8-year-old dead in triple killing at McDonald's/gas station

8-year-old dead in triple killing at McDonald's/gas station

Community wakes up to tragedy in Varnell, Ga.

April 24th, 2015 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Officials work the scene after a killing in Whitfield County.

Officials work the scene after a killing in...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Whitfield County, Ga., school officials this morning say counselors are on site at Beaverdale Elementary School in Whitfield County where second grader Grayden Lee Whitmore attended school until he was killed last night in a murder-suicide in Varnell, Ga.

Whitfield County authorities say 8-year-old Grayden and 27-year-old Melissa Ball were each shot dead by the boy's father, 36-year-old Christopher Eric Whitmore, who turned the gun on himself afterward. All were from the Beaverdale area of Whitfield County.

Schools spokesman Eric Beavers said counselors are on hand today at the elementary school for anyone who needs to help dealing with the tragedy but no other activities are planned.

"We want it to be as normal a day as possible" as the school and community come to grips with the loss, Beavers said.

The slayings happened at a Shell station-convenience store and McDonald's restaurant at 3898 Cleveland Highway about 7 p.m., Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said in a news release issued late on Thursday.

The couple had previous domestic issues and was separated at the time of the incident, officials said.

Sheriff's office officials said this morning that there were no new details immediately available.

Investigators say Ball pulled up to a gas pump at the Shell station in her 2013 Ford Focus and Christopher Whitmore drove up and parked directly behind her.

3898 Cleveland Highway

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They exited their cars and walked to the rear passenger door of the 2010 Dodge that Christopher Whitmore was driving.

Investigators said Christopher Whitmore pulled out a handgun and shot their son in the back seat.

Whitmore then shot Ball and then himself.

The investigation into the incident is continuing this morning. Assisting the sheriff's office in the investigation are the Varnell Police Department, the Cohutta Police Department, the coroner's office, the District Attorney's Office and the Georgia State Patrol.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.