Police: Man staying with girlfriend allegedly killed Richmond couple, set duplex fire

·3 min read

New story with updates: Witnesses saw man fire shots that killed well-known Richmond KY couple, police say

A man allegedly shot and killed a Madison County couple outside a duplex they owned, then barricaded himself inside and set the building on fire Tuesday afternoon, Richmond police said.

The couple who died in the shooting near Keeneland Drive were Christopher Hager, 54, and Gracie Hager, 52, said Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison.

Richmond police Chief Rodney Richardson said at a news conference Tuesday night that police were called to Keystone Drive at about 2:25 p.m., after a witness reported that a man, later identified as Thomas Birl, 51, had shot another man.

He said Wednesday that police believe Birl was staying with a girlfriend who lived at the duplex, which is owned by the Hagers.

On Wednesday, Richardson said that Birl was still in police custody and had not been charged.

He said previously the Hagers were found “shot multiple times.” They were pronounced dead at the scene.

After the shooting, Richardson said Birl, of Cadiz, ran back inside the duplex.

Over the next several hours, he said officers tried to get Birl to come out.

He said officers eventually “executed a warrant” at the residence. He said they put “rounds of powdered gas” inside, which prompted Birl to come out of his own accord at about 6:30 p.m.

But before coming out, Richardson said Birl ignited fire that caused “a large structure fire” inside. He said the building had “severe damage.”

Richardson said Birl was arrested and taken to a hospital “as a precautionary measure,” but he was not thought to have been injured.

Richmond police were continuing to investigate Tuesday night.

The Hagars were well-known in the community

Richardson said the community was “saddened” because the Hagers were “pillars of our community.”

“A lot of people knew them,” he said. “A lot of people had contact with them.”

Christopher Hager’s Facebook page indicates that he was active in the real estate business, working at Better Homes and Gardens in Naples, Florida, as well as ERA Professional Hometown Services in Richmond. He and Gracie Hagar owned several Richmond properties, including a Shell gas station near Eastern Kentucky University that sold baked goods, sandwiches and gifts.

Erin Ackerman, an agent at the real estate office where Christopher Hager worked, said the Hagers were “the epitome of a godly couple.”

“They both had huge servants’ hearts,” Ackerman said. “You could not have met a better couple.”

The Hagars had connections with First Baptist Church Richmond, and the church posted on Facebook about the couple.

“It has been difficult to find words tonight as we grieve a precious couple who served the Father well! Our hearts are simply broken,” the post said. “Their loss will be felt by so many in our community so we ask tonight that you pray for the family and dear friends of Chris and Gracie.”

Mike Chitwood commented, “Served with them when I was a Pastoral Ministry Intern at FBC. Chris was the Chairman of the Deacons and Gracie served in countless other areas. Together they were truly servants of God. Prayers to their family during this time.”

“Christopher Hager and Gracie Hager were loved by so many,” said Kirkland Humphrey. “I’ll always remember from my childhood going to their pool & the many nights I stayed at their house. They were awesome neighbors.”

“Two of the most wonderful people you’d ever come across, just gone, in the blink of an eye. The sun sets on a much darker Richmond, tonight,” said Bobby Sexton.

A community prayer service was held on Wednesday for the Hagers at Richmond’s Eastside Community Church.

Updated | Slayings of beloved Richmond couple stun community, friends

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