'It's not supposed to happen here,' Ponder residents say after murder-suicide

Ponder residents shocked by murder-suicide

The day after a murder-suicide claimed five lives, including the shooter, in the small town of Ponder, Texas, residents are shocked. The last unexplained death in the town was seven years ago, the police chief said.
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The day after a murder-suicide claimed five lives, including the shooter, in the small town of Ponder, Texas, residents are shocked. The last unexplained death in the town was seven years ago, the police chief said.

Robert Genova has to think for a second before he can remember the last murder — or rather, possible murder — in Ponder, population 1,571 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"We had one uncleared, unexplained death; it could have been a hit-and-run or a homicide," the town's police chief said Thursday afternoon. "That was seven years ago."

That changed Wednesday morning, when Justin Tyler Painter, 39, of Fort Worth showed up at the 600 block of Lonestar Park Lane, police say.

Painter shot his ex-wife's boyfriend, then shot and killed his three children before critically wounding his ex-wife, Amanda Simpson., police say. He finished by taking his own life, according to police and the Tarrant County medical examiner.

Amanda Simpson's car, according to a neighbor, parked in front of the Ponder house where a murder-suicide happened Wednesday morning. Stephen English senglish@star-telegram.com

Ponder has a police force of four sworn full-time officers and a few reserves, Genova said. It can't respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is augmented by the Denton County Sheriff's Office.

Genova said Thursday that residents are concerned.

"They're not concerned because of a suspect at large, because there isn't one," he said in the foyer of the building that houses Ponder's City Hall, court and Police Department.

Denton County Sheriff's Office Capt. Orlando Hinojosa makes a statement on the murder-suicide that happened at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Ponder, north of Fort Worth.

"They're just concerned because it's not supposed to happen here," Genova said. "You'd like to think when you move to a small town, that sort of thing doesn't happen."

One lifelong Ponder resident and small-business owner who asked not to be named said her customers have been subdued.

"I think everybody is grieved and saddened, and we just have to pray for the families and especially for those poor babies," she said.

"We're not used to that kind of thing, but the world is changing. But no matter where you're from, big city or small town, a tragedy is a tragedy."

Toys left in the lawn in front of a Ponder house in which a murder-suicide that included three children happened Wednesday morning. Stephen English senglish@star-telegram.com

Outside the popular local gas station Bev's on Farm-to-Market Road 156, Matt Hendon, a four-year resident, sits at a picnic table waiting for his wife to get off work.

He says he tried to explain the killing to his 13-year-old daughter Wednesday night but found himself at a loss. He was glad that officials at her school had spoken to students beforehand.

Hendon works in the meat department at Central Market's Hulen Street location in Fort Worth, but he lives four houses away from the scene of the shootings.

He drove past the house less than 10 minutes before the shooting began, he says, and saw a man bringing children into the house.

Five people were found dead in a home in Ponder north of Fort Worth early Wednesday, the Denton County Sheriff's Office says. One person was wounded and taken to a nearby hospital.

He didn't hear any shooting after he got home.

"It's a pretty calm neighborhood, and town in general," Hendon says.

He and his wife lived in Mesquite before moving to Ponder for the school district and "Bev's Dr Pepper," they say.

"There's usually not much violence in Ponder, so this is rare," said Mark McCoy, who works at Ponder's Boots in the Fort Worth Stockyards and has lived "in and out of Ponder" for about 35 years.

"People here leave their houses without worrying about being burglarized, but times are changing. I don't know a lot of the new people here," McCoy said.

The population of Ponder was 432 in 1990, according to the town website.

Stephen English: 817-390-7330, @sbenglish74
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