Sheriff says grandparents found dead by grandson were both shot to death

BARROW COUNTY, Ga. — The Barrow County Sheriff said Wednesday that two grandparents found dead inside their Winder home were shot to death.

Now, investigators are doubling their efforts to find the driver of a car caught on surveillance video and believed to be involved.

Willard R. and Dorothy Hess were found dead Monday morning by their grandson inside their home on South Ridge Road.

Channel 2's Tony Thomas has been following the case since the bodies were found.

Sheriff Jud Smith said he thinks the couple was killed Friday night, the same day a neighbor's surveillance camera recorded a mysterious black car stopping twice at the couple's home.

Smith's office released a picture of the car "of interest" in the case Tuesday morning, which they now believe is the key to solving the case.

"I'm a 100% confident that car was involved," Smith said. "We don't know who was in it, but that's the missing piece."

They said Wednesday they believe the car is a Hyundai Sonata.


Smith said investigators haven't ruled out a motive, but said there was no sign of a break-in and the house was not ransacked.

"We are not ruling out anything," Smith said. "We are not ruling out robbery, we are not ruling out insurance. We are not ruling out anything. We are not ruling anybody out at this time."

Deputies said the last time anyone spoke to or saw the couple was late Thursday or early Friday.

On Wednesday afternoon, detectives were still at the Hess' home trying to figure out as much about the couple's final hours as possible. Crews were also there to clean up the crime scene.

"It's tough to piece together, but we feel confident," Smith said. "We want to know who was driving that car."

Investigators are now poring over cameras in the area, trying to learn more about the mystery car.

"It's still a whodunit," Smith said. "I feel confident with our team on it. I'm hoping we are going to find it very quickly."

Family members were still not ready to talk to Thomas yet, but are actively involved in talking with investigators.

On Wednesday, Thomas obtained a photo of Willard Hess, who went by Ron. Thomas learned Hess was a published author and an expert on Shakespeare. A neighbor said he often saw Hess leaving his home to go to the library.

Thomas talked to neighbors, who were still struggling to come to grips with a double murder on their quiet street.

"I don't know what to think," one neighbor said. "It's just said. It's really sad."

Deputies ask anyone who sees the car or knows anything about the crime to call the Barrow County Sheriff's Department at 770-307-3080.