Ware County

Son, daughter-in-law arrested after Southeast Georgia couple found shot to death in their bed

WAYCROSS, Ga. — A man was arrested Tuesday in connection with a man and woman found shot dead in their bed, and deputies say the man is the son of the woman killed.

The man’s wife was also arrested, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed on Wednesday night.


On Monday, Virginia Thomas, 73, and Charles Barnett, 75, were found dead “with apparent gunshot wounds” in their Waycross home off South Lakeview Drive.

On Wednesday, Bernard Rittenhouse, 55, was arrested and charged with two counts of felony murder and one count of burglary. The Ware County Sheriff’s Office said Thomas is Rittenhouse’s mother.

Rittenhouse’s wife, Janet Rittenhouse, 53, of Waycross, was also arrested and charged with two counts of felony murder and one count of party to the crime of burglary.

RELATED: GBI investigating after man, woman found shot dead in their Waycross home

“It’s baby here. Sugar there. Sweetie here. That’s the only way I’ve seen ‘em talk to each other,” Roger Nettles said of Thomas and Barnett.

The long-time neighbor and friend of the couple say the two were very much in love. “Some of the best friends I’ve ever had.”

Nettles said Janet Rittenhouse came to his home the morning of the couple’s death.

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“I said ‘what’s wrong?’ She said Rit [Rittenhouse] went in there, and found his mom and Charles dead. She start crying, and I said, ‘Would you please repeat that because I’m not sure I heard you right,’” Nettles said. “She told me again, and I said ‘Good God Almighty I can’t believe that.’”

On Tuesday, the GBI asked for the public’s help in the investigation into Thomas and Barnett’s killings.

Both of the Rittenhouses are now being held in the Ware County Jail.

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“If he’s guilty -- and I’m not the one to make a decision -- but if he’s guilty, he sure had me fooled for many of years,” Nettles said.

WCSO said the investigation is active and ongoing. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact WCSO at (912) 287-4326 or the GBI Douglas Office at (912) 389-4103.

Once the investigation is complete, the case file will be given to the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, WCSO said.

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