January 29, 2021
Details surrounding the double homicide in which two duck hunters were shot and killed Jan. 25 at Reelfoot Lake have begun to emerge, yet a motive behind the Monday morning killings remains a mystery and the suspect is still at large…or presumed dead.
The shooting rocked the waterfowl world when it took place earlier in the week, spurring a wave of reaction and comments across social media platforms and duck hunting forums, even if there are few solid answers and even more questions days after the horrible event took place.
What is currently known is this: The bizarre and deadly incident took place on Monday morning, Jan. 25, 2021 in the Walnut Log area of the lake. That’s when authorities say that 70-year old Martin, Tennessee, resident David Vowell, now facing two homicide warrants, allegedly opened fire, and killed 26-year old Zachary Grooms and 26-year old Chance Black, both of Greenfield, Tenn.
A third man, Jeffery Crabtree, was present at the time of the shootings and has presented investigators with his account of what happened on that deadly morning. Based on his statement, the region’s 27th Judicial District Attorney General Tommy Thomas told local Thunderbolt Radio what little information is currently known at this point.
"What we have is a statement from Mr. Crabtree, the survivor, that there was three of them there hunting out of that blind and around 9 o'clock in the morning, up comes the suspect, Mr. Vowell, in a boat and asks if he can hunt out of their blind,” said Thomas in his interview with the Union City, Tenn. radio station. “I think they were in the process of leaving.”
“According to the witness, Mr. Vowell loaded his shotgun while still in his boat and ends up shooting the two victims. Crabtree knocked Vowell in the head and threw his gun in the water and then took off to the shore to take the two injured men to try and get them help. They didn't last very long, unfortunately.
“It's bizarre, I've never seen anything quite like this. Routinely, when you have a homicide, then there's a motive. Here we don't have one."
After flooding rains left Reelfoot Lake awash in high water, the physical search has been suspended according to Thomas in his interview with the local radio station.
“We’ve had a lot of rain and the water is up now and around that lake, it’s low,” said Thomas. “The water is too high in that area to continue to search the area. Law enforcement right now is concentrating on reinterviewing the people who live in the area, family members, acquaintances (and) trying to determine anything else that they can learn from that.”
While Thomas admits that authorities are in a bit of a holding pattern in the search for Vowell and taking any sort of closer look at the physical site, they will continue to push the investigation forward as they wait for the water to go down.
In addition to investigators with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looking into the case, other authorities are also assisting in the investigation and search, reportedly including the U.S. Marshals Service.
As has been the case since Monday, authorities are seeking any information from anyone who can assist them in their investigation and search for Vowell. Anyone with such information can call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
While there is speculation from some that Vowell might have perished in Reelfoot from drowning and/or exposure, for now, authorities continue to seek his capture. And until that happens, the man is considered to be armed and dangerous.
However the remainder of the investigation turns out, the crime has seized the attention of duck hunters across northwestern Tennessee as well as the rest of the nation, waterfowlers who are familiar with one of the best duck hunting honey holes anywhere in North America.
According to the Tennessee State Parks website, Reelfoot is “…noted for its fishing, boating and wildlife viewing. The 15,000 acre lake was created by a series of violent earthquakes in 1811-1812 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short period of time, creating Reelfoot Lake. The park’s ecosystem is unlike any other place in Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake is a flooded forest. While Majestic Cypress trees rise above the water, below the surface are many submerged Cypress stumpsThe lake harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird as well as golden and American bald eagles.”
In addition to being a hotspot for fishing, the lake is renowned for attracting big numbers of wintering ducks and creating a highly competitive environment for waterfowlers seeking to hunt the best spots via outfitted trips and from permanent blinds awarded through a drawing process by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra.html ).
As the investigation continues here at the time of this writing, the grieving family members, friends, and co-workers of the two young deceased waterfowlers are left to pick up the pieces, bury their loved ones, and try to find some answers and closure for what happened earlier this week.
Final Flight Outfitters, the well-known waterfowl and outdoors gear retailer from Union City, founded by former world goose calling champion Kelley Powers and his brothers Jon Ed and Tripp, issued a statement on its Facebook page earlier in the week confirming the loss of one of their employees in the deadly shooting.
“We lost a member of our team today, Chance Black,” read the company’s Facebook post on Monday. “He was shot and killed, along with his friend, while duck hunting on Reelfoot Lake. Chance was a full-time manager in our gun department, and what an honor it has been for us to have him on our team. We ask for prayers for Chance’s family, friends, and all others involved as we navigate the impact of their deaths.
“What has taken place today is hard to process,” the Final Flight statement concluded. “No duck is worth the life of a man. What we do know is that God is our refuge and strength, even in the hardest of times. #FinalFlightOutfitters #FaithFamilyOutdoors.”
The crime is certainly one of the most bizarre tragedies in modern waterfowl hunting history, as well as being an incident where answers remain few and far between as questions continue to mount, even days later.
Stay tuned to this space for updates as this horrific story and its aftermath continue to unfold.