Food dispute led to murder-suicide


LOGAN, Ohio  — A dispute over whether a terminally ill woman should have been given tea and toast or an orange apparently upset her husband so much that he shot and killed two of the woman’s sisters and his own son before killing himself, a sheriff said Tuesday.

The sick woman, Darlene Gilkey, witnessed the shootings from a hospital bed in her living room but wasn’t injured, Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North said. The 59-year-old is dying of cancer, he said.

The woman’s son, Ralph Sowers III, told a 911 dispatcher he survived because his stepfather, Paul Gilkey, said he was sparing him because he had kids.

After the shootings Monday, 63-year-old Paul Gilkey stepped out onto his front porch, sat down in a chair and shot himself to death, the sheriff said.

Killed inside the home were Darlene Gilkey’s sisters, Barbara Mohler, 70, of New Straitsville, and Dorothy Cherry, 63, of New Plymouth. Also killed was Paul Gilkey’s son, Leroy Gilkey, 38, of Columbus.

North said events leading to the shootings began earlier in the day when some of the victims had apparently served Darlene Gilkey tea and toast after Paul Gilkey had already peeled an orange for her.

That led to an argument that escalated over time and culminated in the shootings, the sheriff said.

“It sounds like it was over her well-being, her care,” the sheriff said.

As the argument heated up, Paul Gilkey left the living room where his wife’s bed was, went to a bedroom where he retrieved a gun, returned to the living room and started shooting.

The sheriff said Gilkey shot Mohler first, then ordered Sowers to leave. Gilkey then shot his son and again ordered Sowers to leave, before shooting Cherry, North said.

Hocking County Coroner David Cummin said eight or nine gunshots were fired during what autopsies confirm was a triple homicide followed by the assailant’s suicide.

He said Mohler died from two close-range gunshot wounds to the head and Leroy Gilkey was killed next with three close-range

gunshot wounds to the head. Cherry then suffered of a gunshot wound to the chest from an undetermined distance and a close-range gunshot wound to the head, the autopsies showed.