BECKLEY, W.Va. — State Police are unsure what caused a Beckley man to go on a crime spree which ultimately left two people, including him, dead.
Troopers found the body of David Jesse Young, 29, of Beckley, lying in a pool of blood in the sanctuary of the Spruce Tabernacle Church in the Clear Creek community of Raleigh County. He had taken his own life with a stolen gun.
“He was right at the altar and we assume he was holding a crucifix at the time,” said Sgt. M.S. Horne of the West Virginia State Police. “He took it off the pulpit and was holding it. It was right beside him when he slumped over and the gun was under him. It was right at the front at the pastor’s pulpit.”
The suicide ended what had been a crime spree and a lengthy chase for troopers. The incident started with the theft of a pickup truck in Beckley around 1 p.m. Monday according to Horne. Young wound up at Butch’s Convenience Store on Route 1 where he tried to steal more vehicles.
“He’s trying to steal other cars down here,” said Horne. “He tried to steal a coal truck at one point, but the truck driver was able to successfully pull him out of the truck before he took off.”
Young eventually was able to secure another vehicle and headed toward Whitesville before he wrecked in the Clear Creek community near the home of Billy Joe Collins, age 77.
“He wrecked his car right outside of Mr. Collins’ driveway. Mr. Collins was getting his mail and when he noticed the wreck he went over to assist the young man and at that time the suspect attempted to carjack him,” said Horne. “At that point Mr. Collins pulled a firearm and unfortunately the suspect took the firearm from Mr. Collins and used it against him.”
Collins died of the gunshot wound. The same weapon was used by Young to take his own life at the church minutes later about a mile up the road. The responding trooper found Mr. Collins’ stolen vehicle outside the church in a ditch and awaited backup before going in.
“Locals had told him they just witnessed somebody going up to the church and kicking in the door,” said Horne. “There were several people who had arrived at the church and didn’t know what was going on. He was trying to clear them out to keep them out of any possible danger.”
Horne said they believe Young had already taken his life before troopers arrived at the church scene. Investigators are continuing to look into Young’s activities earlier in the day, but say it’s unclear what prompted his crime spree which ended with two people dead and a string of wrecked and stolen vehicles.