MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (AP) — A Mountain City couple was found shot to death in their home Tuesday morning with their 6-month-old baby unharmed and still in the mother's arms.
Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said there were no signs of struggle or forced entry. There were valuables in the home, but nothing was stolen.
Billy Payne Jr., 36, was found in his bedroom in the clothes he had slept in, and his girlfriend, 23-year-old Billie Jean Hayworth, was found in the baby's room.
The couple lived with Billy Payne Sr., who told detectives he saw Hayworth get up to feed the baby before he left for work at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. The slayings were discovered about five hours later when an acquaintance who used to live in the neighborhood stopped by. The Paynes would save mail for him that was delivered to his old address, Reece said.
Friends told investigators that Payne was a hard worker who sometimes worked 12-hour days. Reece said there had never been any 911 calls to the home.
Reece told the Johnson City Press that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had been called in to help with the case.
"We're interviewing friends and acquaintances to figure out where we need to go with this — who we need to look at," he said.
Preliminary autopsy results were expected sometime Wednesday.
The baby was staying with the maternal grandmother.
Reece, who has been sheriff since 2006, said the double homicide in what is normally a quiet neighborhood was the "worst I have ever seen."