What we know so far about the killings of a Richmond KY couple

·3 min read

A Richmond couple was shot and killed on Tuesday outside of a duplex they recently bought, and a man staying in the building has been charged with two counts of murder, according to police and court records.

The couple, Christoper Hager, 54, and Gracie Hager, 52, were well-known in the community, owning several residential properties and a gas station called University Shell in Richmond.

Their deaths shocked friends and family, as evidenced by the outpouring of commemorative posts on social media.

“Two of the most wonderful people you’d ever come across, just gone, in the blink of an eye,” said Bobby Sexton on Facebook.

Here’s what is known about the killing.

What happened

Police were called to a duplex in the 200 block of Keystone Drive around 2:55 p.m. after witnesses reported hearing gunshots and seeing a man firing a gun into a truck, according to the Interim Chief Rodney Richardson.

Thomas Birl, 51, of Cadiz, allegedly shot at Gracie Hager, who was inside a truck, multiple times, before turning back to Christopher Hager who was on the ground screaming after already being shot once, according to witness accounts described in court documents. Birl fired at Christopher Hager again, shooting him in the head, witnesses told police.

Police said the Hagers were found where they were shot.

According to the arrest citation, Birl went back into the duplex and barricaded himself inside.

Police attempted to get Birl to leave the duplex before executing a warrant on the building.

He said police put “rounds of powdered gas” inside the residence, which prompted Birl to come out of his own accord at around 6:30 p.m.

Ultimately Birl was arrested about four hours after the shooting, Richardson said.

Where

The killing took place outside of a duplex owned by the Hagers on Keystone Drive, near Keeneland Drive.

According to property records, the couple had purchased the building in mid-July.

Police believe Birl was staying there with a girlfriend who lived in the duplex.

The fire

Before exiting the duplex, police say Birl started a fire in the building. He reportedly “leaped” from a window as the residence was ablaze.

According to an arrest report, the building “was nearly completely destroyed,” sustaining more than $100,000 worth of damage. The property was valued at about $130,000 during the July sale a few weeks earlier.

Richardson said police arrested Birl and took him to a hospital as a “precautionary measure.”

The investigation

Police found 9 mm shell casings in the driveway where witnesses said the shooting happened, according to court records. They also allegedly found a 9 mm bullet in the truck where Gracie Hager was found and a 9 mm handgun with a partially empty magazine inside the room Birl had escaped from as the duplex went up in flames.

Police said Wednesday that it isn’t yet clear if the Hagers were familiar with the suspect before their death, and no motive has been determined.

“The preliminary investigation did not indicate the victims were at the residence to serve notice of eviction,” police said in a Facebook post.

On Wednesday, Birl was charged with two counts of murder, arson, evidence tampering and criminal mischief, according to court records.

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