A Virginia man shot his wife and two children in tragic murder-suicide on Father’s Day. According to police, Berry Jernigan contacted his employer and made some disturbing suicidal comments on Sunday night before the shooting took place. The employer contact law enforcement which arrived at the Jernigan home in time to hear gunfire but too late to save the family.
According to police spokesperson Elizabeth Caroon, the investigation indicated Jernigan, a 35-year-old electrician, shot his two-year-old son Seth, nine-year-old stepdaughter Alexis Kellas and 30-year-old wife Renotta before turning the gun on himself. Jernigan and Alexis were found dead inside the house; Renotta stumbled out of the front door and collapsed on the lawn and Baby Seth, whose crib was covered in blood, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
On Monday morning neighbors were seen standing near the house which was surrounded by yellow police tape with two cars still in the driveway. They were trying to cope with the tragic loss of the family who lived inside a small, white, ranch-style home in Chesterfield, right outside of Richmond.
Cindy Nguyen, who lived next door, said she did not know the family very well. They moved into the house about two years ago and during that time Jernigan typically made small talk with the neighbors, worked nights and seemed fine. There was no indication that anything was wrong. Jernigan had just wished Nguyen’s husband a happy Father’s Day earlier that afternoon.
This 29-year-old neighbor said it saddened her to think on Father’s Day of all days someone would go home and shoot their children. Nguyen’s husband and brother-in-law tried to help save Renotta when she stumbled out the door and a nurse who lived down the street tried to save the baby.
Barry Sr., Jernigan’s 67-year-old father, said spoken to his son on the phone Sunday afternoon. Jernigan, known as Chris by family and friends, wished his dad a happy Father’s Day and said he intended to hang out around the house until time for work that evening. Jernigan Sr. said his son had been in and out of work since 1997 when he graduated from Dinwiddie High School. Although he had helped the family financially, his son did not talk to him much about family business. According to his father, he was the type that thought he could deal with anything and do everything.
I do not know why he took the baby; I just wish he would have called me. Little Seth was the world to me. This seems like something you would see on television, I would never think it would happen personally.
Caroon confirmed Jernigan legally owned the gun he used to massacre his family. Although neighbors said Jernigan and his wife were on the brink of getting a divorce, police had never been called to the house for reports of domestic violence. Court records show in 1999 Jernigan had been found guilty of reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter, but the details of the case were not clarified.
On Father’s Day Berry Jernigan, Jr. shot his wife and two children in tragic murder-suicide. The family lived in Chesterfield, Virginia in a small quiet neighborhood. Neighbors heard gunfire and heroically attempted to save his wife Renotta and their son Seth. Jernigan and his stepdaughter Alexis were already dead when law enforcement arrived.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)