MARSHVILLE On a mid-August day, David Lee Bass and his son installed an air-conditioning system at a funeral home in Marshvilles small downtown.
Philip Tillman, funeral director at Morgan and Son Funeral Home, made easy conversation with them about their work. It was the last time he would see them alive.
Three hours later, Bass and his son, David Clay Bass, were shot to death in their driveway a few miles northeast of town.
The community already was reeling from a triple homicide in July about a mile south of Marshville. Then in late August, another man was killed in his home north of town, bringing the number of homicides around Marshville to six.
The cases are unrelated and arrests have been made in the first two crimes. The only ties that bind them are their Marshville mailing addresses.
But as families grieve along with townspeople who knew the victims, residents also worry that the crimes could tarnish Marshvilles image.
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey could not recall another time where there have been this many homicide victims in proximity with each other and in such a relatively short time. Marshville did see a killing in March; it averages about one every three years, Marshville Police Chief Carl Webber said.
Tom Appenzeller, whose family has called the Marshville area home since the late 19th century, said people see the spasm of violence as a sad coincidence.
Its an aberration, he said. The stars must have lined up wrong or something.
Reminiscent of Mayberry
On either end of Marshville, a cheery sign on U.S. 74 welcomes people to the eastern Union County town: Home of Randy Travis & Country Living.
The small community, with its chicken and turkey farms, has a wisp of a downtown and hosts a major poultry processing plant.
In the late 1950s, Appenzeller often visited his grandparents on their Marshville-area farm and recalled how people drove around saluting each other with a wave of their index finger.
I always thought Marshville was more Mayberry than Mount Airy, the North Carolina town that Andy Griffith based his eponymous show on, Appenzeller said.
Change comes slowly to Marshville, whose population of about 2,400 grew by just 2 percent over the past decade. Most residents like it that way. They live about an hour southeast of Charlotte and inhabit a diverse community where black and Latino residents comprise a little more than half of the population.
People here still tend to know one another, Webber, the police chief, said, and theres a closer sense of community than places where theres a lot of residential development.
But the latest killings impact the perception of people who are not familiar with the area, Marshville Mayor Franklin Deese said.
It does affect Marshville in a negative way because people associate (the crimes) with the town, he said.
Suspects behind bars
The killing began July 7, when three bodies were found just south of Marshville, setting off what authorities described as one of the biggest investigations in county history.
Authorities said each victim Ronnie Dale Overcash, 46, his live-in girlfriend, Crystal Dawn Hicks, 38, and Jerry Wayne Marsh, 61 was killed with a knife and a shotgun around Overcashs home in the 1000 block of Landsford Road.
Less than a week later, authorities arrested the neighbor who had told them he had discovered the bodies: Randall Hank Morrison, 24. He remains in Union County Jail without bond.
A neighbor said Morrison and Overcashs friendship ended when Morrisons dog killed Overcashs cat.
This was a crime against hard-working people who were just living their lives, Cathey said.
Meanwhile, authorities said Bradrick Layne Wolfe, 47, of Marshville confessed to fatally shooting his father-in-law and brother-in-law Aug. 21. David Lee Bass, 57, and David Clay Bass, 39, were found dead outside their home in the 3300 block of Lanesboro Road.
Wolfe was demanding that his wife let him see his children, who were in the home when the killings occurred, Cathey said. Wolfe remains in jail without bond.
District Attorney Trey Robison said he is still considering whether to seek the death penalty in these two cases.
And on Aug. 30, Charles Ronald Godwin was found shot to death in his home in the 3600 block of Holly School Road northeast of Marshville. Family and co-workers at Austin Grading called authorities when the 60-year-old did not show up for work.
No one has been charged, and Catheys officers continue to investigate the case.
The six homicides are the only ones in the sheriffs jurisdiction this year. In the prior two years, the agency investigated five homicides.
Its a shame that this stigma gets attached to the name Marshville because of the mailing address, Cathey said. Marshville is a good, stable community.
I have thought a lot about this, the district attorney said. I see nothing that ties these cases together whatsoever.
Down the street from the funeral home and across from the former bank branch that holds Town Hall, a stream of customers wander into the Wagon Wheel Grill around lunchtime.
Most know something about the crimes.
I dont think it gives the area a bad name, said Bill Bagley, a longtime resident of nearby Peachland. It couldve happened anywhere.
Other customers agreed, as did the cook, Dalton Riggins. Marshvilles the type of town where everyone seems to know everyone else, he said.
In fact, the triple homicide victims were regular customers, Riggins said. Its a lot for a small community to handle.
Just look at Morgan and Son.
The funeral home typically might handle one murder victim a year, said Tillman, the funeral director and embalmer. This summer, it provided services for four of the victims, including the Basses.
Tillman was friends with David Lee Bass, and knew all of the others who were killed. Its shocking, he said.
A lot of folks who didnt know where Marshville was now do, Tillman said. You dont want to be put on the map in that way.