Earlier this week we reported on the death of Zach Grooms, 25, and Chance Black, 26. They were fatally shot by 70-year-old David Vowell while duck hunting on Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.
New details emerged yesterday surrounding the incident. Jeffrey Crabtree, who was in the duck blind with Grooms and Black, witnessed Vowell shoot the two hunters. Crabtree told his story to Patrick Mudge, host of the Back to the Lodge Podcast.
“There was no confrontation. There was no fighting over a duck. There was no fighting over a blind,” Mudge said. “What did take place was heartbreaking. And that is that a gentleman [Vowell], who was going through something very, very difficult and challenging, was not able to process what they were going through. And that resulted in the tragedy on Monday.”
This corroborates what District Attorney Tommy Thomas said in a recent interview.
“Approximately 9:00, a boat approaches their blind, and that was the suspect, David Vowell. Mr. Vowell asked them if he could hunt out of that blind. They said ‘yes.’ He started getting his gear together. A few seconds after that, the gun went off, and Mr. Grooms was shot,” Thomas said. “Just a few seconds after he arrived and asked if he could use the blind, and they said yes, and that’s when the survivor noticed him loading his gun, turned around and heard the gunshot, and he thought it was an accident.”
After the second hunter was shot, Crabtree wrestled the gun from Vowell and knocked him into the lake. Crabtree then boated away from the scene to seek help. The last time Crabtree saw Vowell, the suspect was in waist-deep water, walking towards the bank.
“The gentleman that survived this didn’t even have the heart to shoot the guy in self-defense,” Mudge said. “He even tried to help the third party that is wanted. He even tried to get him to shore.”
Despite initial speculation on social media and forums that the suspect shot the waterfowlers over a hunting dispute, it appears that wasn’t the case.
“One of the first things we look for is a motive,” Thomas said. “Here, we don’t have a motive. We don’t see a motive. Mental illness may prompt a shooting or a crime. Perhaps that’s what we have here, or there may be some motive that we just don’t understand.”
The district attorney said that the search for Vowell has been hampered by bad weather. Law enforcement officers had to temporarily suspend their efforts yesterday due to storms and rising lake levels.
“There’s no good way out of there,” Thomas said “It’s a huge wilderness area. We’re convinced someone assisted him in leaving the area, or he’s still in the area. If he’s still in the area, he’s more than likely not alive.”
A GoFundMe page has been arranged to help the families of Black and Grooms. Mudge also said on his podcast that a local benefit will happen in the near future.