According to the Owensboro Police Department, a call for a welfare check came in from the Judicial Center Thursday. The responding officer arrived to the 900 block of Audubon Avenue to find four victims. The bodies were found in the basement within two or three rooms in close vicinity of each other, according to Public Information Officer Andrew Boggess.
Detectives tried to speak with all of the neighbors, including those who reported hearing gunshots. OPD cannot confirm what those conversations were.
Each one of the families has been contacted and spoken to by OPD or the Daviess County Coroner’s Office.
When asked how long it would be before OPD could speak with the fourth victim, Carmen R. Vanegas, Boggess said that OPD does not have an update on her condition, and that would be something for the doctors to determine.
The Daviess County PVA shows that Jay Michael Sowders, one of the deceased victims, owns the home on Audubon Avenue. But, at this time, it cannot be confirmed if the other three victims lived at the residence.
OPD is unsure how many children were currently living in the residence. Owensboro Public Schools Information Officer Jared Revlett confirmed that the three children, two in elementary school and one in middle school, were at their respective schools at the time of the shooting. Boggess said social services was contacted in regard to the children. As for reports or rumors that there was no electricity in the home, Boggess said OPD found a generator, but can’t confirm lack of electricity.
Both suspects, Baines and Shemwell, were charged with outstanding warrants, but enough information was obtained to arrest them both. Although Shemwell was initially released on bond, with further information, OPD was able to arrest him for three counts murder and first degree assault.
“So far, I believe this is going to be isolated. I don’t know that there is any ongoing danger. However the investigation is very early and I am sure that is something that the detectives will try to determine to verify that there is not an ongoing threat,” Boggess said.
While it is uncertain where the suspects were found, it is believed that the suspect knew at least one of the victims. While OPD could not go into specifics as to what led officers to these suspects, they said they received many tips from the community and were able to speak with multiple people that had “bits of information, that led detectives to link these two individuals to the crimes.”
When asked how important public tips were to this investigation, Boggess said, “it’s crucial.”
“It’s almost impossible for us to do our job without the assistance from the community,” Boggess said. “Sometimes the information we get is accurate and helps, sometimes it doesn’t. But if we don’t get any information it’s very difficult for us to solve the crimes.”
As far as motive, OPD said it is too early in the investigation to speculate. The scene is still being processed, so they can’t yet confirm if weapons or drugs were found in the residence. With autopsies still ongoing, OPD cannot disclose how many times the victims were each shot.
It cannot be verified if security cameras found at the home were functioning at the time of the crimes. Search warrants are still being executed and there are persons of interest that OPD would still like to talk to, but no other suspects have been identified at this time.
OPD said the initial crime scene is nearing completion and the processing of that scene is coming to an end. However, OPD has executed multiple search warrants and there is likely more evidence to come. It is entirely possible for additional charges for the two individuals in custody or to find additional suspects as evidence comes in.
OPD still has not spoken with the second man whose photo was released Thursday night. Although he is not a suspect, he was last seen with one of the victims within the last day or two.
According to OPD, it has been 15 to 20 years since Owensboro saw its last triple homicide.
The Commonwealth Attorney and The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are involved in the case. The Kentucky State Police has also been involved with evidence collection and processing.
According to the Owensboro Police Department, Arnett B. Baines, 30, and Cylar L. Shemwell, 31, both of Owensboro, have both been charged with three counts of murder and one count of assault in the first degree in relation to this case.
The Daviess County Coroner’s Office has identified the deceased victims as Jay Michael Sowders, 43, Robert D. Smith Jr. 35, and Christopher Carie, 18.
Victim Carmen R. Vanegas, 35, is currently being treated for her injuries.