Small town tries to cope with big tragedy

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2003

MEADVILLE — Days after a man apparently murdered his wife andtwo stepdaughters before killing himself in this quiet town,residents here are still stunned and trying to come to terms withthe tragedy.

According to authorities, Ronnie Brown, 44, Gloria H. Brown, 38,and Shenill E. West, 12, were all found dead in the master bedroomof the family trailer at 19 Kerben Ln.

Shenill’s sister, 15-year-old sister, Albreel “Abby” West, wastransported to University Hospital in Jackson, where she diedMonday.

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All four were victims of .22 caliber gunshot wounds. A handgunbelonging to Ronnie Brown was found at the scene, and authoritiesbelieve he fired the shots that claimed four victims.

“It’s hard to fathom something like that happening in such asmall place,” said Tax Assessor Jeff Mullins.

The Brown’s trailer is nestled in among the homes of familymembers on a short lane south of Meadville.

Mullins admitted he did not know Ronnie Brown well, but hadtalked with him several times in the courthouse. Ronnie Brown was acounty road worker for District 2.

“He always seemed like such a nice man,” Mullins said. “He comesfrom a good family. It’s certainly surprising.”

Surprising is only one of several adjectives town residents areusing to describe the incident.

“It’s just a tragedy. A real tragedy,” said County Coroner PercyPeeler, reflecting the thoughts of many of the residents.

Shock was another common feeling among residents.

“It’s shocking to say the least. This is a quiet county and wedon’t usually have anything like this happening here,” said TerriEmfinger.

Mary Lou Webb, publisher of the Franklin County Advocate, andDavid Campbell, a staff writer at the weekly county newspaper, werealso stunned by the news.

“I don’t really recall anything like this happening here before,and I’ve been here all my life,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the shockwaves of the murders-suicide stretchesfar beyond the immediate family.

“I know both the man and woman had big families,” he said.”That’ll make this stretch through and affect the entirecounty.”

Mullins agreed, but said it is the friends and schoolmates ofthe children who will suffer the most.

“It’s going to be really hard on the kids at school who knewthem,” he said. “Kids have a lot harder time adjusting to thingslike this than adults do, but it’s hard on us all.”

Graveside services for Ronnie Brown were held Wednesday atHunt’s Cemetery in Roxie.

Funeral services for Gloria Brown, Abby West and Shenill Westare incomplete, but tentatively set for Monday, June 9, at noon atMt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. George F. West Funeral Home ofNatchez is in charge of arrangements.