Youth pastor accused of killing family on Thanksgiving denied bond

Posted at 12:55 PM, Nov 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-27 23:26:59-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The Chesterfield youth pastor accused of killing his wife, his stepdaughter, and his stepdaughter's boyfriend on Thanksgiving Day appeared in Chesterfield Court for the first time since the triple homicide. Christopher Gattis, 58, was arrested on Thanksgiving inside his Dogwood Ridge Court home.

Victims Jeanett Gattis, 58, Candice L. Kunze, 30, and Andrew E. Buthorn, 36, all lived in the home with Christopher Gattis. All suffered gunshot wounds, police said.

30-year-old Candice L. Kunze and 58-year-old Jeanett L. Gattis

Gattis was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

He appeared first in Chesterfield General District Court Monday morning where he was arraigned on the murder charge as it related to Andrew Buthorn's death.

The judge denied Gattis bond and gave him a court appointed attorney. He is being held at Riverside Regional Jail, where is he on suicide watch, according to officials.

Gattis was due in Juvenile and Domestic Relations later Monday where he will be charged in the murders of his wife and step daughter.

CBS 6 previously reported that police responded to the Chester home on Thanksgiving after an alarm call.

Crime Insider sources tell Jon Burkett that the stepdaughter’s boyfriend tripped the alarm as he was coming outside the Dogwood Ridge Court home after he had been shot.

Those same sources say several disagreements over the course of a few weeks may have been what triggered the violent Thanksgiving night triple murder.

Christopher Gattis was arrested at his Chester home.

Gattis served as youth pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Chester.

"Grace Lutheran Church has experienced many hardships over the years, but this heartbreak has unique challenges," a church spokesperson said in a statement. "Grace Lutheran Church asks for the prayers from the community as our congregation begins the process of addressing the grief being experienced by everyone involved."

Past Problems

Christopher and Jeanett graduated together from Colonial Heights High School in 1977, according to friends. They did not fall in love until much later after they reunited at a high school reunion in the early 2000s.

One friend said Christopher used to drink, but quit. The friend described Christopher and Jeanett's relationship as "opposites attract."

He described Jeanett as bubbly, outgoing, loud and fun, and Christopher as fairly quiet.

Christopher Gattis had previously been charged with public intoxication in 2010, but the charge was waived according to court records.

Chesterfield Court documents reveal Gattis was charged with assault and battery back in September of 2012.

CBS 6 problem solver investigator Melissa Hipolit tracked down alleged victim Kevin Deford.

Deford is a newspaper delivery man who said he was delivering a paper called when Gattis ran out in front of his car and threw one of the papers through his window and hit him on the head with it.

Deford said his son then jumped out of the car to try to protect his dad and that is when Gattis pulled out a box cutter and flashed it at his son.

"He was out doing leaves that day, if I remember correctly, and just lost it is the best I can describe it," Deford said.

Deford described Gattis as being on edge and agitated and said Gattis later explained why.

"He had gotten a test result that he and the family were concerned about, and they were waiting for the doctor to call back with another one, and that was his reason for being on edge," Deford said.

Court records related to the murder charges Gattis is facing show that Gattis told the court he has $2,000 in savings and pays $300 monthly in medical expenses.

Gattis was found guilty in the assault and battery case, but he appealed it and the charges were ultimately dismissed after he agreed to pay for aggravation and damages.

Gattis is due back in court on January 30.

Friends: 'It's hard to wrap your head around it"

The case is baffling to police and to friends who knew the victims.

Jaclyn Powell attended graduate school at Radford with Candice Kunze and says she never heard her friend say an unkind word about her stepfather.  She says the family appeared happy.

"They were always posting pictures of just being together, cooking around the house and always enjoying time together," Powell says.  "It's unfair. It's just one of those tragic horrible situations and it's hard to wrap your head around it."

Neighbor heard shot

Neighbors called their block "close-knit" and many said they knew the victims and the suspect.

Neighbor Mike Brown said he was stunned by the shooting and called Christopher Gattis a gentle man.

"We were all friends. We hang out sometimes [and] cook out in the back,” Brown said. "I mean every time I see them, they're always the same way. [I] had no clue that they were having problems that I knew of, but behind closed doors is behind closed doors."

Celebration of life ceremony

A Celebration of life ceremony will be held for mother and daughter, Jeanett Gattis and Candice L. Kunze this Saturday, Dec 2nd at 11:30 a.m.

The ceremony will be held at Grace Lutheran Church, located at 13028 Harrowgate Road in Chester.

Attendees are asked to carpool due to an expected large crowd.

This is a developing story. Witnesses can send news tips here.



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