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Berkeley County couple dead in apparent murder-suicide

October 30, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

A man apparently shot his wife three times early Tuesday before taking his own life with the same gun while the couple's two children were asleep in their Berkeley County home, police said.

Brant Gregory Kitzmiller, 32, and Tessia Ann Kitzmiller, 28, were found dead in the master bedroom at 95 Fawn Haven Court shortly after an emergency dispatcher received a 911 call at 3:14 a.m., according to Lt. Gary Harmison of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Harmison said autopsies will be performed in Charleston, W.Va., at the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The cause of both deaths appears to be gunshot wounds to the head, Harmison said.

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According to Harmison, the 911 call came from the couple's home in the Pikeside Meadows subdivision south of Martinsburg off Paynes Ford Road. Authorities believe Brant Kitzmiller placed the call.

Police do not know if Kitzmiller shot his wife before or after he is believed to have told an emergency dispatcher that authorities would find two bodies at the home before hanging up, Harmison said.

"(A dispatcher) tried to call back and didn't get an answer," Harmison said.

When eight or nine sheriff's deputies and two West Virginia State Police troopers arrived at the home, they found the front door unlocked and the couple's children, a 3-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, asleep in separate bedrooms next to their parents' room, Harmison said.

The children were not harmed and were unaware of what happened, Harmison said.

Brant Kitzmiller was found lying face down on the bedroom floor dressed in night clothes. A handgun believed to be the weapon that he used to shoot his wife and himself in the head was found near him, Harmison said. Harmison would not release the caliber of the weapon.

Tessia Kitzmiller, also dressed in sleepwear, was found in bed with her head turned to one side, Harmison said.

No evidence of a struggle or altercation between the couple was found, Harmison said. No record of domestic violence could be found Tuesday in databases of the magistrate or circuit courts in Berkeley County.

A neighbor who declined to be identified said she heard "all this bangin'... like someone was trying to break into my basement door" about the time of the shooting, but didn't know what happened until talking with a reporter hours later.

"I've heard noises (from there) before like that," the neighbor said.

The neighbor said the Kitzmillers stayed to themselves but seemed to be a nice couple.

Family members who gathered at the home Tuesday declined to comment. Their vehicles filled the front lawn, and one of them appeared to be loaded with children's items. A cluster of toys and a child-size picnic table were in the backyard.

Harmison said Tessia Kitzmiller's family is from the Cumberland, Md., area and her husband's family is from Keyser, W.Va., in neighboring Mineral County. The couple lived at the Berkeley County home for at least two years and both commuted to health care jobs in Virginia, Harmison said.

Harmison said the children's maternal grandmother was given temporary custody of the children. A West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources official met with family members, Harmison said.

This is the second reported murder-suicide in the Tri-State area in less than a week. Police in Frederick County, Md., said 30-year-old Sean McMahon hanged himself Thursday after binding and gagging his estranged wife with duct tape and then setting their New Market, Md., town house on fire.

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