LaGRANGE — Residents of LaGrange, in northeast Missouri, are still struggling to understand how a young mother and her baby could be victims of a killing in their small community.
Christopher Piersee, 24, is accused of killing his 21-year-old wife, Patricia, and their 5-month-old son, Landon. Patricia Piersee's father found both inside their home Tuesday morning. Piersee was charged a day later with two counts of second-degree murder and is in jail without bond.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jake DeCoster said Piersee is accused of killing his son by "striking him in the head with his fist or other object." Patricia Piersee was shot.
Authorities declined to discuss a possible motive.
"What we're trying to do is get background information to determine what happened up to the point of the killings," Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish said.
The Hannibal Courier-Post said Christopher Piersee had a limited criminal record. He was among three men arrested and convicted in June 2007 for using a stolen check to pay for pizza. The men were fined and ordered to pay restitution of $144.62.
He also had two traffic violations in Missouri.
LaGrange Police Chief Larry Penn said authorities had been called to the Piersee house in the last several months for a domestic dispute.
The crime has shaken people in this Mississippi River community of 1,000 residents about 30 miles south of the Iowa border.
Still visible from the street on a window of the home, surrounded by yellow police tape, was a chilling message written in red: "STAY OUT 911." Police refused to say whether Christopher Piersee wrote the message.
No one seemed to know much about him.
"You used to know everybody who lived in LaGrange, everybody," said lifelong resident Penny White, owner of Grandma's Kitchen on Main Street, two blocks from the murder scene. "But it's not like that anymore."
LaGrange has changed drastically in recent years. A foundry closed. A casino opened a few years ago and more people come and go, White said.
The Piersees apparently moved to town last fall. Neither worked in LaGrange, residents said.
The family came into White's restaurant once, and Christopher Piersee occasionally came in alone. He seemed nice enough, White said.
Another lifelong resident, Arlene Hickman, literally shuddered when asked about the killings.
"It's bad," she said. "People do this in the big city, but in this small town? It's kind of scary."
Edie Nichols manages a Casey's General Store in LaGrange. She said Christopher Piersee applied for a job there.
"They came in and out of here, but I really didn't know them," Nichols said. "We just have so many new people in and out of here now."