Kent State business student killed in Canton-area double homicide, attempted suicide

The Stockdale family’s house in the 9100 block of Dolphin St. SW in Stark County’s Bethlehem Township.

KentWired Staff

James W. Stockdale, 21, a Kent State business administration student, was killed in what police said is a double homicide and attempted suicide involving members of his family’s band, known for its bluegrass music.

The Stark County Sheriff’s Office said two family members are dead and a third, believed to be the shooter, was taken to a Cleveland hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Stockdale, a sophomore, is the third Kent State student death in less than a week. Taylor Pifer, 21, was found dead Sunday in her North Royalton home along with her mother and sister in what police said is a triple homicide. Tyler Heintz, 18, died Tuesday following a workout with the Kent State football team.

Police investigating a 911 hang-up call at 4:36 p.m. Thursday arrived at the home of The Stockdale Family Band on Dolphin Street SW in Bethlehem Township, where officers found James Stockdale and 54-year-old Kathryn Stockdale dead.

They believe 25-year-old Jacob Stockdale shot his brother and mother with a shotgun before turning the gun on himself.

During a press briefing, Stark County Sheriff George Maier said: 

“Upon arrival at the residence, the deputies noticed that the front door was open. As they approached the house they’d seen what they believed to be someone laying on the floor. They gave verbal commands, there was no response. At the time, there was a gunshot that went off. After the gunshot went off, they tactically approached the house when some backup arrived and discovered that the suspect, Jacob Stockdale, had attempted suicide and shot himself when they arrived. They also discovered two victims in the home, 54-year-old Kathryn Barber Stockdale and 21-year-old James William Stockdale, both were deceased as a result of a gunshot wound. Deputies continue to investigate the case along with the Stark County Coroner’s office.”

Police have not released any information about a possible motive for the shootings. “This is a tragedy for the family. It is a tragedy for the community,” Maier said.

Jacob Stockdale was taken by LifeFlight to Cleveland’s MetroHealth Hospital, Maier said. At the time of the press conference, Maier said he was in critical condition. 

Early Friday, Calvin Stockdale, the eldest brother of James and Jacob, released a statement saying the family “appreciates the prayers and support we are receiving from our friends and the community.”

Timothy Stockdale, father and husband, issued a statement about his wife.

“Kathy has been my beloved wife of 32 years and a wonderful mother to our four sons,” Timothy wrote. “She loved nothing more than being a mother and grandmother. She had a strong love of learning and was passionate about her Christian faith, natural health, and organic farming.”

Timothy Stockdale wasn’t home at the time of the shooting.

James Stockdale attended classes at Kent State’s Stark and Tuscarawas campuses and studied business management. 

Denise Seachrist, dean and chief administrative officer of the Stark campus, along with Bradley Bielski, dean and chief administrative officer of the Tuscarawas campus issued the following statement: 

“We are saddened by the news of the tragic death of one of the Kent State University at Stark and Tuscarawas students, James Stockdale. James was a business management major who studied at the Tuscarawas and Stark campuses. We offer our sincerest condolences and support to his family, students, staff and faculty and all those who knew James as they deal with this tragedy.” 

According to the Stockdale Family Band website, James Stockdale, the youngest brother, played bass in the band while Jacob played fiddle. His two other older brothers, Calvin and Charles, also performed in the band, which was led by their father, Tim. 

In 2008, the family was featured on ABC’s reality show “Wife Swap,” where two families from different backgrounds swap wives for two weeks. The segment portrayed the Stockdales as being “devoutly religious,” banning swearing, television, and video games. The brothers were homeschooled at the time, according to the segment.