By Brett Barrouquere
JACKSON, Ky. — Nothing seemed amiss when Robert Collins first heard someone had fired gunshots in his trailer park in rural eastern Kentucky. After all, it wasn't uncommon for the neighbors to let a few rounds loose for stress relief or target practice.
When the 50-year-old heard six of his neighbors were dead, including the shooter, it gave the routine sound of gunfire new meaning.
"This is unbelievable, really," Collins said Sunday morning. "It's just got everybody scared around here. Just frightened that it happened."
Police say Collins' neighbor, 47-year-old Stanley Neace, went on a shooting spree Saturday morning, chasing down his wife and killing her and four other people. The man — who had been facing eviction and who a victim's relative said was furious with the way his wife cooked his breakfast — then turned the gun on himself at the trailer court in the Mount Carmel community 11 miles north of Jackson in Breathitt County.
A day after Neace's rampage, the trailer court was again quiet, surrounded by hills and farm fields. Laundry hung on clothes lines and front porches. Dogs barked, and cats wrestled in patches of overgrown grass not far from some discarded furniture.
Kids' bicycles were parked in front of Neace's home near the porch where Neace killed himself — his blood still marked a wall near the door. A large hole was visible on the outside of another trailer with holes from a shotgun's buckshot visible above it, all evidence of where Neace had fired.
Shades or blankets covered the windows of many homes where the shootings occurred. People could be heard talking and televisions and radios played, but no one answered the door when a reporter knocked Sunday.
Sherri Anne Robinson, a relative of two of the victims, said Neace was furious because his eggs were cold. But County Sheriff Ray Clemons and Kentucky State Police spokesman Tony Watts said detectives were still trying Sunday to nail down what prompted Neace's rampage.
The bodies of Neace and his five victims — 54-year-old Sandra J. Neace; 31-year-old Dennis J. Turner of Vancleave; 28-year-old Sandra J. Strong of Vancleve; 40-year-old Tammy R. Kilborn of Jackson; and 30-year-old Teresa G. Fugate of Jackson — were sent to the Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office for autopsies.
Collins said neighbors and a police officer told him Neace snapped over how his wife cooked eggs — but "that don't justify killing five people," he said.
"That's a big price to pay," said Collins, who lives at the front end of the trailer court.
Landlord Ray Rastegar said Neace received monthly disability checks from the Social Security Administration, though he didn't know what his disability was. Rastegar said he had begun the process of evicting Neace, who had lived in the trailer park for about seven years, because he had become more hostile toward neighbors in recent months.
"He was unpredictable," Rastegar said. "Little things would set him off."
The sheriff had known Neace for years and said he was not violent.
"He was a little hot sometimes, but we never had any major problems," Clemons said. "Nothing like this."
Collins said Neace was a good neighbor over the past few years, but he had suspected for a while that something had gone wrong in Neace's life.
"I thought maybe Stanley would have killed himself, maybe his wife," Collins said.
He also recalled Fugate, who lived directly behind him with her four children, as "a wonderful mother."
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"I don't know what they'd do without her," Collins said.