MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas -- Police investigating the killing of three pizza restaurant employees in a $100 robbery said today that three bandits who earlier terrorized a family in a nearby town were prime suspects in the brutal slayings.
Titus County Attorney Charles Cobb said the three Pizza Hut employees were murdered during an after-hours robbery early Tuesday in this small town 100 miles northeast of Dallas.
A state police spokesman said a .38-caliber pistol, a butcher knife and a claw hammer were used in the slaying.
'All I can tell you is that they were brutal murders,' Cobb said.
Four men were arrested and questioned in the killings, then later released, police said.
Authorities today were searching for three suspects -- two men and a woman.
Police Chief B.C. Sustaire said the suspects held up a family at gunpoint early Monday about 4 miles north of nearby Canton and left with $1,700 and a car, he said.
The trio is also suspected in the theft of a car and $100 from a Tyler, Texas, man Sunday.
Cobb said probably no more than $100 was taken from the register before the three employees were taken to a food storage area in the back of the restaurant and murdered.
Killed were Howard McClaflin, 25; Shirley Thompson, 24; and George Landrum, 42.
Mrs. Thompson's husband and her father first notified police there was a problem at the restaurant, where she had worked only two weeks. When she did not return home by 1:30 a.m., the two men went to the restaurant.
Thompson said he walked inside, saw the empty cash register and became frightened. He said he left without walking to the storage area.
'I saw the register open and the keys laying on top of it. So I got the hell out and told Willie (O'Bier, his father-in-law) to let the police handle it,' Thompson said.
About 2:30 a.m. the bodies were discovered. Thompson was told of his wife's death shortly after.
'I had seen her for about 30 minutes earlier Monday and kissed her and told her goodbye,' said the father of two. 'I didn't knowthat would be the last time I would see her.'
Autopsies determined McClaflin died of a gunshot wound to the head, Landrum died of gunshot wounds to the chest and multiple wounds to the head, and Mrs. Thompson died of a gunshot wound to the chest, blows to the head and multiple stab wounds.