published Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Fort Payne man shoots father, kills self

  • photo
    Bill Rupil points to the spot where his neighbor Jonathan Ray was found shot to death on Tuesday night. Rupil lives next door to the Rays in the Oakdale subdivision in Fort Payne, Ala.
    Photo by Joy Lukachick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FORT PAYNE, Ala. -- When Karen Malone and her husband heard the gunshots followed by women screaming next door, they locked their doors and hid inside, unsure what to do.

Minutes later, their doorbell buzzed repeatedly and the couple found their neighbor, 52-year-old James Earl Ray, bloody and slumped over their garage steps.

"'I've been shot, I need you to take me to the hospital,'" Karen Malone remembers Ray telling her husband, Mark. "'My son shot me.'"

Ray survived, but a few minutes later, the son who shot him, Jonathan Ray, 24, put a gun to his own head and killed himself, authorities said.

Wincing in pain on his neighbor's steps, James Ray told Karen Malone that another son -- his oldest -- had committed suicide nearly four years ago. A family member confirmed that Wednesday.

DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said Wednesday he couldn't confirm the details of the argument that led to Tuesday's shooting.

Officials said that, about five minutes before James Ray went to his neighbors', he had tried to stop his son from committing suicide. But when the father fumbled with the phone, attempting to dial 911 from his porch, his son shot him in the back of the shoulder, authorities said.

Once the Malones called 911, authorities on foot and in two helicopters swarmed the normally quiet Oakdale neighborhood, following reports that Jonathan Ray still could be armed and on the loose, Harris said.

But they soon found his body about 400 yards from his parents' house in a ditch, Harris said.

A family member who asked not to be named said Jonathan Ray had been diagnosed six months ago with thyroid disease. He had been prescribed several medications but decided not to take all of them, the family member said.

Harris also said Jonathan Ray had a history of domestic violence charges in Cherokee County, where the family used to live.

Huntsville Hospital physicians removed the bullet from James Ray's shoulder, and he was released from the hospital early Wednesday morning, Harris said.

As James Ray lay on the concrete in the Malones' garage, waiting for the ambulance to arrive, he told Karen Malone he was afraid his son would shoot himself.

"He asked [police], 'Please don't kill his son,'" Malone said. "He wanted officers to hurry and get to him."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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