MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — Police arrested a convicted kidnapper early today in the fatal shooting of four men in the town that inspired the idyllic community of Mayberry on the 1960s TV series “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Marcos Chavez Gonzalez was charged with four counts of murder in the slayings late Sunday outside Woods TV in Mount Airy, about 100 miles north of Charlotte, police said.
The town, population 8,700, is the hometown of Andy Griffith and has built a tourist trade on nostalgia for the show that continues to thrive in syndication.
The four were shot in the shadow of a water tower that says “Welcome to Mount Airy” and has a picture of Griffith and Opie, his son on the show.
“This is Mayberry … Andy Griffith’s house is in spitting distance here,” said Michael Wood, one of the owners of Woods TV.
Police do not believe the shootings were random, but Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said they did not plan to release a motive.
Jose Armando Hernandez, 46, said through a translator that three of the victims were his nephews. He said his family is “destroyed” over the deaths, which he said stemmed from a problem with a woman. Police would not confirm that or identify the victims.
Gonzalez, 29, was arrested without incident at a motel about 50 miles northeast of the town, Henry County, Va., Sheriff Lane Perry said today. Gonzalez was unarmed when he surrendered just before 4 a.m. to officers who had surrounded the motel.
He was being held in the Henry County jail on charges that included being a fugitive from justice from North Carolina. He indicated he would not fight extradition, Perry said. Jail workers said it was not clear whether he had an attorney.
State prison records show Gonzalez was released more than two years ago after serving more than two years on a 2002 conviction for kidnapping a minor and a probation violation.
State records show the felony kidnapping charge required Gonzalez to register as a sex offender. North Carolina’s post-release supervision of Gonzalez ended last November, Correction Department spokesman Keith Acree said.
Nursing supervisor Sue Coe at Northern Hospital of Surry County confirmed that two people died at the store around 2:30 p.m. Sunday. She said two who were wounded died at the hospital, just across the street from the store. Woods TV sells televisions and satellite systems.
By today, someone had set up a makeshift memorial with flowers. Mourners gathered there and some women lay on the ground crying. Someone christened the memorial with a bottle of Corona beer, which sat half empty next to brightly colored candles with photos of saints on them.
Gary Chilton, an owner of Chilton Insurance Group, which shares the building with Woods TV, said the crime is not indicative of the usually quiet town.
“I’m not sure it’s totally sunk in because it’s so unusual. On any given Sunday there is nothing here in this parking lot. There’s nothing here at all,” he said. “My biggest question is why in this parking lot at all. Why Woods TV parking lot?”