April 6, 1997
Greene County, Tennessee
6 young people, between the ages of 14 and 20, murder 3 members the Lillelid family leaving the 2-year-old son without an eye
The motive behind the attacks as well as the person who shouldered the majority of the blame are up for debate. One of the women accused in the murder claimed her defense attorney coached her to state she was a “daughter of Satan.” Prosecutors attempted a Satanist/occult strategy by bringing witness testimony claiming the youths were involved in Satanism and/or occultism, though no evidence was presented to support this claim. Additionally, the youngest of the group, a 14-year-old, was blamed by the others as the ringleader, though it is suspected he was selected by the group to be a scapegoat.
What is known, however, is the Lillelid family was seen conversing with the youths at a rest stop picnic area before both groups left in their respective vehicles. The family was taken into a remote area and forced out of their van before being shot. Vidar (34) is believed to have first been shot in his right eye, which likely would have rendered him unconscious but not killed him immediately, before being shot 5 more times in the chest. Delfina (28) was shot in the arm and thigh before being shot another 6 times in the abdomen and chest; one of the murderers estimates she lived approximately 30 minutes after being initially shot, meaning she would have witnessed her husband and children being shot before dying. Tabitha (6) was shot once in the head while Peter (2) was shot once in the right eye and once in the back.
The Lillelids were then piled on top of each other, either haphazardly or to resemble an upside down cross (the prosecutors claimed this, though responding deputies did not notice any symbolism in the bodies), and the murderers ran over the bodies with the Lillelid’s car, crushing the legs of Delfina and Tabitha. Witnesses hearing the gunshots as well as excited voices “like children on a playground,” and watching one vehicle leave while the other remained, notified police to the activity. Tabitha and Peter were found alive, though Tabitha died after being transported to the hospital.
During trial, the judge decided that while all defendants claimed the youngest member had fired all the shots, it was likely at least one of the others had shot the Lillelids as well and sentenced them all to life without parole.
This Facebook page has been created as a memorial for the Lillelid family.
Photo credit: Knox News