Details continue to emerge about the victims and the alleged shooter in a double murder Monday in Danville, but information about what led to the killings remains sketchy.
Police say Phillip White of Lancaster entered 477 High St. after 4 p.m. and found Thomas W. Hager Jr. holding Mark Snyder, 21, of Waynesburg and Ted Sparks, who lived at the house, at gunpoint. The men were apparently on their knees with their hands behind their backs. Sparks was the father of Snyder’s girlfriend.
White told authorities he jumped out a first-story window after seeing the gun and was shot several times as he attempted to run for help. Witnesses then reported hearing multiple gunshots as White ran to a nearby home for help.
Authorities found Snyder and Sparks dead from gunshot wounds when they arrived minutes later.
Using information gathered about the victims and a description of the suspect and his vehicle, police were led to the apartment of Thomas W. Hager Jr. of Danville in the Village Apartments off Stanford Road in a matter of hours. Danville Police Chief Tony Gray said Hager confessed to the shootings Monday night, and police found what they believe is the murder weapon in a Dumpster at the apartment complex.
Gray has said the shootings were drug-related but not directly the result of a drug deal or robbery attempt. He said police are still working to determine the motive for the murders and the role prescription drugs played.
Friends of Sparks said he had lived at the High Street house he rented from Holly and Stacy Osborne of Lancaster for only a couple months and was in the process of moving when the shootings occurred. He had worked as a delivery driver for The Advocate-Messenger for several weeks, but Dale Tyree, a friend who knew him for more than a year, said he had been unable to keep a previous job because of a disability and could no longer pay rent at the house.
Neighbors said they had not gotten to know Sparks in his brief time on the street. However, most said there were frequent visitors coming and going from the home around the clock.
Gray said police had not visited the home in recent months for reports of illegal activity.
When police went to the Village Apartments off Stanford Road looking for Hager on Monday night, Sammie Brown was at the apartment she had shared with Hager for about a month. Hager is originally from Texas but has lived in this area for many years.
According to Brown, Hager had gone to the store Monday afternoon and was agitated when he returned. She said he repeatedly told her he had done something wrong and eventually told her he had shot some people.
Hager did not say why he had shot the men.
Brown said Tuesday she is still in shock over what she has heard about the murders. While she knew who the victims were, she said she didn’t know much about them or why Hager went to the High Street house on Monday.
Brown acknowledged Hager had struggled with multiple physical and psychological ailments, including Tourette syndrome. However, she said Hager had not exhibited any signs of drug abuse or violence while they had been together.
Those who knew the victims are mourning what they say was the senseless loss of decent people.
Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger, whose department provided assistance in the case, said he had known Snyder since the victim was young.
“From everything I knew of Mark, he was a good kid and I never knew him to be in any kind of trouble,” Folger said. “That was the last name I ever thought I would hear in connection with something like this.”
Snyder's mother did not wish to speak to a reporter about her son, except to say “Mark was a good person, a kind-hearted person.” Funeral arrangements for Snyder are incomplete at McKnight Funeral Home in Crab Orchard.
Sparks had made an impression on his co-workers at the newspaper in his short stint there. They remembered him as a reliable and well-mannered employee.
Tyree said Sparks, who was originally from the Chicago area, had worked temporarily at Caterpillar but had since had trouble finding work and had not qualified for disability benefits. He said Sparks had previously lived in Lincoln County and was in the process of a divorce from his wife.
Chief Gray said another man who had been staying at the house on High Street, Mark Owen, was arrested early Tuesday morning when he returned without knowing what had taken place the day before. Gray said police were called back to the house after Owen arrived and he was taken into custody on outstanding warrants from Jessamine County.
It is still not known what connection White had to the other victims or the shooter. He is expected to survive, but his condition is not known at this time.
For those who live near the house, the police tape, flashing lights and media inquiries have grown burdensome. Although it is the first murder in Danville since 2010, 30-year High Street resident Elizabeth Rowland said very little surprises her anymore about the nation or the house next door.
“It’s sad, but things like this are happening everywhere.”