Killings were 'a shock'

Motive sought in Ala. deaths

March 12, 2009|By Richard Fausset | Richard Fausset,Los Angeles Times

SAMSON, Ala. -First, he killed his mother.

That, according to Alabama officials, was the first chilling act in Michael Kenneth McLendon's trail of carnage across south Alabama on Tuesday, which left 10 dead, six injured and a string of small communities wondering what motivated a quiet young man to obliterate the peaceful rhythms of rural southern life in March.

"He was just friendly with everyone, and kind of stayed to himself," said Jessica Wise, 27, who graduated from high school with McLendon in 1999. "That's why this is such a shock." Other details emerged yesterday of a depressed and troubled young man who was obsessed with guns - and who may have been seeking vengeance for old slights.

McLendon had a list of employers "who had done him wrong," including the nearby sausage plant he quit days before the rampage and the metal factory where he shot himself, authorities said yesterday.

Investigators trying to figure out why he killed relatives and others Tuesday afternoon found the list in his home, Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAliley said.

"We found a list of people he worked with, people who had done him wrong," said McAliley in a brief interview outside the charred house where the rampage began.

McLendon, of Coffee County, killed himself at a metal shop in Geneva, Ala., where he had previously been employed. He was 28. Last Wednesday, he had "voluntarily" quit his assembly-line job at Kelley Foods of Alabama Inc., a rural meatpacking and food distribution company, said Erik Ennis, the human resource manager.

"He was well liked by his co-workers, and just worked well with his teammates," Ennis said.

But Lynn Hughes, the sister of one of the plant workers, said she heard McLendon had complained recently about being teased by co-workers at the plant, and may have been having girlfriend trouble.

After shooting Lisa White McLendon, 52, in the head and killing her three dogs, McLendon took off down state Highway 52 in a red Mitsubishi. The rampage started about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and took only about an hour from start to finish.

McAliley, the district attorney for Coffee and Pike counties, said he was armed with two assault rifles, a shotgun, a .38-caliber handgun and two other weapons.

According to state investigators, he then traveled to Samson, where he sometimes lived and attended high school. There, he shot and killed five people on the front porch of his uncle's house.

They included his uncle, James Alford White, 55; his cousin Tracy Michelle Wise, 34; his second cousin Dean James Wise, 15; and the wife and 18-month-old daughter of a Geneva County sheriff's deputy. He also injured the deputy's 4-month-old daughter, who was in stable condition yesterday.

From there, he shot and killed his 74-year-old grandmother, Virginia E. White, as she was standing in the doorway next door.

He shot and injured two pedestrians, then pulled into a gas station, killing Sonja Smith, 43, and injuring Greg McCullough.

Rita Creech, 49, was working at the gas station deli when she heard two shots. She opened the door and saw McLendon drive up in a red car, firing out of the driver's side window.

"He just pulled up there and started shooting," she said. "I looked face to face at him when he was in the parking lot but he never pointed the gun at me."

State investigators say he kept firing rounds into businesses and vehicles as he drove east, killing Bruce Wilson Malloy, a 51-year-old motorist.

McLendon finally stopped at Reliable Products, an air-conditioning parts manufacturer where he had once worked. After exchanging fire with authorities, he ran into the building. Gunshots were heard within. McLendon was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Officials said McLendon, who briefly worked as a police officer before failing to complete his academy training, fired more than 200 rounds during his tear.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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