Suspect in killing of wife, in-laws shoots himself as police close in

Pasadena woman, parents found fatally shot at home

man in critical condition

April 24, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz and Ryan Davis | Julie Bykowicz and Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

A hunt for the man suspected of killing his estranged wife and her parents in a Pasadena townhouse ended yesterday afternoon when he pulled off a rural West Virginia road, walked into the woods and shot himself in the head, according to police.

Jack Lee Durrett, a 43- year-old Baltimore-area engineer, apparently survived and was taken by West Virginia State Police to a hospital. He was listed in critical condition last night at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.

Anne Arundel County police believe that Durrett fatally shot Diana Kunes Durrett, 40, and her parents, who were visiting from California. He was on the run for more than 14 hours and 200 miles before police used cellular telephone records to track his location.

Diana Durrett's parents - Mary Louise Kunes, 58, and Nathan Wilson Kunes, 61 - had been in town to help her through a bitter divorce; a custody hearing for their 6-year-old son was scheduled for tomorrow. Friends and relatives described all three victims as loving and family-oriented.

A motive was unclear yesterday, but police said the crime appeared to be related to a domestic dispute.

"She was afraid of him, I can tell you that much," said Matt Troisi, who said he and his wife were good friends with Diana Durrett - known as "Dee Dee."

Diana Durrett worked as an engineer at the National Security Agency in western Anne Arundel County, relatives said. The couple separated in the summer of 2000, but the two had tried to save their 14-year marriage several times, according to court records.

Their son, Nathaniel, is staying with his paternal grandparents, family friends said, and police said they do not believe the boy was present during the killings. Jack Durrett's parents could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A 911 call

The ordeal began with a 911 call late Tuesday night from the house that Jack Durrett shares with his parents in Reisterstown. It sparked a pair of police checks that led to the gruesome discovery of the three bodies inside Diana Durrett's townhouse on Jade Crossing Circle.

The triple homicide touched off several stakeouts in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties as well as an extensive police search in nearby states.

Just before 3 p.m. yesterday, West Virginia state troopers in a helicopter saw Jack Durrett's dark blue Nissan Maxima on the side of a road near Franklin, W.Va. They also saw fishermen at a nearby lake, Lt. Mark Neal of the West Virginia State Police said last night.

The fishermen told troopers that they had heard a gunshot and troopers in the helicopter then spotted Durrett. Special operations troopers rushed in to apprehend him, Neal said. Durrett was then taken to the hospital with his self-inflicted wound.

It appears that Jack Durrett's parents, worried about their son's well-being, had initiated the search for him Tuesday night.

Baltimore County police received a 911 call to check on a suicidal person at 11:35 p.m. They arrived at his parents' house on Deacon Brook Circle at 12:01 a.m., according to dispatch records. Jack Durrett was not there, but a relative was concerned and looking for him, Baltimore County police said.

At 12:54 a.m., Baltimore County police notified Anne Arundel police, advising them to check on Diana Durrett's townhouse, said Officer Charles Ravenell, an Anne Arundel police spokesman.

Four minutes later, they knocked on the door. They forced their way into the home, where they found one body near the door, and two others further inside. All three had multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body and were pronounced dead at the scene.

Baltimore County police yesterday morning cordoned off the Durretts' Reisterstown home, a two-story beige Colonial, and said it was considered part of a crime scene.

At midday, police officers in unmarked vehicles were closely watching Jack Durrett's consulting business, Coordinated Power Engineering, in Millersville.

Matt Troisi said his heart sank when he heard Jack Durrett's name on the news, and he and his wife drove to the Pasadena neighborhood yesterday morning to talk to police.

Through tears, JoAnn Troisi described her friend as "the sweetest, friendliest person. She's a very good person."

Residents called the community off Route 100, less than six years old, friendly and peaceful.

Diana Durrett's new home, which she purchased with her father when it was built in July 2000, was to provide sanctuary from her rocky marriage, friends said. Court records show the two had been estranged since about that time.

She filed for divorce in March 2001, and a pre-trial conference was scheduled for Tuesday.

Court files show that Diana Durrett was worried about her safety. She wrote that her husband has "anger management issues" and access to rifles and pistols.

When she filed for a protective order last July 19, she wrote about an incident that had taken place a day earlier:

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