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Stepfather Arrested in Death of HS Student, Mother

10:12 PM, Nov 30, 2009   |    comments
Ashton Arnold
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(greenvilleonline.com) -- Authorities today officially charged the stepfather with two counts of murder in the death a Hillcrest High basketball player who was found shot to death Sunday alongside his mother in their Fountain Inn.

Gentry O'Neil Chapman, 32, of 5553 Allen Bridge Road, Fountain Inn, faces two charges of possession of a weapon during a violent crime in addition to the murder charges, according to warrants. Chapman has been held at the Laurens County Detention Center since Sunday morning after he called 911 to tell police he had shot his wife and stepson and was on his way to turn himself in to Fountain Inn police, said Laurens County Sheriff Ricky Chastain.

Ashton Arnold, a 17-year-old sophomore who was preparing to play his first game for Hillcrest's varsity team, and Amanda Chapman, his 31-year-old mother, were both found dead at the Fountain Inn home they shared with Gentry Chapman.

Laurens County Coroner Nick Nichols said each had been shot in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun and had died a minute apart at about 4 a.m. Sunday morning. Sunday was Arnold's 17th birthday.

Students returned to school after the Thanksgiving break to the second tragic death in the Hillcrest family this school year after young math teacher Troy Jones died Sept. 30 from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.

Many students still weren't aware of Arnold's death when they came to school Monday morning, said Principal Steven Chamness. He made an announcement and the student body spent the day grieving, sharing stories about their friend and writing messages to him on posters in the school commons.

Grief counselors and area youth pastors spent the day at the campus and met with more than 100 students who wanted to sit and talk about Arnold, Chamness said.

"It's been a sad day at our school," Chamness said.

Boys' basketball coach Reggie Choplin said he left the decision up to the team whether to postpone the team's first game of the season, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Greenwood.

"The guys decided they want to play tomorrow so we're going to play," Choplin said. "They thought that was one of the best ways to remember Ashton and to honor him and keep his memory alive was to continue on with what he loved to do."

Choplin called Arnold a fun-loving, good student who always wore a smile. He was set to play guard for the team as a defensive strength, Choplin said.

"No matter how much you got on him, at the end of a practice or the end of a game, he had a grin on his face," Choplin said.

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