Teen sentenced to life for killing mother, stepfather, and 2 juvenile brothers when he was 16

Teen sentenced to life for killing mother, stepfather, and 2 juvenile brothers when he was 16

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (TCD) — An 18-year-old man who fatally shot four of his family members, including his 12- and 3-year-old brothers when he was 16 years old was recently sentenced to life in prison.

On Dec. 13, 2020, at approximately 10:40 a.m., a relative went to check on family members on the 1300 block of Cemetery Hill Drive in Elkview because he had not heard from them in several days, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office said. The door was reportedly unlocked, and the relative found three deceased residents “from an apparent act violence.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to the scene and located a fourth deceased victim in the house.

The Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as 37-year-old Daniel Dale Long and 39-year-old Risa Mae Saunders, and two juvenile victims, 12-year-old Gage Ripley and 3-year-old Jameson Long.

Investigators determined the victims had been shot a few days before the discovery, on Dec. 9, 2020, according to the West Virginia Metro News.

Police identified the suspect as Gavin Smith, Saunders’ son and Long’s stepson.

Smith was eventually found hiding behind a dresser in a home along River Haven Road and taken into custody, according to WSAZ-TV.

The West Virginia Metro News reports that Rebecca Walker, Smith’s girlfriend at the time, motivated Smith to fatally shoot his mother, stepfather, and two younger brothers so they could be together. Following the fatal shooting, she allegedly helped Smith hide at her grandmother’s home.

Walker was reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison for being an accessory after the fact.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Smith received three life sentences for three counts of first-degree murder, 40 years for second-degree murder, and 10 years for using a firearm during the commission of a felony, WSAZ reports. He was found guilty of those charges in December 2022.

Smith will be eligible to see a parole board in 15 years because he was a juvenile at the time of the fatal shooting, WSAZ reports.

During the sentencing, Judge Kenneth Ballard reportedly addressed Smith and said, “You murdered your entire family in cold blood.”

Ballard continued, “You devised this plan to kill your family days and weeks in advance for the selfish reason of spending time with your girlfriend. You executed your mother and stepfather by shooting them in the head while they were asleep.”


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