Raeford, N.C. — As they buried a Hoke County couple killed in their front yard last weekend, family members said Thursday that they are still struggling to make sense of the tragedy.
Tommy Charles Brown Sr., 35, and his fiancée, Thalia Rebbecca Mook, 35, were gunned down outside their home on Philippi Church Road in the Rockfish community on Saturday evening, authorities said.
John Oliver Hill Jr., 48, who lives across the street, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in their deaths and is being held without bond in the Hoke County jail.
Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Brown asked Hill not to shoot guns in the neighborhood because children were outside playing. Hill then crossed the street with a rifle and shot Brown in the back, the sheriff said.
"When we heard the gunshots, we looked out the window. I saw my dad lying on the floor and my mom running out," 10-year-old Tommy Brown Jr. said.
Peterkin said Mook was shot when she ran outside to help her fiancé.
Antonio Tillman, 14, was inside the home with Tommy Jr. and two other children at the time. He said he told the others to get in a back bedroom while he headed outside.
"I did what I could because that's their only son, and I didn't want anything to happen to him," Antonio said.
After Hill left, he went out to grab a phone from Mook and called 911.
"It's hard to get it off my mind. I sleep, and I dream about it," he said, noting that Mook was like a second mother to him.
Family and friends said Tommy Brown Sr. and Mook made a welcoming home, and neighborhood children always dropped by, especially to play basketball.
"My dad, he taught me how to be a great basketball player. He could have been in the NBA, but he wanted to stay with us," Tommy Jr. said.
"His life was around his family. He would work. He was a hard-working man," said Annie Brown, Tommy Brown Sr.'s mother.
The couple also tried to reach out to Hill, who lived alone.
"He would come over for Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner, New Year's. They would make wreaths for him during the holidays. My sister would take him to the grocery store," said Mook's sister, Jennifer Ramirez.
Deputies found 10 firearms during a search of Hill's home, Peterkin said.
Neighbors said they suspected Hill was mentally ill. His family told the Fayetteville Observer newspaper that he suffered from schizophrenia for 16 years.