Mom, adult son dead in apparent murder-suicide

The granddaughter and great-grandson of former Columbia County Sheriff Edward Tankersley died early Thursday morning in what authorities say was a murder-suicide.

Nancy Tankersley Anderson, 56, and Robert Anderson, 24, were pronounced dead at 3:37 a.m. by Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison, said Coroner Vernon Collins.

The bodies were found in a rear bedroom of a home at 6461 Washington Road, Appling, about two miles west of Pollards Corner, Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said. The home is owned by Ms. Anderson's father, Robert Tankersley, Mr. Collins said. Mr. Tankersley is the son of Sheriff Tankersley, who died in 1986.

Ms. Anderson also is the cousin of Columbia County school board member Roxanne Whitaker. Mrs. Whitaker said Thursday that she and her family had not yet overcome the "initial shock" of what happened and did not immediately want to comment.

Mr. Tankersley called the sheriff's office when he was awakened shortly after 3 a.m. after hearing "four or five gunshots" and then finding the bodies of his daughter and grandson in a rear bedroom, Capt. Morris said.

Responding deputies found Mr. Anderson's body in a bed. He had what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds to the head, while Ms. Anderson was dead from what appeared to be a single gunshot wound, Mr. Collins said. A .38-caliber Taurus handgun was recovered from the scene, Capt. Morris said.

Both bodies were taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta for autopsies, Mr. Collins said.

Describing a possible motive for the suspected murder-suicide, Mr. Collins said Ms. Anderson left a two-page letter, dated Wednesday, explaining that she had decided to take her son's life and her own because of his mounting debts from fines and probation. The letter included detailed plans for their funerals, Mr. Collins added.

"The son had some legal issues and some fines and stuff, and she decided to end his life and hers, too," Mr. Collins said Wednesday. "She had this planned just how long, I don't know, but she made closure with it yesterday and final closure this morning."

Capt. Morris said Mr. Anderson had a criminal history that included drug violations and bad-check charges.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.