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Police in Kentucky hold man in killing of couple, arson of home

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Posted at 9:15 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 21:36:49-04

RICHMOND, Kent. — A man faces several charges, including murder, after allegedly shooting and killing a Richmond couple Tuesday evening.

51-year-old Thomas Birl of Cadiz is charged with murder, first-degree arson, tampering with physical evidence, and first-degree criminal mischief.

On Tuesday evening, Birl barricaded himself inside a Richmond, Kentucky, apartment after allegedly shooting and killing two people.

In a news conference Tuesday, Richmond police said that Birl, 51, shot and killed 54-year-old Chris Hager and 52-year-old Gracie Hager.

"Our community is saddened because Mr. and Mrs. Hager are pillars of our community," said Rodney Richardson, Interim Police Chief with the Richmond Police Department. "A lot of people knew them. A lot of people had contact with them."

Police said Birl was a resident at the Keystone Drive apartment owned by Chris Hager, but a motive is still unclear. Witnesses at the scene told police Birl shot the Hagers multiple times outside of the apartment and ran back into the apartment, where he remained barricaded for roughly four hours.

Officers say he barricaded himself inside and set afire before police shot "rounds of powdered gas" inside, prompting him to come out.

"Due to how Mr. Birl chose to exit his barricaded position, he was taken to a medical facility as a safety precaution to ensure he did not have any injuries not visible to law enforcement," Richmond Police Department wrote in a Facebook post.

Birl remains at the medical facility with law enforcement at his side and will be taken to the Madison County Detention Center as soon as his treatment is complete.

Police say it's unknown if the couple were familiar with the suspect before their death. A preliminary investigation does not indicate the two were at the residence to serve a notice of eviction.

"The sad news is that we have a daughter who Mr. Cornelison had to call earlier before we got here and let her know that both her parents are gone. And that's not an easy call to make," said Richardson.

The investigation is still underway, and detectives are still processing evidence.

A prayer vigil will be held for the Hagers at Eastside Community Church in Richmond at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Web staff at WLEX first reported this story.