A family in fear, a family destroyed

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1 Saturday, 06/26/04 A family in fear, a family destroyed By SUE McCLURE Staff Writer CULLEOKA, Tenn. Cowering in a closet in her home, gunshots popping in the background, Freda Elliott knew the end was near. In ragged breaths, she whispered her fears to a 911 operator, begging her to send help quickly. As the door to the tiny closet flew open, she begged her ex-husband not to shoot her or her two children. Then, her worst nightmare came true, shattering all their lives. Police say Parker Ray Elliott, 42, shot and killed his 18-year-old daughter, Rachel. His son, Seth, 15, suffered gunshot wounds to the throat. And his ex-wife, Freda Elliott, 42, is fighting for her life after being shot in the head. A search was under way last night for Elliott, who escaped the grisly scene around 9 p.m. Thursday in a red Dodge Dakota pickup truck. A reported sighting of him in nearby Lawrence County by a woman who had worked with him drew law enforcement officials there late last night, but they didn t immediately find him. While a stunned Culleoka community tried to cope with the tragedy, many close to the family said they had seen signs of impending doom. Co-workers said Freda Elliott was so scared of her ex-husband, whom she divorced last year, that she had taken out court orders of protection against him, forbidding him from coming to her 2005 Forrest Ridge Trail home or going to her children s school in Mount Pleasant. On Thursday, Parker Elliott made so many telephone calls to Freda at her workplace that her co-workers at the Tennessee Farm Bureau refused to put them through to her. That afternoon, they walked her to her car as she left to make sure she was safe. But the worst came that night, when Parker Elliott kicked in the front door to the modest one-story Culleoka home she shared with their children and began firing a handgun. An obviously shaken Sheriff Enoch George played the chilling 911 call Freda Elliott made for help to reporters yesterday. It brings tears to my eyes, a red-faced George said. But I need to let people know how sorry this guy is, to kill your own kids when they re begging for their lives. For the past year, Parker Elliott had been living with his mother in Winchester, Tenn. He was depressed a lot after the divorce, Ruby Elliott said by telephone of her son. He wasn t working; he was on disability for his back. He left the house around 4 p.m. in his truck, she said. He said he was going to town. Ruby Elliott said her son had not been drinking, as has been alleged, and that she had no idea where her son would go because he has no close friends.

2 There s nobody he can go to, she said. That made it difficult for police, who were combing 50 miles of woods and fields between Culleoka and Winchester yesterday evening. Some things are developing, but we don t have him yet, said U.S. Marshal Kevin Koback of the Middle Tennessee Joint Fugitive Task Force, which joined the multi-agency search. Freda Elliott was in critical condition last night at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Seth Elliott was in stable condition. Last night, a makeshift memorial was taking form outside Freda Elliott s Culleoka home, with people leaving vases of flowers and a white teddy bear. Her co-workers at the Tennessee Farm Bureau, where she worked for 21 years, called her a good upstanding Christian. She was scared to death of her ex-husband, though, because of his violent temper and ongoing verbal and mental abuse, they said. Mount Pleasant High School Principal Tommy Wolaver had nothing but praise for Rachel Elliott, who graduated this year as salutatorian and was headed to Freed-Hardeman College this fall on a scholarship. She was voted most likely to succeed, he said, his voice breaking. She was very outgoing, a great student, always willing to take on responsibility. Wolaver said he knew there was a history of domestic problems there. I was acquainted with the mother, who was always very supportive of her children s education, Wolaver said. And I was told by the mother that there was a protection order, and the former husband was not to come by the school to see the children. I never saw the father. This is such a senseless waste of two fine young people s lives, Wolaver added. I have no doubt in my mind that whatever Rachel had set her mind to do in college, she could do it. And now this. He s still shooting at the kids! Help me! COLUMBIA A graphic, heart-wrenching tape of Freda Elliott s call to 911 was played for the news media yesterday afternoon by Maury County Sheriff Enoch George. The tape includes shrieks, screams, gunshots and Elliott pleading for her life and the lives of her two children, Rachel, 18, and Seth, 15, as a man she says is her ex-husband, Parker Ray Elliott, forced his way into her Culleoka home and proceeded to fire a handgun at family members. Freda Elliott had called 911 from inside a closet at her home in Culleoka. The following is a partial transcript of that call. Items in bold appear to be the voice of the 911 dispatcher. 911 Office, Tammy. Tammy, my ex-husband s here with a gun. He s in here. He s got a gun. He s going to kill them, hurry. He s got my kids, quick.

