MANCHESTER, Ill. • A man broke into a home in this small Illinois town in the early hours Wednesday and killed five members of a family with close-range shotgun blasts, authorities said.
A sixth victim was critically injured but carried to a neighbor’s house by the killer before he fled, police said. The gunman died after a police chase and shootout with officers hours later, authorities said.
Authorities identified the killer as Rick Odell Smith, 43, of rural Morgan County. Smith knew the victims, but authorities declined to identify them or discuss his relationship with them.
Authorities identified the dead as Joanne Sinclair, 67; her pregnant granddaughter, Brittney Luark, 23, and her boyfriend, James Roy Ralston, 29; and their children Nolan, 5, and Brantley, 1. The couple’s daughter, Kassidy, 6, was in critical condition at a Springfield, Ill., hospital.
Smith forced his way in the back door of the home on East Street in Manchester, about 90 miles north of St. Louis, and shot the family about 4:30 a.m., according to police. Ralston’s body was found in a hallway. The other bodies were found in pairs in two different bedrooms.
After leaving the injured girl in a neighbor’s arms, Smith fled, police said. The neighbor called 911. Officers from the city of Winchester, Ill., and the Illinois State Police spotted Smith in a white Chevrolet Lumina about 7:15 a.m. and started chasing him. About 10 miles from Manchester, Smith got out of his car and fired his shotgun at police, who returned fire, authorities said. Smith was injured. He was taken into custody but died at 10:10 a.m. at a hospital in Jacksonville, Ill.
Police found a rifle with a scope and a hunting rifle in Smith’s vehicle.
Police said they think this suspect acted alone, but anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Illinois State Police at 217-786-6677.
Smith is the nephew of Ronald Drake, the village president and fire chief of Manchester. Drake said he hadn’t spoken to Smith for several years. Smith was unemployed and unmarried but had a 3- or 4-year-old daughter, Drake said.
Smith has a criminal history that includes reckless homicide from a car crash years ago, authorities said. He also has a record for passing bad checks and a drug-related charge.
The crime scene is near the border of Scott and Greene counties. After the shooting, schools in both counties were closed because the suspect was still on the loose for more than two hours.
The bodies had not been removed from the home as of Wednesday afternoon. Autopsies were scheduled for Thursday.
Drake said that although the town had only about 300 residents, he didn’t know the victims because of turnover in the residents of the housing complex. The complex has about eight units. The shootings were in a unit at the center.
Drake said Manchester is a farming community and has been losing population for many years. At one time, Manchester had two grocery stores, two restaurants, a jail and a lumber yard. Those are now gone, he said. But the small-town, close-knit attitude remain.
“Everybody is friends with everybody here,” Drake said. “It’s a nice, quiet community.”
Sandra Grubb, who lives on a farm just outside of Manchester, said her children grew up with Smith and went to grade school with him. She said he hadhad a drinking problem and “was a troubled man.”
“It’s a terrible blow to this peaceful town,” she said. “ I think he must have just lost his mind.”
The Associated Press and Kim Bell of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.