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Father charged with killing four children

December 1, 1997

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Four children ages 4 to 13 were shot to death, and the father of three of them, who was involved in a custody fight with his ex-wife, surrendered and told police he had killed the youngsters.

After Daryl Keith Holton went to the police station late Sunday, officers found the bodies of his three sons and his ex-wife’s 4-year-old daughter. They were in rooms Holton had been living in behind an auto repair shop owned by his uncle.

Holton, 36, appeared in Bedford County General Sessions Court this morning and was ordered held without bond. A public defender was appointed and the next court appearance was set for Dec. 16.

Keisha Leverette, Holton’s cousin, said he and his ex-wife had fought over custody of the children.

``It all just built up and he snapped,″ she said. ``He’s always been a very quiet man, moody. But there was never any indication of this. He was very concerned about his children.″

Holton’s sons, Stephen, 13, Brent, 10, and Eric, 7, and the girl, Kayla, were shot to death with a Russian SKS semiautomatic assault rifle, police said. Kayla was not Holton’s daughter, but he considered her his child, Leverette said.

Holton, an Army veteran who served in the Gulf War, and his former wife divorced about four years ago and she had custody, said Gary Holton, Daryl Holton’s uncle and owner of the repair shop. Gary Holton said his nephew visited the children several times a week until recently.

Sunday was the first time Daryl Holton had seen them since them in about 2 1/2 months, the uncle said.

Daryl Holton picked up the children from his former wife in the afternoon. He was to have returned them to their home in Spring Hill in the evening.

Holton went to the police station around 10 p.m. and confessed, Police Chief Austin Swing said. He also told police he had made some bombs that were in his apartment, located about 50 miles south of Nashville.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Jim Piercey described the bombs as incendiary devices similar to Molotov cocktails. Authorities found five in the repair shop and detonated them this morning, he said.

Swing said investigators don’t know why he made the bombs.

Holton was born in Shelbyville but moved often during his childhood because his stepfather was in the military, relatives said. He worked in the repair shop the last three years but lived in public housing until moving into the shop earlier this year, according to Gary Holton.

``I think he was one of the greatest guys. He was quiet, well-mannered, never had a bad word for anybody,″ Holton said.

He said his nephew was devoted to the children.

``He talked about them all the time. He missed them. He wanted his family back with him,″ Holton said.

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