HOT SPRINGS, Va. — Beacher F. Hackney had long been a mystery to co-workers at the Homestead, a luxurious resort here that has entertained presidents, the wealthy and other VIPs for more than two centuries.
Now Hackney, a kitchen worker who spoke so infrequently that some thought he might be deaf, has become a fugitive, wanted in the killing of two supervisors in this remote and picturesque area of Virginia where people strained their memories to recall the last such crime.
Bath County Sheriff Larry Norfleet said Hackney, 59, of Covington, Va., walked into the fourth-floor kitchen in the center of the sprawling complex about 8 p.m. Saturday, shot two supervisors to death with a .380 semiautomatic handgun and left on foot.
Norfleet said there was no known history of disagreements or disciplinary problems with resort officials or between Hackney and the victims, who were identified as Ronnie Stinnett, 60, of Ashwood, Va., and Dwight Kerr, 39, of Covington.
Townspeople, however, said they had heard that Hackney’s hours at the resort had been reduced. Norfleet said that about 700 guests were in the hotel and that they gathered in the ballroom as law enforcement officials searched the area.
Yesterday, as Virginia state troopers stopped and searched vehicles on the main street here, residents expressed shock at the killings, in a place where little out of the ordinary seems to happen.
The Homestead is located in the middle of a Hot Springs, a small town in the middle of a large county with a small population. Every time we’ve been there, the one thing that has struck Kellie and I is the simpler, friendlier pace of life there. I’ve got to imagine that his has come as quite a shock to the normally quiet streets of Hot Springs.