Originally Posted October 21st The Tennessean
Crosses mark the bottom of the driveway of Gary and Tammy Moore, who were killed Oct. 14 at their Cottontown house. Their 17-year-old son is charged in their deaths. / SANFORD MYERS / THE TENNESSEAN
Tennessee was supposed to change everything for the 17-year-old boy.
Leaving the small town of Scottsville, Ky., was meant to be a step in the right direction — away from the neighborhood where he saw his parents fall into debt, divorce and then reconcile; out of the school where, friends say, he was mercilessly bullied; and beyond his run-ins with police, who were called to the family’s house multiple times, once because his mother told them her son was “out of control.”
“The move to Tennessee was supposed to make (his) life better, to get away from everything,” said his older brother Justin Moore, 27. “It just doesn’t make any sense."
But the trouble escalated when the teenager and his parents, Gary and Tammy Moore, moved into a small rental house on Highway 25 in Sumner County.
Public records document the private turmoil simmering in the Moore home, arguments so intense that just last month the shouting woke Tammy Moore. She walked into the room to see her son — high on drugs — pointing a compound bow at his father. The son was arrested, for the second time this year.
The third time the Sumner County deputies went to the Moores’ Cottontown home, on Oct. 10, they found the couple shot to death. The son and a 21-year-old friend, Chase Vinson of Cross Plains, stand charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and theft exceeding $10,000. Vinson’s brother Chad, 38, is charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder after, authorities say, he helped hide weapons and a stolen truck.
Prosecutors want the case transferred out of juvenile court to criminal court, where the teen can be tried as an adult. If convicted in juvenile court, he would serve a maximum of 19 years. If convicted in adult court, he could be sentenced to life in prison or life without parole.
A judge will make that decision after he hears the results of a psychiatric evaluation he ordered performed on the teenager. The Tennessean does not identify teenagers charged with crimes until they are transferred to adult court.
Deadly combinationPolice, friends and family say that although the Moore family may have struggled at times, they treated one another well. Justin Moore said the family would take frequent vacations to Barren River State Park to camp and boat. He said they’d take trips to Panama City Beach and theme parks. They gathered at the family dinner table to eat nearly every night. And, even though Gary, 54, and Tammy Moore, 51, divorced nearly a decade ago, the couple reconciled and moved back in together about a year later.
“We went camping, we did vacations, we did it all,” Justin Moore said. “It was unbelievable that something like this would happen.”
And yet, he said that his younger brother constantly got into trouble and didn’t respond to his parents’ discipline. Records show a growing anger with his family and a drug problem that developed.
“So, you have domestic issues, robbery and drugs involved,” said Maj. Don Linzy, with the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office. “It mixed to a deadly combination.”
The teen grew up in Scottsville, Ky., in rural Allen County, population about 20,000, just 60 miles northeast of Nashville. There the teen lived with his parents and three older siblings — two brothers and a sister.
Gary Moore worked as a driver for USF-Holland, a Michigan-based trucking company that has offices in Nashville. The company declined to answer questions about what kind of an employee he had been, but he had been driving for the company at least since 2003, court records show.
Tammy Moore didn’t work and often suffered with bouts of depression, Justin Moore said.
Around 2001, Justin Moore said, his parents ended their marriage in what he described as a cordial split, and Gary Moore moved out. About a year later, the two reconciled. Gary moved back in and life resumed as normal, but the couple never remarried.
“They still slept in the same bed and still lived in the same house,” Justin said. “I think it was more or less knowing that they weren’t married that they got along so well. When they got divorced, they were happy as can be. Dad loved Mom.”
In fact, though their marriage was troubled, Gary Moore wanted to keep his wife on his insurance plan so she could get treatment for her depression.
But in 2003, the Moore family filed for bankruptcy, citing more than $131,000 in debt, including medical bills and credit cards, according to federal court records. Justin Moore said the medical bills were related to his mother’s mental health.
That same year, their daughter, Shannon Moore, requested a restraining order against her father, saying he threatened to physically drag her away if she didn’t get home one night when he found her out late with friends. She was 18 at the time. A judge signed the order, warning Gary Moore not to threaten or abuse his daughter, but it was in place only a month before it expired.
Justin Moore laughed when asked about the order, saying it was just a way of trying to “push back” against authority. Linzy agreed, saying that after talking to Shannon Moore, “I think she would say she did the wrong thing.”
Shannon, now 26, could not be reached for comment.
In 2005, her youngest brother had his first encounter with the law.
Scottsville police spotted him in a “carload of intoxicated teens,” according to police records. He was 11 at the time.
Four years later, Tammy Moore called police on her son, saying he stole $5,000 from a lockbox in the house and ran away. It’s unclear from records whether he was arrested in either of those incidents.
Four months later, records show, she called police on him again, saying he was “out of control.”
Wes Vandyke lived next to the teen in Kentucky and befriended him about 11 years ago. He said the Moores were nice and treated him like family.
But as the teen entered high school, trouble started. Vandyke said the teen was continually bullied.
“He said everyone treated him bad but me,” said Vandyke, 21.
Daniel Turner, 22, another friend from high school, said the teen wouldn’t fight back, so he protected him, intervening when someone caused trouble. He also remembered him talking about quitting school and never wanting to go home.
“He just said he didn’t like it,” Turner said. “He would never go into any detail.”
Friend's dad uneasy
After arriving in Tennessee, the teenager befriended Chase Vinson.
Vinson’s father, Dwight, said the teen liked to play martial arts video games with his son, but the father was uneasy about their friendship.
“On his second or third visit, I told my son that he needed to stay away from him, that there was something wrong with him,” said Vinson, 65, of Cross Plains. “Every time the subject of his mom and dad came up, he would shut down. It was like he didn’t want to go home. You could tell that they didn’t get along in some way.”
Vinson’s instincts were right.
In January, Tammy Moore called 911 on her son after an argument in which Gary Moore slapped the teen, which led to a scuffle on the ground. Sumner County deputies arrested the teen on a simple battery charge.
On Sept. 19, Tammy Moore called 911 again on her son. She woke up to arguing and came downstairs to see he “had a compound bow with an arrow in place aimed at her husband.” Deputies said the teen was delusional, “talking about people were out to get him,” and had injected heroin before the incident. Deputies again arrested him, this time on an aggravated battery charge.
The cases were pending when the Moores were killed.
The teen’s Kentucky friend Vandyke said that he still talked with the teen on occasion and that the last time the two talked was Oct. 10, the day the couple were found slain.
“He said, ‘Me and my friends want to come over and hang out,’” he said. “He wanted my help for something.”
But Vandyke said the teenager never told him what he wanted.
Vandyke agreed to let the teen visit, but he never showed up. The next day, Vandyke saw news reports that said Gary and Tammy Moore had been shot to death and set on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.
The teenager remains jailed awaiting his next court hearing. A judge set a $1 million bond for Chase Vinson, and his brother Chad Vinson remains jailed without bond.
Staff writer Nicole Young contributed to this report. Contact Brian Haas at 615-726-8968 or firstname.lastname@example.org