FAYETTEVILLE - Investigators trying to solve six killings at four locations along the Tennessee-Alabama state line have found a common thread: one of the slain knew all the victims.
Authorities had been looking for 24-year-old Warren Vincent Crutcher when he was found dead, the victim of a homicide, in north Alabama on Tuesday. He had been wanted since Monday for questioning in the deaths of three women and a toddler a few miles north, in Lincoln County, Tenn.
Authorities are still trying to sort out what Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm described as a "tangled web" of relationships between Crutcher, the slain and two young children who weren't injured in the attacks.
"All they know is there are four or five murders involved. And it seems to all center around my grandson," Warren Crutcher's grandfather, Lorenzo Crutcher, said Wednesday.
The grandfather said he hadn't seen his grandson in more than a month and didn't know what he did for a living.
"I have no idea. I don't know if he was living here in Alabama or in Tennessee. His daddy didn't even know where he was living at. He would just show up," the elder Crutcher said.
Investigators are focused on trying to identify a suspect and haven't issued any alerts to law enforcement or the public.
The puzzling case began early Monday when the Lincoln County sheriff's office was called to the home of 22-year-old Chabreya Campbell. Family summoned help after Campbell's 3-year-old boy - Warren Crutcher's son - called them saying he couldn't wake up anyone at the house.
The small brick home with children's toys strewn in the front lawn sits between Fayetteville and Huntsville, Ala., on a busy highway dotted with family farms and roadside merchants selling fresh vegetables, pumpkins and colorful fall flowers.
When authorities arrived, they found three people slain, Campbell, her 18-month-old son, Rico Ragland, and her friend, 21-year-old Amber McCaulley of Huntsville, Ala. Campbell was six months pregnant.
Authorities quickly put out an alert on Crutcher, who had a history of domestic disputes. In 2011, he was arrested in Huntsville after police said he said he broke into a home to take his child away from the mother. It was not immediately clear who the mother was.
On Monday evening, a few miles from Campbell's home, Lincoln County investigators found a second crime scene. Inside, 21-year-old Jessica Brown was dead. Still alive was her 2-month-old baby, and Helm said officials are looking into whether Crutcher was also that child's father.
Helm said officials don't know which crime occurred first and they aren't sure of all the relationships. But they do know that Crutcher had ongoing or former relationships with all of the women and they are told he recently had been living with Brown.
Investigators have found evidence that leads them to believe Crutcher was involved in or at least there during the Tennessee slayings.
"Did he act alone? That's what we are trying to figure out," Helm said.
The case took another twist when Crutcher was found dead Tuesday, his body dumped in some Alabama woods just across the state line. Authorities said Crutcher was slain although they haven't yet released how he died.
"He's killed, so someone is responsible for his murder," Helm said.
A sixth victim has been identified as Jeffrey Pope, who was found dead early Tuesday in a Huntsville home, killed by a gunshot wound to the chest, Madison County, Ala., Coroner Craig Whisenant said.
Pope and Crutcher also knew one another although Helm didn't release details on how they were acquainted.
Crutcher was out of jail on burglary and assault charges in Limestone County, Ala., when he died.
Crutcher was released on $15,000 bond on Oct. 4 on charges that he and four other men broke into a home and assaulted a man to collect a drug debt, according to Alabama court records. He was scheduled to appear in court Nov. 20 for an arraignment.
Helm said authorities haven't ruled out drugs as another link between the victims.
"Very possible, yes. We are looking at all those possibilities," Helm said.
Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder on Wednesday wanted to calm fears in the community.
"I don't feel like the residents of Lincoln or Madison counties, either one, should be concerned with their safety, because this was not a random act," he said.