A Chester youth pastor is facing three counts of first-degree murder in a triple shooting at his home on Thanksgiving Day.
At 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Chesterfield County police officers found the body of Andrew E. Buthorn, 36, in the front yard of a home in the 14900 block of Dogwood Ridge Court. The bodies of two women, Jeanett L. Gattis, 58, and Candice L. Kunze, 30, were found inside.
Police said Christopher R. Gattis, 58, was found at the scene and taken into custody. He was married to Jeanett Gattis, the mother of Kunze. Buthorn was Kunze’s boyfriend, according to police.
All four lived in the home, said police, who are investigating the deaths as domestic-related. In addition to the murder charges, Christopher Gattis faces three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Gattis is the youth pastor at Grace Lutheran Church on Harrowgate Road in Chester, according to the church’s website. The website features a photo of him in a tuxedo, and the same photo was used as Christopher Gattis’ profile picture on Facebook, where the church was listed as his employer since July 2014.
“Members of Grace Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by the loss of life last night as a result of three individuals being shot in Chester, and this tragedy included members of Grace Lutheran Church,” the church said in a statement that requested privacy for the family and its congregation.
“Grace Lutheran Church has experienced many hardships over the years, but this heartbreak has unique challenges. Grace Lutheran Church asks for the prayers from the community as our congregation begins the process of addressing the grief being experienced by everyone involved.”
Neighbors, who were shocked to learn of Gattis’ alleged involvement in the killings, confirmed his role with the church and also said his family runs Lighthouse Furniture in Petersburg. Employees at the store declined to speak with a reporter.
“I heard a bang,” said one neighbor, Darius Williams, who was keeping a watchful eye over his 10-year-old nephew, Miles Lowman, as he played in the yard with a football Friday morning.
“He thought it was a firecracker,” Williams said of his nephew. “I know it wasn’t. I heard a second one. I didn’t see nothing, so I didn’t think much of it.”
The block, which ends in a cul-de-sac, was soon flooded with flashing police lights, illuminating the grisly scene where Buthorn’s body lay in the yard for hours.
“I wouldn’t expect anything like that to happen here,” said Williams, who did not know the family well. “It’s quiet.”
Larry and Denise Patton, who live across from the Gattises’ gray, two-story home, a house that is nearly identical to every other on the block, said they didn’t sleep Thursday night.
“I looked at that body all night,” Denise Patton said. “I didn’t know who it was.”
Neighbors said Jeanett Gattis’ daughter, known as Candy, had moved back home about six weeks ago from Oregon and brought along her boyfriend, Buthorn. Their cars, with Oregon license plates, were parked in front of the home Friday.
“They were good people,” especially Chris, Larry Patton said. “He’d do anything for you. He was always quick to laugh. He had a hearty laugh.”
The Pattons moved to the neighborhood less than two years ago. Neighbors mostly kept to themselves, but the Gattis home across the street was the exception.
“They welcomed us to the neighborhood,” Larry Patton said. The families often shared meals. “It’s just sad that their Thanksgiving ended that way.”
Larry Patton said he hadn’t heard or seen any disagreements among the family that night, or even before.
Gattis is being held in the Chesterfield County Jail with no bail. He is due in General District Court on Monday and in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Tuesday.
Police ask anyone with information to contact Chesterfield police at (804) 748-1251 or Crime Solvers at (804) 748-0660.