3 What s his name? Parker Elliott. (Quick, shallow breathing) 2005 Forrest Ridge Trail, Culleoka. We ve got a male subject in the house with a weapon. He just told my kids he s going to kill them if I m on the phone. He s going to kill me. I don t need you to hang up. Has he been drinking? He s going to kill me. They re in the hallway with him, and I m hiding in the closet. (First shot is heard) I m hiding in the closet. I m coming out cause he d not going to hurt my kids. The kids are with him. Can they get out? I want to make sure he doesn t shoot my kids. The kids are with him. They re deterring him. Please, please, he s going to kill them. Has he been drinking? He s got to be. How long has he been out of the residence? (Labored, quick breathing) The kids are telling him I m not here. He said if I m here, he ll kill them. He just shot the gun. He hasn t seen you yet? He s coming. He just shot the gun again. Please! Please! What kind of a gun is it? A handgun. He s going to the front door. (Dispatcher to other emergency personnel) He s inside the house, shooting. He had two children and an ex-wife. Oh, he hit one of them! Stay in the closet. He doesn t know you re in the closet? He can see the phone cord coming in. Oh! He hit one of them. (Gunshots. Sound of girl screaming in the background) They ve got the gun. I think my kids have got my gun. I can t believe I forgot to get it. I think one of my children has the weapon. He s shot five times. I m hiding in the closet, and my kids are out there with him.

4 How old are the kids? 15 and 18. (Gunshots and screaming) He shot five more. Is that all of them? Ma am, I don t know what kind of gun he has. He hasn t shot them yet. My kids are still OK. (Labored breathing) (Kids screaming) He s going to kill me. (Screaming) He s coming to the closet! He s coming to the closet! He s coming to the closet! (Kids screaming, shrieking) He s at the closet. He s going to shoot me. Help me! He s here. He s gonna hit me with the gun. (Children screaming in the background) Calm down. He s still shooting at the kids! Help me! (Whimpering) Be calm! They re getting there. They re coming. He s beating on the doors. (Loud banging) He s still shooting. Parker, don t! Parker, no! Please, no! He s going to beat a hole in the door. Ma am, calm down. What s your name? Please! Freda! Freda! (Yell heard from man in background) Please, don t hurt my kids! Don t hurt my babies! Parker, no! Where are they? I don t know.

5 (Screaming) Parker, please! Don t! (Screams, screams, screams) (Gunshots) Don t hurt my babies!! (Shrieks) (Screams) Freda, what s going on? Freda? (Gunshots, gunshots) Hello? This is E-Com 720. We just heard two gunshots inside the residence. We heard a woman screaming. Now we ve got dead silence SANFORD MYERS / STAFF Flowers were left at the mailbox of the Elliott home in Culleoka, Tenn., after police say Parker Ray Elliott shot and killed his daughter, Rachel Elliott, 18, and critically wounded his son, Seth Elliott, 15, and his ex-wife Freda Elliott, 42, at their home.

6 Rachel Elliott, left, was shot and killed while Seth Elliott, middle, was shot in the throat. Police say Parker Ray Elliott shot them both along with his ex-wife Freda Elliott. Maury County Sheriff Enoch George listens to the chilling 911 tape of Freda Elliott s call for help Thursday night.

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