A Kentucky man shot four people to death and then killed himself Saturday in what the local sheriff called “a horrific murder spree,” PEOPLE confirms.
“I have worked in law enforcement for 34 years,” Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price said in a statement on the department’s Facebook page. “This is one of the most disturbing acts of violence I have ever seen.”
Kentucky State Police identified the shooter as Joseph Nickell.
The victims were Nickell’s parents, James and Arlene Nickell, along with Joseph Nickell’s girlfriend, Lindsey Vanhoose, and Lindsey’s mother, Patricia Vanhoose, State Police Trooper William Petry tells PEOPLE.
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Authorities found a note at the first of two locations where the victims were discovered, but “I don’t know what was on the note,” says Petry.
A 911 call at 3:30 p.m. Saturday alerted authorities to a shooting in the Mackenzie Branch community of Johnson County, said the sheriff, who reported two bodies in the kitchen of the residence deceased from gunshot wounds.
Those first two victims were Nickell’s parents, Petry says.
A witness at the scene told authorities that a suspect had fled in a black Toyota Camry. A subsequent 911 call reported the vehicle about 7 miles away parked outside of an apartment complex in Paintsville.
After authorities on the second scene identified an apartment to search, they found the bodies of Lindsey and Patricia Vanhoose along with that of “the perpetrator,” Joseph Nickell, Price said.
The investigation is continuing.
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“The lives of four innocent victims were taken,” the sheriff’s statement said. “The perpetrator then took his own life.”
“There are no words to describe the heartbreak in seeing four lives taken due to the actions of one man.”
He added: “I ask for prayers for the families.”