ran out of ammunition, according to Thomas. Whatever the case, it saved Cloyd’s life.
“It was a very fortunate set of circumstances for her that the gun went dry,” Thomas said.
When the neighbor saw Rumley pulling Cloyd by the hair, she yelled at Rumley and he fled.
It would be two hours before law enforcement found Rumley, dead by his own gun in a rough, wooded area above his Rasnick Hollow home in Carter County.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said Rumley may have planned to shoot it out with deputies who tracked him for one and a half hours through the rugged terrain.
Mathes said deputies found several loaded magazines stacked beside Rumley’s body along with small pile of loose .45-caliber ammunition.
Deputies also found a notebook in which Rumley had written a farewell letter to his parents.
“Mom, Dad. I’m sorry for what I have done. please (sic) forgive me. I love you both, its not your fault. I wish I could go back and stop what I have done, but I can’t. I’m so stupid, I have destroyed my life,” Rumley wrote to his parents.
He went on to ask them to pray for him and ask God to forgive him.
“I don’t deserve it, but pray anyways. Tell the rest of the family I’m sorry and I love them. I’m sorry it worked out this way. I did not want for my emotions to get the best of me, what is wrong with me I will never know. God, I’m sorry for killing those people, please forgive me for taking my own life. I hope you will so I can be a better person with you in heaven. I’m not a bad person god, I just make bad decisions. forgive me o lord god. for I am truley (sic) sorry.”
In Rumley’s 15-page account of his relationship with Cloyd, he details an on-again, off-again romance during which he harbored bad feelings toward her over alleged drug use, toward Watson over her alleged drug use and control over Cloyd, and toward Roskos for his involvement with Cloyd.
The two lived together for a short time in Knoxville, but Cloyd returned to Bristol after her mother visited. Rumley found out from a note she left behind, according to his lengthy letter.
The relationship, according to Rumley’s letter, finally ended when he got drunk and broke up with her.
“And I said that you can take the girl out of the trailer park but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl,” was the final straw that angered Cloyd, he thought, “and that’s why she hates me now.”
Rumley wrote he didn’t mean to hurt Cloyd and that he wrote her many letters asking for forgiveness, but he got no response.
“I will miss her for years to come,” is the last sentence in that letter.
But there would be no “years to come,” for Rumley, or four others in Cloyd’s life.
Mathes said officers found Rumley lying behind a fallen tree with a single gunshot wound to his left temple, and an old military M1911A1 Remington Rand .45-caliber pistol near his left hand.
The gun had the words “United States Property” stamped on the barrel.
Rumley had recently completed a five-year federal sentence imposed in 2002 for conspiring to sell stolen handguns.
A four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Abingdon in May 2002 charged Rumley and two co-defendants, Daniel Hicks and William Penley, with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and conspiracy to receive, transport and sell stolen firearms.
Rumley subsequently pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to sell stolen firearms.
In October 2002, U.S. District Court Judge James P. Jones sentenced him to two years in federal confinement and three years of supervised release. The sentence would have been completed last fall.
That’s also apparently when Rumley joined the National Guard, just under the wire to miss the December deadline that keeps convicted felons out of the military.
NET News Service writers Sue Guinn Legg and John Thompson contributed to this report.