Suspect in 3 killings in Anne Arundel dies in Va. hospital

Families mourn deaths of his wife, her parents in Pasadena townhouse

April 25, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A 43-year-old Millersville business owner, suspected of shooting to death his estranged wife and her parents, died at a Virginia hospital last night of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police and hospital officials.

Jack Lee Durrett was pronounced dead at University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, two days after Diana Kunes Durrett, 40, and her parents, Mary Louise Kunes, 58, and Nathan Wilson Kunes, 61, were shot to death at Diana's Pasadena townhouse.

Police were sorting out details of the Wednesday morning triple homicide, which sparked an extensive police search for Jack Durrett this week.

Durrett, who was in the middle of a bitter custody battle with his wife over their 6-year-old son, apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head as authorities closed in on him during a manhunt in rural West Virginia late Wednesday.

Police said yesterday that it was unclear why the suspect was in West Virginia, although he is thought to have relatives in the area.

Anne Arundel County police would not discuss a possible motive in the killings but said they appeared to be related to the dispute over custody.

The police investigation began when they received a 911 call Tuesday night from the house that Jack Durrett shares with his mother in Reisterstown.

That sparked police checks at Diana Durrett's townhouse, on Jade Crossing Circle, that led to the discovery of the three bodies inside.

The killings prompted a police search that ended about 3 p.m. Wednesday after West Virginia state police in a helicopter saw Jack Durrett's Nissan Maxima near Franklin, W.Va.

The car was parked along a road in a rugged area east of the Shenandoah Valley, a police spokesman said.

Lt. Mark Neal, the spokesman, described the area as "remote wilderness." He said a couple of fishermen at Brushy Fork Lake heard a single gunshot when the police helicopter flew over.

The helicopter moved lower, and police saw Durrett lying motionless near a log.

It was clear that he had a serious head injury, Neal said, and police found a handgun near the body.

Durrett had been living for the past few months with his mother, Mary Durrett, 66, in a home on Deacon Brook Circle in Reisterstown.

Jack Durrett's father, Jack Lee Durrett Sr., 69, lives in Nazareth, Pa., with Dawn O. Durrett, whom he married about 14 years ago.

Jack and Diana Durrett had been married for 14 years and bought a house in Carroll County in 1999 that she always called her dream house and where her relatives gathered there with her husband's relatives for a big family Thanksgiving party.

Nancy Horne, the real estate agent who sold the Westminster home that the Durretts built, said Diana Durrett was heartbroken at having to leave a house that she loved.

Horne said she developed a friendship with Diana Durrett, whom she said she admired as an "unbelievably patient mother."

The two women talked about Jack Durrett's controlling nature and quick temper, Horne said. But she said her friend "saw the good in everyone, never the bad."

The two had tried to save their marriage several times but separated in the summer of 2000, about the time Diana Durrett moved into the Pasadena townhouse.

Jack Durrett had been a frequent visitor to his estranged wife's townhouse in Pasadena, relatives said. But as divorce proceedings became more frequent, tensions between the two grew.

Throughout the divorce case, filed in March 2001, Jack and Diana Durrett accused each other of being unfit parents, according to court documents. Each was seeking full custody of Nathaniel, their only son.

They were scheduled to appear in court today for a custody hearing, according to court records.

The boy is staying with his paternal grandparents, family and friends say. Police say they do not think he was present during the killings.

Diana Durrett's parents flew in Saturday from California to support their only daughter at a child-custody hearing that was scheduled for today.

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