3 dead, 2 injured in Union County shootings
Published: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.
LAKE BUTLER — Marvin Pritchett, a tireless 80-year-old business and agricultural leader of Union County, was driving down a quiet dirt road to his farmhouse to bottle-feed calves when he was shot and killed by a former employee who killed another man and wounded two others before killing himself Saturday.
The murder of Pritchett by Hubert Allen Jr., 72, who had worked as a farmhand for Pritchett for decades, left the community baffled over what could have prompted a man said to be quiet and mild-mannered to go on a shooting spree that left both his former employer and a co-worker dead.
"We think Hubert Allen Jr. just sort of flipped out," Sheriff Jerry Whitehead said. "A motive — I don't know. There may have been some anger. We are still working that side of it. As it stands right now, we don't have anything we can hang our hat on."
Pritchett owned Pritchett Trucking and Nextran Truck Center, a network of full-service truck centers located along major truck routes throughout Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Whitehead spoke near the gate of a long drive into a farmstead amid some of the thousands of acres that Pritchett owned for cattle and hay operations on County Road 18A south of Lake Butler.
A few miles north, in town, a corps of investigators from several agencies were busy at Allen's home near a small park and day-care center, collecting evidence and piecing together what ended in his suicide.
Authorities said Allen, the step-grandfather of NFL star and Lake Butler native C.J. Spiller, killed himself as his last act of the morning.
"He was a good neighbor, a very quiet man," said Roy Stephens, who lives next door. "We'd see each other and talk to each other. He seemed OK."
Also dead is Rolando Gonzalez-Delgado, 28, a native of Nicaragua who worked for Pritchett as a farmhand, Whitehead said.
Injured were Lewis Mabrey Jr., 66, who was in good condition and undergoing surgery Saturday at UF Health Shands Hospital for a broken arm and other injuries; and David Griffis, 44. Griffis underwent surgery at UF Health Shands and was listed in critical condition.
Mabrey also worked at Pritchett's farm, while Griffis worked at Pritchett Trucking in Lake Butler.
Authorities said Allen went to the farmstead off CR 18 and encountered Gonzalez-Delgado around 9 a.m., fatally shooting him.
Meanwhile, Pritchett was on a dirt road nearby en route to a barn to bottle-feed calves, Whitehead said. Allen shot and killed him.
A few minutes later, Allen pulled off CR 18A as Mabrey was driving a farm tractor. They exchanged words and Allen fired a shotgun at him, striking him in the side and arm.
Allen then drove into town to Pritchett Trucking, where he shot Griffis.
Sheriff Whitehead, who is related to Pritchett by marriage, said Pritchett was born and reared in Union County. He played football and basketball for Union County High School.
Pritchett was a self-made man in both agriculture and his trucking businesses and donated a lot of money to the school system and various charities, the sheriff said.
"Marvin is a man who has been very successful and has participated in our schools and youth programs over 30 years, 40 years. He's not a flash in the pan. Everyone just loved him," Whitehead said. "He owns thousands of acres. Thousands. He hit the ground every morning and was working. At 80 years old and a millionaire, he was coming here to bottle-feed calves. This was a hobby for him."
Pritchett leaves behind two sons and a daughter, all of whom work in the family businesses.
Whitehead said that Allen had never been in trouble before. Friends said that Allen enjoyed cooking barbecue and had been ill recently.
Residents said the killings are a tragedy for everyone involved.
"They were all good people," Cecelia Alexander said near Allen's house. "It's just sad. I sympathize with everybody."
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