The youngest son of 77-year-old Fred Engus Ansley admitted that his Dad liked to take a drink and that the same thing was true of his stepmom. He also knew that from time to time the couple argued.
What he and other family members never suspected was that such arguments could one day lead to a tragic end of life for one of them.
Mr. Ansley was fatally shot inside the living room of his home at 826 White Oak Road, just outside the city limits of Thomson last Wednesday evening.
His wife, Helen Irene Ansley, 69, meanwhile, has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with her husband's killing, according to McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall. She remained jailed Tuesday in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson, awaiting a possible bond hearing before a local Superior Court judge.
"They had a lot of good times together, but every now and then, they'd get to drinking and arguing with each other," said Robbie Ansley, Fred Ansley's son who lives in Dearing and is one of the lead singers and songwriters with the popular band, 17 South of Thomson. "None of us ever thought about one of their arguments turning violent."
Robbie Ansley's wife, Missy, recalled her father-in-law being "very protective about his family."
A longtime friend of Mr. Ansley, Lewis Reese of Thomson, said his childhood friend "was a man who dodged trouble. He never went looking for trouble."
The elder Mr. Ansley was shot once in the middle of his chest, near the recliner chair that he enjoyed sitting in while in the living room of the couple's small home, Sheriff Marshall and family members said. He was shot with a .22-caliber handgun - the same one that family members believe he owned and kept in a drawer of an end table by the chair.
"I know Daddy kept a gun there in that drawer for his protection and that of his family," said the younger Mr. Ansley. "I think I remember her (Mrs. Ansley) having owned a gun at one time, too."
An autopsy was performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta last Thursday to determine the exact cause of Mr. Ansley's death, according to McDuffie County Coroner Rhusha Mack. Those findings had not been made public as of press time on Tuesday.
Mr. Ansley's body was lying on the living room floor when a city police officer and deputy sheriff first arrived on the scene.
Officer Adam Dye of the Thomson Police Department went inside the residence ahead of Deputy Robert Hoffman of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department, according to an incident report filed at the sheriff's department.
At the time, Mrs. Ansley was seen sitting in a chair, believed to be her late husband's chair. Two other people were seen in the living room. They were identified as Steve Chaney of Lincolnton and Pamela Brown - both children of Mrs. Ansley. Neither of the children reportedly were there at the time of the argument and subsequent shooting, according to authorities.
A call to 911 was made from the Ansley home by a female, said Tracy Neal, director of the McDuffie County 911 Center. He would not provide the name of the caller.
When Officer Dye inquired as to what had happened, "Helen Ansley made a spontaneous statement that she shot her husband, but did not mean to kill him," according to Deputy Hoffman's report.
Mrs. Ansley then told officers they could find the handgun used in the shooting in a drawer of the end table next to a chair.
Mrs. Ansley later was taken to a waiting patrol car by Deputy Marc Thompson, where she was taken to the county law enforcement for questioning by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Tony Williamson. Sheriff's Maj. Ronnie Williamson said a warrant was obtained late last Wednesday from Associate Magistrate Fred Vergeer formally charging Mrs. Ansley with murder.
Mr. Chaney also was placed under arrest at the scene by Deputy Marc Coy and later charged with a misdemeanor count of obstruction of a law enforcement officer.
Mrs. Ansley appeared before McDuffie County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Swan last Thursday afternoon at the law enforcement center for a first appearance bond hearing. One of the first statements made by Judge Swan was to inform Mrs. Ansley that he could not set bond. Only a Superior Court judge can set bond on a charge of murder in Georgia.
Judge Swan advised Mrs. Ansley of the charge against her, explaining that she had a right to legal counsel and that if she couldn't afford an attorney, one would be appointed by the court without cost to her. When Mrs. Ansley indicated that she could not afford an attorney, Judge Swan appointed Toombs Judicial Circuit Public Defender Harold Wallace as her attorney.
A memorial service for Mr. Ansley, the father of four children and seven grandchildren, was held at Curtis Funeral Home in Thomson last Saturday. He was a native of McDuffie County and a retired staff sergeant of 38 years with the National Guard. He also had worked and was retired from National Homes in Thomson and had worked for Inglett & Company in Augusta.