Southside family mourns woman after Christmas Eve murder-suicide

HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – A Southside family continues to struggle with the holiday season after a murder-suicide earlier this week.

Police say Philip Leath shot and killed his wife Lori, then killed himself on Christmas Eve.

Now, some of Lori’s family are saying domestic abuse had long been an issue in the house -- but they hope their tragedy can help save others.

When first responders arrived, they found Lori Leath dead in the road out front of the couple’s home on Bellevue Drive in Halifax County. Her husband, Philip, dead alongside her -- both shot to death.

“I was angry that he had done this to her, and to my niece, and to everybody else in the family,” said Jay Hopkins, Lori’s former brother-in-law.

Hopkins is Lori’s brother in law from her first marriage. Lori’s 15-year-old daughter, Alex, didn’t want to go on camera but says the last four years at her mom and step-dad’s house were not good.

“Alex wants answers, and she deserves them, she really does,” said Hopkins.

The day of the crime, Halifax County Sheriff Fred Clark said there weren’t any glaring issues in the house. But Philip Leath, a former state trooper, went to jail twice in the last two years for domestic assault and the family says there were numerous 911 calls to the house over the years.

“The pain I feel for my niece who has to continue growing up without her mother over a senseless act, a senseless crime,” said Hopkins.

Lori was a beloved dental hygienist in the area and friends and family are reeling. They’re left wondering what more could have been done.

“We’re hoping that talking about will prevent it from happening to someone else in the future, it is such a problem in this country," said Hopkins.

Family members are in the process of planning Lori’s funeral.

As far as the investigation goes, the sheriff in Halifax County says it is still ongoing.

About the Author: