By ADRIAN SAINZ
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee prison guard has been charged with shooting and killing two post office workers during a robbery last year with his teenage son, according to a federal indicment announced Thursday.
Chastain Montgomery Sr. was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of killing a government employee in the Oct. 18 shooting inside the post office in the small West Tennessee town of Henning.
The indictment says the 47-year-old Montgomery killed Judy Spray and Paula Robinson during a robbery of the post office along with his son, Chastain Montgomery Jr.
Edward Stanton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said the father and son aided and abetted each other in the crime, but declined to elaborate on any other details. He said the investigation is ongoing.
The 18-year-old Montgomery Jr. was killed in a shootout with police on Feb. 14 after a police chase, and his father is jailed on charges related to the shoutout.
Afterwards, federal authorities began investigating whether the gun used by the teenager in the shootout was also linked to the post office shootings.
The sheriff's office in Tipton County, just north of Memphis, said Montgomery got out of a stolen pickup armed with two handguns and fired at officers several times before a deputy shot him dead.
Chastain Montgomery Sr. was arrested when he went to the scene and tried to get in the stolen pickup truck his son had been driving. He ran through crime scene tape, ignoring the shouted warnings of officers and headed straight for the truck, which was still running.
Montgomery Sr., a state prison guard, was carrying dye-stained cash, and his home in the Nashville suburb of La Vergne was searched that evening for guns, money from recent bank robberies, stolen property and dark clothing, according to warrants in the case.
The father was jailed on charges of evidence tampering, being an accessory, theft between $1,000 and $10,000 and resisting arrest. In the newly announced indictment, he also faces federal charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon, using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and two counts of unlawfully causing the death of a person.
The Henning post office shootings shook the town of 1,200 people about 45 miles northeast of Memphis, and residents have been praying for an arrest. Authorities have been quiet throughout the investigation, refusing to disclose details of the shootings, a possible motive, or even how many people they thought were involved.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service had offered a reward of $50,000 for information that led to a conviction.
Stanton said the victims' families and the town's residents have suffered. "Hopefully this does begin that process of restoring and healing for that community and for those families," he said.
Montgomery Sr. is in the process of being transferred into federal custody and no hearing has been set in federal court.
Mike Dunavant, District Attorney for the area that includes Tipton County, said the state was deferring to federal authorities in its prosecution of Montgomery Sr. for the state charges. But he didn't rule out additional state charges being filed against him.
John Mehr, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent in West Tennessee, called the announcement of the indictment a glorious day for the victims' families, but the investigation was not over.
"Although this is an occasion that they've been looking for, there's lots ahead of them," Mehr said. "They suffered tremendously in the last few months."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)