Suspect in triple killing dies in Va. hospital

Families mourn deaths of his wife, her parents

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, a day after Diana Kunes Durrett, 40, and her parents, Mary Louise Kunes, 58, and Nathan Wilson Kunes, 61, were found shot to death at Diana Durrett's Pasadena townhouse.

Police were sorting out details of the 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.

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 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.

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

Her father, Nathan, always watched out for his family, friends said.

"Family meant everything to him," said Thomas Kunes, 55, Nathan's brother. "No matter what anybody needed, he was always there to help."

During happier times, both families got along wonderfully, relatives said. Now they are grieving separately.

"They're going through just as much as we are right now, if not more," Thomas Kunes said of the Durrett family.

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