Police identify the 3 dead, 1 hurt in apparent murder-suicide in Tavares

Police: Man killed girlfriend, family with bat

TAVARES, Fla. - Police have identified the victims and suspect involved in a murder-suicide where a man went on a horrific bat attack, killing his girlfriend, her mother and then himself.

[Warning, content may be graphic | AUDIO: 911 call 1 | 911 call 2 ]

Tavares police said the murder-suicide happened at the home they all shared on Hibiscus Court Monday evening. Police said James Earl Jones, 31, beat Mavis Ratliff, Shannon Ratliff, 42, and Eddie Ratliff at the home.

Police have not identified a motive, but friends and neighbors said they believe Jones, a schizophrenic, may have not been taking his medication and snapped.

Police said when they arrived after a 911 call they found Jones' girlfriend, Shannon Ratliff dead inside the house and her brother Eddie Ratliff and mother Mavis Ratliff badly beaten outside. The two survivors were airlifted to the hospital, where Mavis Ratliff died and Eddie Ratliff remains in serious condition.

Police said Jones was still holding the aluminum baseball bat before he dropped it and ran. Police said when he was ordered to drop the bat, Jones said, "what ya going to do" and then said, "come on, Tase me."

He was later found floating in a lake after presumably having killed himself, said police.

"She was a great person, a great family," said Virginia Hall, who said one of the victims was her coworker at a local Citgo.

She said Shannon lived at the home with her mother, brother and boyfriend, who many knew had problems.

"I know that he had certain issues," Hall said. "We heard that he hadn't been on his medicine for about a month. He could be violent, but I've never seen them fight. As far as to see something this drastic happen, this is drastic, this is seriously drastic."

Relatives said Jones has been erratic and sometimes violent before, but never like this.

"He'll snap if he didn't take his meds. He just will snap. You see it right here," said Ronterius Hubbard Sr., who has known the victim and suspect most of his life. "This really just went overboard. I don't even understand it."

Neighbors said things were calm until recently.

"It's been relatively quiet. But in the past two months it's been constantly arguing, typical boyfriend-girlfriend stuff," said neighbor Chris Lang. "I never thought it would be physical, mostly verbal, all verbal. But the past two months it has been escalating."

Tavares police said they were called in December 2013 regards to mental issues with James E. Jones.  Jones was removed under the Baker Act and admitted to Lifestream center, police said.

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