On December 7, Augustus “Gus” Bennett, 21, updated his Facebook profile, announcing that he was in a relationship.
In response to comments from friends, he wrote of his new girlfriend, “Her name is China and she is beautiful.”
Three days later, Bennett, 20-year-old China Barber and Barber’s estranged husband, 23-year-old Robert “BJ” Sprinkle, were all dead.
Mobile police said in a press release that the case was being investigated as a double homicide and suicide. Sprinkle has been identified as the shooter.
Police responded to an apartment complex near the University of South Alabama at approximately 4:45 a.m. on December 10 following a report of multiple people being shot.
Officers found Barber and Sprinkle deceased at the scene. Bennett was transported to a local hospital, where he later died from gunshot wounds.
Police described the case as a “domestic situation” and said they were not looking for any additional suspects in connection with the shootings.
Barber and Sprinkle had married last December, but police said they were separated.
“We know all three were known to each other,” Mobile Police Department Public Information Officer Ashley Rains said Tuesday, but she could not release any additional information about a possible motive in the case.
According to a relative of Bennett, he and Barber had both been friends with Sprinkle.
“There is no one left to be mad at. There is no place to put the blame,” Bennett’s sister-in-law, Elyse Bennett, wrote in a letter posted by HLN affiliate WALA. “We loved all three of them and I know that Bj will now be looked at as a monster, but I already forgive him. Even with this huge gaping hole in my heart and in my life I know that Bj had to have been in so much pain.”
Elyse Bennett said of her brother-in-law in the letter, “This was the best time in his life, he was so in love with China and she loved him back. This was his beginning; it shouldn’t have been his ending.”
A 2011 profile of China Barber in the Press-Register detailed her efforts to overcome a life filled with tragedy, including her family’s mobile home burning to the ground, another trailer destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the deaths of two brothers.
Barber told the paper, “The truth is, it has been extremely difficult, and there have been so many days when I just wanted to give up. But what would the point be? I worked so hard to get where I am, and so for that, I keep on going.”