Sumpter Township — The porch light was lit Monday on the one-story yellow house that’s set about 50 yards back from a dirt road that serves joggers, bicyclists, motor vehicles and horses.
A rake was propped up against the front steps. A shed door on the side of the house was ajar, revealing a lawnmower and gas can inside.
Nothing about the idyllic scene in this community of dirt roads, cornfields and horse barns suggests the violence that erupted inside the house Saturday, when four people were fatally shot by an alleged gunman who turned himself in to police hours later.
“This is Sumpter Township; this doesn’t happen here,” said Lisa Anderson, who rode her horse Rocky down Martinsville Road past the crime scene.
“I heard the gunshots — bang, bang, bang, bang — and I thought about calling the cops, but then I thought, ‘it’s just target practice,'” she said.
Anderson said she was tending to her horse when she heard the shots, just north of where she stables the animal. “You hear people doing target practice around here all the time.”
Sumpter Township police found the four people dead Saturday morning inside the house in the 24000 block of Martinsville, north of Willow and east of Sumpter Road.
Authorities identified an ex-boyfriend of one of the slain victims, a man named Raymond Lee Bailey, as the suspect. Bailey, police said, had admitted to the killing via phone calls and text messages to his contacts.
It was phone activity that helped police trace Bailey’s path about 130 miles north to Bay County.
Troy Cunningham, the Bay County sheriff, said Sumpter Township said Bailey’s pickup truck had been spotted in the area. It was one of many tips that came in over a 24-hour period.
Police said Bailey claimed responsibility for Saturday’s killings in messages via telephone and texts to friends. Police have not released the names or ages of those killed but some have been publicly identified by family friends, such as Laura Tanner, who once had been engaged to Bailey.
A GoFundMe page seeking funds to cover funeral expenses for the victims says: “Our family is reeling from the senseless and tragic murders of sisters Laura and Sarah Tanner, and brothers Neil and Forrest Sampson.”
Investigators tracked Bailey’s truck down Saturday night at an Applebee’s in Bangor Charter Township. They impounded the vehicle and searched for Bailey, but didn’t find him.
Early Sunday morning, about 4 a.m., a woman reported seeing a 6-foot-tall male walking the streets. She said he ducked into the brush when he saw traffic coming.
“We had a little manhunt going on,” Cunningham said.
But Bailey found police before they found him.
Escorted by a friend to the sheriff’s office, Bailey spotted a deputy heading into work to start his shift. The friend honked to get the deputy’s attention, and Bailey turned himself in, noting he had some legal troubles in Wayne County.
Sumpter Township police took him into their custody within two hours of his arrest, Cunningham said; about how long it takes to get to Bay County from Wayne County.
Bailey’s arrest ended a manhunt but may only intensify interest in a 2019 case, wherein felony assault and misdemeanor domestic violence charges against him were dismissed.
At least one of the charges involved his former fiancee, Laura Tanner.
The case was dismissed after the victim did not appear in court, records show. One count, a felony charge of assault with great bodily intent less than murder, was dismissed at a November 2019 hearing. The other, a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, was dismissed in January.
As of Monday afternoon, Bailey has not been formally charged in the quadruple homicide, court records show.
Sumpter Township police chief Eric Luke said the last homicide before Saturday was Jan. 1, 2018, when Brad Fields tortured and killed his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter, Gabby Barrett.
“We just don’t get (homicides) very often,” Luke said. “I’ve been here 26 years, and we may have had five or six.”
Chenyere Yisreal, who lives across the street from the crime scene, said she never knew Bailey to be violent.
“Whenever my mother needed some help, she’d call Ray,” said Yisreal, 76. “There were never any problems over there. This is the country; everyone has an acre-and-a-half or more, but there aren’t any problems.”
Yisreal said she often saw people coming in and out of the house. “(Bailey) would be up early in the morning, and he’d leave.”
Yisreal said she never saw children or anyone other than Tanner and Bailey in the house across the street.
“I saw her the day before she was killed,” Yisreal said. “She was out cutting the lawn, like always. What happened is totally out of context with how I knew them to be. Maybe God will give us a better understanding of it someday.”