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Four Children Shot To Death; Father Sought

November 18, 1996

LAURENS, S.C. (AP) _ Police and bloodhounds searched a wooded area today for a man whose four children were found shot to death in their beds days after his wife had moved out.

Bertha Satterwhite, who had separated from Johnny Satterwhite a week ago, found the bodies of her 16-year-old daughter and three sons, ages 10, 13 and 14, late Sunday, police said. They had been dead at least three days, said Laurens County Coroner Zack Seymour.

The children had all been shot in the head at least once, Seymour said. Authorities were not releasing the children’s names pending notification of relatives.

Johnny Satterwhite was last seen Friday at the nearby mill where he worked. He is the stepfather of the three older children and the father of the youngest, Seymour said.

Police signed warrants charging the 37-year-old man with murder, Police Chief Robin Morse said today. Also this morning, a county employee spotted Satterwhite’s truck about five miles north of here. Police searched nearby woods with bloodhounds and a helicopter using an infrared tracking system.

The children were last seen at school Thursday, Morse said.

Seymour said investigators recovered a .22-caliber revolver and a note from Satterwhite to his wife in the living room of their small, one-story brick and wood house. He would not disclose what the note said.

The children apparently were shot as they slept because they all were wearing pajamas, Seymour said. The boys’ bodies were found in one bedroom lying face down in their beds.

The girl’s body was found in a separate room, lying on her side.

``This is the worst homicide we’ve had here in more than 20 years,″ Seymour said.

Neighbors described the quiet neighborhood as a place where children play ball in the street and everyone knows each other. Those who knew the family said they were stunned by the deaths.

``It’s unbelievable, because you see them all the time,″ said Helen Turner, who lives next door. ``He was a hard-working man and they were an ideal family.″

``That man would get out there in that yard over there and wrestle with those little boys. You couldn’t ask for a better father,″ Ms. Turner said. ``If he’s back to himself, he’ll kill himself because he loved those kids.″

She said she heard shots either Thursday or Friday night, but thought nothing of it because many neighbors own guns and often target shoot.

Police gave few details of the incident. WYFF-TV in Greenville reported that Mrs. Satterwhite left the home last week because of marital problems and returned Sunday only after her husband told her he had a package waiting for her.

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