Part-time Naples couple shot, killed in Kentucky

Published: August 4, 2021 4:59 PM EDT
Updated: August 13, 2021 12:12 PM EDT

A Kentucky man killed a married couple outside an apartment building they owned, then barricaded himself inside the residence for hours and set a fire before police arrested him, officials said.

Officers responded Tuesday afternoon when a witness reported a shooting, Richmond Police Chief Rodney Richardson told news outlets. The couple had been shot multiple times and were pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

The victims were identified as Christopher Hager, 54, and Gracie Hager, 52, Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison said. The couple lived in Naples part-time, where Christopher was a Realtor with Better Homes & Gardens Pristine Real Estate.

The suspect, later identified as Thomas Birl, 51, of Cadiz, barricaded himself in the residence and set a fire that caused “severe damage” before police shot “rounds of powdered gas” inside, prompting Birl to come out, Richardson said.

Thomas Birl (Credit: Richmond PD)

Birl was taken to a hospital as a precaution before being taken to the Madison County Detention Center. He faces charges of murder, first-degree arson, tampering with physical evidence, first-degree criminal mischief, and receiving stolen property (firearm or handgun).

A motive for the shooting wasn’t clear. Police said they don’t know if the victims knew Birl and their preliminary investigation did not indicate they were serving a notice of eviction.

Richardson said the community was “saddened” by the deaths.

“They were well-respected people in their community, both here and in Naples and in Richmond. And I think there will be a severe loss in the communities,” said Kathy Zorn, who worked with Chris.

Zorn was the one who got the call after the couple was shot. “It was just devastating,” she said. “There has not been one person that I said this to that didn’t say oh my God, because I mean people who knew them, Chris and Gracie, they knew what fine people they were.”

They were the kind of people who put the safety of others before their own safety, in both communities. “Chris taught carry and concealed weapons classes for the Realtors, for the Realtor safety that we encourage our agents to participate in, so it’s pretty sad.”

“The Hagers were pillars of the community and a lot of people know them and have had contact with them,” Richardson said.

Zorn said this serves as a reminder for real estate agents to always watch their backs. “It’s unfortunate but when a tragedy such as this occurs, you know, the Realtor community is like oh yeah, I have to prepare, I have to know, I have to be safe.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report