Property dispute cause of triple homicide in Polk County, officials say

Property dispute cause of triple homicide in Polk County, officials say

August 21st, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

George Waters

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

Polk County, Tenn., sheriff's deputies had driven up the gravel road to the Waters families' land before.

Willard Waters and his nephew, George Steven Waters, had been embroiled in a longstanding property line dispute in their Grassy Creek community.

At times the argument had escalated into heated words, and officials had been called out to intervene.

But when deputies arrived at the rural property along George Road on Friday afternoon, they found the aftermath of an apparent feud that had erupted into bloodshed.

Wanda Waters, 59, and her 40-year-old son Marion "Doug" Waters were found at the property shot to death. Willard, 61, would die shortly after being rushed to a hospital.

George Steven Waters, 33, was still at the scene and was immediately arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

"You never dreamed anything like that would happen," said the couple's sister-in-law, Bobbie Waters, who lives nearby. "You think someone might fight with their fists or something, but to pull out a gun. ... You just don't know what was going through his head. It's kind of hard right now to talk about it -- it just hurts so."

The Waters long have lived in the Grassy Creek area. Willard Waters was one of 10 children -- most of whom ended up settling in the patchwork of fields and woods along Waters Road and George Road, family members say.

Polk County Sheriff Bill Davis said he personally knew Willard and George Steven, along with several other members of the Waters family.

"I'm sure friends and family are pretty shocked, trying to figure out how to grieve through this," he said.

Davis said he could not provide many details of the events surrounding the slayings, but said George Steven Waters launched the attack after one of the victims was using a tractor to grade land around the property line.

The two other family members were gunned down on the property shortly after, the sheriff said.

Davis said he could not remember the last time his office has investigated a triple homicide.

A Polk County man was killed in Turtletown this February, but Davis said years can go by between homicides in the rural area.

The sheriff also said his office has had to deal with other property line disputes -- but never any that became deadly.

"People may need to take it to court, but we've never seen anyone resort to violence like this," he said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation. TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm referred all comment on the case to Polk County authorities.

A bond has not yet been set for George Steven Waters, who family members say worked for the county's road department.

Hours after he makes his first appearance Wednesday before Polk County General Sessions Court Judge Bill Baliles, the Waters family and friends will gather for services at Akins Funeral Home in Copperhill, Tenn., to mourn the slain family.

Doug Waters had served in the U.S. Air Force and worked at M&M Mars, his obituary shows. He is survived by a daughter and three stepchildren.

His parents had another daughter, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, their obituaries show.

For years, Wanda Waters had worked as a cook for the Polk County school system. Willard Waters had worked at Tennessee Copper Co.

He and Wanda were members at Grassy Creek Baptist Church, where the family will be buried.

"They were sweet folks, good folks that had put a lot of work into their home, and they had made it a really nice place," Bobbie Waters said.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.