Most gruesome Thanksgiving murders from pastor who shot family over game to man who 'waited 20 years' to kill relatives

THANKSGIVING is typically a time for families to come together over a turkey dinner and celebrate the blessings of the past year – but for some, the holiday season has resulted in horror.

A series of harrowing stories of brutal murders, shocking disappearances, and other violent crimes have marred the holiday season in the US over the last few years.

Last year's festive season was no exception, with a heavily-tattooed trio carrying out a terrifying 11-hour, two-state Thanksgiving Day rampage across Nevada and Arizona which targeted random passers-by.

Shawn McDonnell, 31, his brother Christopher McDonnel, 28, and his wife Kayleigh Lewis, 26, were each charged with dozens of crimes related to the shootings last November which left one 22-year-old man dead and four others injured.


The indiscriminate spree began on November 26 in at a 7-Eleven in southern Nevada where Kevin Mendiola Jr. was fatally struck.

His younger brother, girlfriend, and two other people were also hit by gunfire, but all four of the wounded survived.

Two dozen other people including motorists and pedestrians reported being targeted by the trio on local roads and freeways just before 1am on Nov. 26.

They then drove into Arizona, where there were additional shootings, including one involving a police officer. 

A police chase ensued, which came to an abrupt end when the assailants' black Toyota Camry with tinted windows rolled over.

Shawn McDonnell reportedly pointed a handgun at two officers when he emerged from the wreck. He was shot but survived his injuries.

A search of the car found three handguns, two machete-style knives, and a baseball bat.

Christopher McDonnell, who has a face tattoo resembling a skull, allegedly told investigators his brother told him to “shoot the black guy”. He's also alleged to have referenced an “upcoming war".

One witness to a shooting in southern Nevada chilling recalled in court how he had just stood up from a slot machine inside a store when he saw Christopher and his brother Shawn walk in.

When they opened fire, the witnesses said he took cover behind a bench before hearing several more shots.

"Don't worry, I still see you," Christopher allegedly called out.

Another witness said he saw the pair laughing as they opened fire at a car that had crashed into a pole during the commotion.

“I saw him unload the gun and reload it …” the witnesses said of one of the gunmen. “Like it was a video game.”

One woman, whose father was shot during the spree, harrowingly recalled how one of the brothers pressed his face up against her car window, brandishing his gun.

“I pleaded for my life. I said, ‘Please don’t shoot. I don’t have any money. You can take my car. You can take anything you want. Please don’t shoot. Please don’t shoot. My daughter is in the back seat,’” she testified.

The gunman then allegedly went to the back door and pointed his gun at her child, who was screaming.

“He comes to my window and tells me something along the lines of I am very lucky,” she said, adding that the man then turned to his left and began shooting and yelling at a white Honda Prelude.

Another witness recalled how one of the gunmen had called out that he was "God and that there is an upcoming war coming."

In total each of the three was hit with more than 50 charges.

In a court filing in September, prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty should Shawn McDonnell be found guilty of murder.

“The state has been unable to determine a specific motive for the above-stated murder and it appears to have been done at random,” the notice of intent dated Sept. 14 said.

Earlier this year, a judge said Christopher McDonnell was incompetent to stand trial. The ruling stated that Christopher should be committed until fit to stand trial, writing: "he is dangerous to himself and society and that commitment is required.”

Trials for Shawn McDonnell and Kayleigh Lewis are now scheduled to begin in November 2022.


In 2016, Joel Guy Jr. stabbed and dismembered his parents Joel Sr. and Lisa Guy in their Knoxville, Tennessee home.

Then 28, Joel arrived at his parents' home on Wednesday, November 23, spent Thanksgiving with his parents and three sisters, and then returned home to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Prosecutors said that Joel Jr. first knifed his father to death in the upstairs exercise room, then ambushed and stabbed his mother to death when she returned home from a shopping trip.

The son then allegedly dismembered his parents' bodies and tried to dissolve some of the remains and boiled his mother's head in a pot.

Guy Sr. was reportedly stabbed 42 times, with some of the blows severing his ribs and puncturing his liver, lungs, and kidneys.

An autopsy showed that his hands were cut off at the wrists, his arms were severed at the shoulder blade, his legs were sawed off at the hip and his right foot was removed at the ankle.

His mother, meanwhile, was stabbed 31 times and had nine of her ribs severed. Her legs were cut off below the knee and her arms were removed at the shoulder.

But before allegedly carrying out the heinous crime, Guy Jr meticulously plotted his every murderous move in a notebook, detailing at great length how he would kill his mother and father, then how he would dispose of their remains.

Prior to their murders, Joel Sr. and Lisa Guy were due to retire and had recently informed Guy Jr. that they would no longer be able to financially support their son.

