Ripley County homicides: A community still shaken - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Ripley County homicides: A community still shaken

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Bonnie Chase and Edgar Atkinson Bonnie Chase and Edgar Atkinson
Loyd and Irene Piatt Loyd and Irene Piatt

By Crystal Britt - bio | email

DONIPHAN, MO (KFVS) - Four fires, four murders and four suspects.

This past summer the crimes left many people in Ripley County at a loss for words.

New details are beginning to surface as the suspects in these cases get ready for more court appearances in the coming days.

It is a story that has rocked the city of Doniphan. The first fire happened in June, then less than a month later there was another fire.

Four people died, but not from smoke inhalation.

The suspects are relatives of the couple who died in the first blaze.

It continues to take wild twists and turns, and has yet to go before a jury.

June 23, 2010 was a day Imetta Farrar will never forget.

"I have re-lived it a lot since then," said Farrar.

Her in-law's home outside Doniphan nearly burned to the ground.

The bodies of 77-year-old Loyd Piatt, and his 80-year-old wife Irene were later found inside.

"They found her (Irene) on the couch where she normally sat, and we kept saying why," said Farrar. "She was in arms' reach of the door."

Investigators ruled the Piatt's cause of death was smoke inhalation.

Days later they were laid to rest.

"We knew something was wrong, but didn't know what," said Farrar.

That fear soon intensified.

"A week and a half later on July 4th the house burned again," said Farrar.

There was still no reason for investigators to suspect foul play.

"A fire burns up a lot of evidence," said Ripley County Sheriff Ron Barnett.

Something happened on July 10, 2010 that changed everything and would soon turn Ripley County upside down.

Another fire broke out in Current View, not far from Doniphan.

It wasn't just any fire, but again an elderly couple: Edgar Atkinson and Bonnie Chase were found dead inside.

"When that happened, I said wow something is going on," said Sheriff Barnett.

An autopsy on 81-year-old Atkinson revealed he had been shot.

It was all investigators needed to bust the case wide open.

"It is hard to believe anyone would do something like that," said neighbor Norman Cooper.

With neighbors and loved ones in shock, plans for two funerals were underway.

Around the same time deputies arrested four people.

"What surprised me more was who it was instead of who it wasn't," said neighbor Jerry Colburn.

Officers arrested David Youngblood, his wife Melissa Youngblood, their daughter Chantale Youngblood, and Chantale's boyfriend Keith Boyles.

They all faced multiple charges including murder and arson.

According to the probable cause statement, Melissa Youngblood told police on Saturday, July 10 she, her husband, daughter, and her daughter's boyfriend bought some gasoline at the Casey's General Store in Doniphan.

She said they then all drove out to Ed Atkinson's home in rural Ripley County.

Also according to the probable cause statement, Melissa Youngblood told officers she heard her husband David ask Keith Boyles, "Are we gonna do this?"

According to Melissa Youngblood, Boyles responded by saying, "Yes."

Melissa Youngblood then said both David and Keith went in the house, and came out a short time later to get a gas can.

While sitting in the car with her daughter Chantale, Melissa said they heard two gunshots from inside the home.

"You don't know who to trust," said Jerry Colburn.

Colburn was a long time friend of victim Ed Atkinson.

"He was a good guy, a real good guy," said Colburn. "I think that's what got him into trouble."

Colburn says Atkinson had, at least once, loaned the Youngbloods money.

Melissa and Chantale Youngblood reportedly cleaned house for Bonnie Chase on a number of occasions.

"We just couldn't imagine this kind of situation," said Charles Bowman, brother of Bonnie Chase.

As Charles Bowman stands over his sister Bonnie's grave he can't help but think about her kind spirit.

He called her the most giving person he knew, and reads a verse out of the Bible that he says fit her perfectly.

"God loves a cheerful giver."

Bowman says his sister would help anyone, and fears someone took advantage of that generosity in the worst way possible.

"You just can't imagine," said Bowman.

Meanwhile, the nightmare is far from over for loved one's of Loyd and Irene Piatt.

"You change the address number, and the name of the people and it's the same thing," said Imetta Farrar.

Investigators agreed, and the unthinkable would soon happen.

The bodies of the Piatt's were set to be unearthed from what was supposed to be their final resting place.

"It's just been a total nightmare from the front", said Farrar.

The day came for the bodies to be exhumed.

"That was very sad," said Sheriff Ron Barnett.

It was a first on Sheriff Barnett's watch.

"That's a time of peace and rest. It's supposed to be over at that point," said Barnett.

"That was unreal," said Wilma Steffel, a friend of Irene Piatt. "Something like that doesn't happen in our life, but that did."

The autopsy results revealed both died not from smoke inhalation, but gunshot wounds.

"We wonder what they thought at the last moment," said Imetta Farrar. "Did she see him get shot? Did he see her get shot? She was shot in the stomach. Did she die instantly? Did she know they were spraying gas on her?"

Police suspect the same people already charged in connection with the other deaths.

David Young blood, his wife Melissa, their daughter Chantale, and her boyfriend Keith Boyles.

David is the Piatt's nephew.

Sheriff Ron Barnett says on the night of the fire back in June that David Youngblood showed up at the scene.

He reportedly put up no trespassing signs on his aunt and uncle's property.

The four suspects were all seen at the funerals.

The Piatt's pastor noticed a lack of emotion.

"It wasn't there," said Harold Tackitt, pastor of First Assembly of God.

Family members of both the Youngblood's and Keith Boyles declined our requests for interviews.

However, David Youngblood's sister Deborah did speak briefly with Heartland News back in July.

"Nobody has mentioned the fact that these people could possibly be innocent," said Deborah Youngblood. "It's so hard to conceive he (David) could have anything to do with this."

The sheriff believes they have the right people behind bars, and he expects them to be charged with the Piatt's deaths as well.

"I think that will come out in the end," said Sheriff Barnett.

The Piatt's daughter-in-law agrees.

"I believe it was them," said Imetta Farrar.

Pastor Harold Tackitt very well could have been the last person to speak with Irene before she died.

He says she called that Wednesday night to say she and Loyd wouldn't be at church because her nephew, David Youngblood, was coming by to talk about plans to take Irene to the doctor the next day.

"If it hadn't been for that they would have been at church that night," said Pastor Tackitt.

Tackitt believes Irene had a premonition something was about to happen.

"During a time of prayer she had a vision," said Tackitt. "She saw a red light coming toward them. She saw her and Loyd going up on a cloud of smoke."

It's a chilling thought as he looks out at the empty pew where they once sat.

A congregation and a county have been forever changed.

Multiple lives were rocked, and for what reason? We may never know.

"It just don't happen here," said Sheriff Barnett.

The Youngbloods and Keith Boyles are still only charged in connection with the deaths of Ed Atkinson and Bonnie Chase.

The Youngblood's all have court appearances in the coming days.

A judge has agreed to order a mental evaluation on Keith Boyles.  Boyles has a court appearance later in March.

The Youngblood's have two other children. No word on who they are staying with, but a family member told Heartland News they are adjusting well under the circumstances.

Copyright KFVS 2011. All rights reserved.

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