UPDATE: Suspect surrenders after shooting girlfriend, her 3 daughters

1:28 PM, Jun 16, 2013   |    comments
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  • Police investigate Friday after a mother, her 14-year-old twins and their friend were shot at an apartment complex in Madison. / Larry McCormack / The Tennessean
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Earnest Woodley, the suspect wanted for allegedly shooting his girlfriend and three daughters Friday afternoon, surrendered to authorities in Memphis early Sunday morning.

Woodley is being held in the Shelby County jail pending his return to Nashville, police said.

Woodley, 39, is accused of shooting his girlfriend Nicole Luke, 34, her 14-year-old twins, Deona and Keona Luke and daughter Kierra Smith, 15, after an argument at a Madison apartment complex Friday.

One of the teens was discharged Saturday. Luke, the other twin and the 15-year-old remained hospitalized in stable condition Saturday night, police said.

Original Story

By: Nicole Young and Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean

A convicted killer was armed and on the run Friday night just hours after police said he shot his girlfriend and her three teenage daughters after an argument at a Madison apartment complex.

Earnest Woodley, 39, fled barefoot into the woods behind the Brinkhaven Apartments after shooting Nicole Luke, 34, her 14-year-old twin daughters and her 15-year-old daughter with a black revolver, police say. All were in stable condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Friday.

Helicopters and search dogs canvassed the area, but Woodley remained at large. Police warned the public not to approach him.

Domestic violence detectives issued arrest warrants charging Woodley with four counts of attempted homicide and four counts of aggravated assault.

Yellow crime scene tape stretched across the parking lot separating the apartment complex's residents from investigators. The front door to a second-floor apartment in building D was open, and a steady flow of people came and went Friday after the 2:25 p.m. shooting. A white Chevrolet Traverse sat in front of the building. The driver's side door was open, and a large bullet hole was visible in the back door on the driver's side.

Freddie Jackson, who lives in one of the apartments, watched in disbelief as investigators collected evidence.

"I only heard two of the shots," he said. "Then people were screaming."

Jackson said he saw Woodley flee with the gun stuffed in the pocket of his blue shorts.

Police say Woodley, his girlfriend and the teens had stopped by the apartment complex to visit Woodley's cousin because they were moving to Memphis.

While they were inside the second-floor apartment, an argument erupted between Woodley and Luke, but police do not know what the argument was about. Woodley shot Luke and the twins, Deona and Keona Luke, inside the apartment, and then he walked out to the parking lot and shot Luke's other daughter, 15-year-old Kierra Smith, who was sitting in the couple's white Chevrolet Traverse, police said. A U-Haul full of the family's belongings was parked nearby.

Police said Woodley spared others in the apartment, including the 3-year-old daughter he has with Luke, his adult cousin and the cousin's 7- and 13-year-old sons.

Steve Howell, of Memphis, was sitting on the front porch of his mother's apartment at the complex when he heard five gunshots.

"First there were three shots, then silence, then two more," he said. "It was loud, like a large-caliber gun, a .45 maybe."

Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said ballistics experts had not yet identified the caliber of the gun used in the shooting.
Neighbors are afraid

Residents milled around the parking lot Friday afternoon afraid Woodley would not be found.

Frankie Milburn said his grandmother had called and told him she heard gunshots and said she was scared. Milburn, with his 9-month-old daughter, Jessica, in tow, said he decided to go to the complex, which is about a block away from his home, to find out what happened.

"This is supposed to be a safe neighborhood," he said. "I've never seen anything like this. It's sad. It's pitiful."

One woman worried about Woodley coming back after dark. The complex, she said, has many entrances.

For several hours, a police helicopter circled overhead and K-9 units searched the wooded area behind the complex on Brink Haven Avenue.

Woodley was convicted of second-degree murder in Shelby County in 1992. He also was convicted of aggravated assault and drug possession. His parole expired in 2010, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Mumford said she wasn't sure how long Woodley had lived in Nashville, but she did note that his record here dates back to March 2011, when he was cited for another driver's license infraction. He also has been arrested here on charges of handgun possession and criminal trespass.

Most recently, he was cited in April in Davidson County for driving on a suspended license.

Woodley also uses the last name Moore, which is his mother's maiden name.

Woodley is 5 feet, 11 inches and weighs about 190 pounds. He was last seen running from the scene of the shooting barefoot in a gray T-shirt and blue shorts.

Police ask anyone who sees Woodley to call 615-862-8600 or 74-CRIME.

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