HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Five people were killed over the weekend in a secluded North Carolina neighborhood in what police believe was a murder-suicide.
It was initially reported that three children and two adults were killed Saturday morning at a home in High Point, but police later clarified that one of the victims was 18, therefore an adult.
Neighbors said they woke up Saturday to two people banging on their doors and ringing their doorbells asking for help, saying someone was trying to kill them.
“The man said that it was his father. He woke up, and there was a gun to his head. Somehow he pulled the magazine out of the gun, and they escaped,” said a neighbor, who declined to be named.
Timeline of events
Police say they were initially called just after 7 a.m. and were directed to the home, where they found three adults and two children dead from gunshot wounds.
Two surviving victims, who escaped and asked the neighbors for help, were identified only as a family member and an acquaintance, both adults aged 22 and 25.
Police say around the time the two people were knocking on doors seeking help, Robert J. Crayton, Jr., 45, shot and killed his wife, Athalia A. Crayton, 46; their 18-year-old son Kasim Crayton, and two younger children, ages 16 and 10, who will not be identified. Police believe Robert Crayton then killed himself.
“We may never know why,” said Lt. Patrick Welch. “What goes through the hearts and minds of a person that would do this sometimes dies with them.”
Police are working to trace the firearm found at the scene and cannot say if it was obtained legally or not.
According to records, High Point police had received previous calls to the home as far back as 2014. Police said two of them were domestic calls, with fights that did not lead to arrests. In January 2022, police received a medical call and then a request for an involuntary commitment.
Police confirmed that Robert Crayton suffered from some type of mental illness, but they declined to disseminate that information out of respect for the family and the investigation.
A flowchart provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services describes the process of an involuntary commitment order.
‘Never seen anything like this’
“I have been in law enforcement a little over 18 years now, and I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude in the City of High Point,” said Police Captain Matt Truitt.
Welch says that they have released some information to Guilford County Schools in order to put needed resources in place for students, and the school district confirmed that Kasim Crayton was a Ragsdale student.
Guilford County Schools released the following statement on Monday:
It is with deep regret that we inform you about the recent loss to our school community of an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old student who attended Ragsdale High School, as well as a 10-year-old student who attended Union Hill Elementary School. We are heartbroken and our thoughts are with the family. District crisis teams will be at both schools throughout the week, and the district stands by to assist the family in whatever ways they need.–GCS
Details about the scene will not be released, and Welch said the surviving victims have a large extended family supporting them.
Family mass killing
Family mass killings are not uncommon across the United States. A database from the Associated Press and Northeastern University indicates that around every three and a half weeks for the last two decades, there’s been a family mass killing.
Last May, Davie County was rocked by a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of an infant, a toddler and their mother. Just last week, five children were among eight killed in a murder-suicide in Utah after a man’s wife tried to divorce him.
Experts with Northeastern University say family mass killings make up 45% of 415 mass shootings since 2006.
There is no governmental agency tracking murder-suicides nationally, so a few years ago policy analysts at the Violence Policy Center — a nonprofit educational organization that conducts research and public education on violence in the U.S. — began tracking details from news accounts to produce an annual report. The latest version from 2020 looked at murder-suicides including many mass killings during the first six months of 2019.
The study found 81% of murder-suicides happened at home and 65% involved intimate partners. The study also found that among murder-suicides where more than three people aside from the assailant were killed, six of the 10 during those six months were incidents in which a person killed their children, partner and themselves.
If you are in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.