A grieving woman is assisted outside a home where four people were found shot dead on Oct. 30, 2019, in west Philadelphia.
Charles Fox—AP
By Josiah Bates
October 31, 2019

A man accused of murdering four members of his family is in police custody Thursday after he allegedly shot and killed them in a Philadelphia home.

Maurice Louis, 29, has been charged with four counts of criminal homicide over the deaths of his mother Janet Woodson, 51, his stepfather, Leslie Holmes, 56, and two more victims, an 18-year-old and a 7-year-old. The minors were Woodson’s and Holmes’ children, and Louis’ stepbrothers. All four victims had been shot in the head with a shotgun, according to police.

Louis “told the officers at the scene… that he had killed them,” Acting Philadelphia Police Commissioner Christine Coulter told reporters on Wednesday night. Police officers “went through the house and one by one discovered the family members who were deceased,” she added. Each of the bodies was found in a different room.

Authorities say that Louis had purchased the weapon the day before the shooting from a gun dealership in Northeast Philadelphia.

“My heart is down around my ankles,” Virginia Lock, the owner of Lock’s Gun exchange, told NBC10 in an interview. “We do everything by the book.” (Lock said that she performed the instant background check required in Pennsylvania for people to purchase firearms.)

Police had responded to a wellness check call for Woodson and Holmes on Wednesday afternoon, as neither had not shown up for work. When they arrived at the home, they knocked on the front door but there was no answer.

The officers used a firetruck ladder and climbed to the second floor of the home, where they entered through a window that was slightly open, according to a police statement. They found Louis naked sitting in a chair, holding a firearm and drinking from a bottle of vodka. Commissioner Coulter said that Louis did not resist the officers.

Police are not sure when exactly the murders happened, nor any possible motive. Though they have cited Louis’ confession, it is unclear if he has legal representation or has entered a guilty plea.

“Stuff like that you would never think would happen,” Reggie Woodson, Janet Woodson’s older brother, told ABC affiliate WPVI. “I don’t know what to do.”

Write to Josiah Bates at josiah.bates@time.com.

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