New details in Stokes County murder-suicide paint picture of troubled marriage, custody battle

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STOKES COUNTY, N.C. — New details have emerged about the family deputies found dead from gunshot wounds at a residence on Ralph Boyles Road Wednesday morning.

Deputies believe Coleton and Amanda Tarpley and their two children, Charlie, 6, and Coleton, 9, likely died as a result of a murder-suicide.

According to the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office, a preliminary investigation indicates that Coleton Tarpley was the shooter.

Marital troubles

On March 4, 2014, Coleton Tarpley filed for custody of their two children. In the custody complaint he alleges that Amanda Tarpley left the family home on March 1, 2014, to live with a lover in King.

The complaint further claimed that Amanda Tarpley intended to leave the state with her lover and the two children to live with the lover’s family in or around Charleston, S.C.

Coleton Tarpley also said in the complaint that he believed Amanda Tarpley had suffered a nervous breakdown or similar disorder and was not fit to have custody of the children.

A handwritten statement by Coleton Tarpley stated that Amanda Tarpley had woken him up on a Saturday morning and told him that “she was in love with someone else and was leaving.” He continued, writing that “she looked extremely strange like she was out of her mind. Her pupils were dilated and she looked at me wide-eyed and was smiling and kind of chuckling.” He finished by saying that he believed she was “not in her right state of mind and not thinking clearly.”

Coleton Tarpley had additionally filed for an order for protection against Amanda Tarpley on March 3, 2014.

In a temporary custody order filed on May 21, 2014, a Stokes County judge ordered that Coleton Tarpley had primary custody of the two children, with Amanda Tarpley having limited visitation rights on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as for a two-hour period on weekends.

Murder-suicide

On Wednesday morning, the family was found dead from gunshot wounds in the residence.

The two children were to arrive home early as a result of an early dismissal from Poplar Springs Elementary School.

Coleton Tarpley’s father, Charles David Tarpley, was said to have gone to the house to get the children off the bus and noticed something wrong.

Stokes County sheriff’s deputies were called for a welfare check. Upon arrival, they were advised by Charles Tarpley that he had a key and unlocked the door.

The chain lock on the door was still secured and Charles Tarpley kicked the door open.

Once inside, Charles Tarpley and Deputy D.J. Moore located Coleton and Amanda Tarpley on the couch deceased from gunshot wounds. Further inspection of the house led to the discoveries of the two children, also dead from gunshot wounds.

It remains unclear why Amanda Tarpley was at the residence.

Evidence collected

Inside the residence, deputies located a Ruger SR9 9mm, cartridge cases, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Two spent cartridge cases were found near the bodies of the parents; one on the couch and another behind it. Two more cases were found in the master bedroom; one on a dog bed and another under a pillow.

A smoking device was located inside Coleton Tarpley’s left front pocket.

It is unclear if Coleton or Amanda Tarpley were intoxicated at the time or had drugs in their system.

The sheriff’s department has not determined a motive for the killings.

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