Guy was reportedly studying to be a plastic surgeon in Baton Rouge and had been in college for nine years while his parents supported him.

However, Guy Jr. learned that he was a beneficiary of a $500,000 life insurance policy if they were both killed or missing.

He then hatched his elaborate plan to kill the pair, dismember them and then burn the house down to eradicate any trace of him at the crime scene; he hoped to frame the murder of his dad.

However, Guy Jr. was injured during the stabbing and left the partially dissolved remains in the house when he left to dress his wounds. Before he returned, police discovered the bloody scene upon performing a welfare check.

Inside the home, officers found both parents' torsos and dismembered limbs dissolving in an acid-based solution inside a plastic bin. His father's severed hands were found in the middle of the floor and his mother's head was found in a pot on the stove.

Also discovered was Guy's notebook which was used as a confession of sorts against him at trial.

"Kill him with the knife… clean up mess from him before she get home," one instructional bullet point read.

Another page shows details of the "assets" belonging to Lisa Guy including a $500,000 life insurance policy that lists Guy Jr as a beneficiary.

"$500,000 would be all mine," the page read. "With him missing/dead, I get the whole thing."

Guy was convicted of both murders in October 2020 and received a sentence of life in prison.


Christopher Gattis, a 58-year-old church youth pastor in Richmond, Virginia, murdered his wife, stepdaughter, and her boyfriend on Thanksgiving Day 2017 following a drunken argument.

For two days before the shooting, the atmosphere inside the Gattis household had reportedly been fraught after Christopher had grown frustrated by the presence of his stepdaughter Candice Lau Kunze, 30, and her boyfriend Andrew E. Buthorn, 36.

Candice and Andrew had reportedly been staying with them for several weeks, despite only planning to stay for a "few days."

Two days before Thanksgiving, Andrew reportedly had to restrain an intoxicated Gattis from attacking his wife of eight years, Jeanett.

Then, on November 23, neighbors called 911 after being startled by the sound of gunshots emanating from the home.

When police arrived, Andrew was found laying down in the front yard with his mouth open and wearing a blood-stained t-shirt.

“They kept threatening me. They threatened to kill me,” Gattis told officers as they made their way inside.

Gattis told officers there were two others inside the house.

“They’re probably all dead,” he said. “They all came after me. I shot them…When they all ganged up on me.”

Gattis pleaded guilty at trial the following year and received a 58-year sentence.


Paul Merhige had been estranged from family members for years when he asked to attend a cousin's Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter, Florida, in 2009.

Then 35, he sat down through three hours of dinner and sing-alongs around the piano and then gunned down four relatives: his aunt, Raymonde Joseph, 76; his 33-year-old twin sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, 33, who was pregnant; and Makayla Sitton, the six-year-old daughter of his cousin.

In preparation for this family meal, Paul spent $2,000 on guns and ammunition and withdrew $12,000 from his bank account.

He told the salesman who helped him purchase a scope for a bolt-action Remington 700 rifle that he used in the killing that he was going hunting.

Other family members present at the dinner said Paul was quiet until he went to his car and returned with a gun and started shooting.

While carrying out the murders, Paul reportedly said: "I've been waiting 20 years to do this."

Surviving family members said there was no warning or argument that took place that day, however, Paul shared fractured relations with a number of his family members, who previously voiced concerns that he may try to kill them.

Paul fled the scene and went on the run, using the $12,000 he'd withdrawn to survive.

He was eventually caught after five weeks on the run in January 2010.

The following year he plead guilty to avoid the death sentence and is currently serving seven life sentences behind bars.


Cody Gann, 18, and Jasmine Cary, 19, were arrested for allegedly killing a 10-year-old girl in a drive-by shooting on Thanksgiving 2017 in San Antonio, Texas.

Police believe that little Delilah Hernandez was hit by gunfire while watching television in a back bedroom on Thanksgiving morning at around 7am in her.

Police said five people were in the house when gunshots rang out. Officials later said an unknown person fired multiple rounds into the front of the home. 

Cary claimed she and Gann didn't shoot anyone because they were delivering drugs.

However, local police chief William McManus has contended that they two were in a dispute with Delilah Hernandez's older brother. An affidavit said the older brother is a documented member of a gang.

According to reports, the brother had had a relationship with Cary before she started dating Gann.

"She's the one who showed him where we lived,” said Jackie Vega, Delilah’s mother. “If it weren't for her, my daughter would've been here."

A few days after Delilah's death detectives searched Gann's car.

Investigators found a shell casing inside that matched shell casings found at the scene.

"I just want them to realize what they did to me and my family," said Vega.

Both Cary and Gann were charged with murder.

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