How well can a person truly know their neighbors? You may think you have close relationships with the people involved in your community, but sometimes there are sides to people that aren’t revealed until something serious happens.
That’s exactly what happened when one beloved youth ministry pastor came out as the complete opposite of the kind-hearted, good man everyone in his community believed him to be…
Christopher Gattis studied at Virginia State University and attended Colonial Heights High. He married Jeanett Lau in 2009, according to a wedding photo album on Gattis’ Facebook page. In 2008, he and his new wife moved to Chester, Virginia.
Christopher Gattis was a man of God and eventually started working as a pastor. On Facebook, Christopher Gattis wrote in July 2014 that he had started working at Grace Lutheran Church as the Director of Youth Ministry. The church is located in his hometown of Chester, Virginia, where he knew many people…
According to WRIC-TV’s Gretchen Ross, writing on Facebook, Jeanett Gattis worked as a realtor for years. Jeanett was hard working and had already had a long-established career before she met her husband. “Jeanett Gattis was a 15-year employee of Napier Realtors, ERA. Jeanett was a dedicated, hard working member of our real estate family.” said Ross.
Jeanett had a daughter from a previous marriage named Candace Kunze. Candy, as she was known to friends and family, had been living in Oregon when she decided to move back to Virginia. With her, would come Candy’s 36-year-old boyfriend, as well…
In 2017, Candy, who was now 30, and her boyfriend Andrew Buthorn moved in with Jeanett and Gattis. They had more than enough room for the couple and knew this would give them both a nice chance to start over. Candy had been working as a “Travel Physical Therapist at AMN Healthcare” and had been a “Consultant at Arbonne,” according to Facebook.
Candy’s Facebook page showed she had a very active lifestyle and took trips to the Oregon Coast Trail and Croatia. It also seemed to show that she he had a good relationship with her mother and new stepfather. Candy commented on a photo with her mother, Christopher Gattis and another relative, “Love my family” in 2017, just a few weeks after she moved back home…
“They were good people,” especially Chris, said Larry Patton who became a neighbor to the Gattis’ in 2015. “He’d do anything for you. He was always quick to laugh. He had a hearty laugh,” he continued.
Other neighbors also only had positive things to say about the family and never noticed anything amiss in the pastor’s home. “They’re just the type of people who would do anything for you,” one told NBC. However, Chris Gattis had a side to him that many people didn’t know about…
Many people described Gattis as the quiet one in the relationship and his wife Jeanett was the more bubbly one. Maybe it was because he had more than a few secrets from his past that he didn’t want to get out. It turned out that the generous Gattis wasn’t exactly who everyone thought he was.
The youth minister did have a couple of brushes with the law in the past. In 2010, Christopher Gattis was charged with public intoxication but the charge was waived. Two years later, he was also charged with assault and battery when he attacked a local man…
Kevin DeFord was helping his 19-year-old son with his paper route when he had an encounter with Gattis in the middle of the street. “He was very agitated that day,” DeFord later recalled. The charge was eventually dismissed and Gattis later apologized for his misconduct. He even paid DeFord less than $1,000 for his aggravation.
Then, years later, he saw Gattis’ name in the news and remembered what had happened. “I started thinking about how much further south this could have gone,” DeFord recalled. He recognized Gattis all over the news for an unthinkable crime on Thanksgiving in 2017…
From the outside things looked fine for Gattis’ his wife, his stepdaughter and her boyfriend living under one roof. They appeared to be one big happy family. However, on Thanksgiving, just six weeks after Candy and Andrew moved in a domestic dispute came to a head.
Dead On Arrival
On Thanksgiving night, neighbors heard a loud bang coming from Gattis home. Many living in the quiet cul de sac brushed it off as a firecracker but the police were notified and arrived to investigate an unbelievably grisly scene. On the front lawn laid the body of a lifeless 36-year-old Andrew Buthorn….
Inside, police discovered the bodies of Candace Kuzne and her mother Jeanett Gattis. All three victims had been mercilessly gunned down by none other than the pastor himself. Christopher Gattis was taken into custody that night charged with first-degree murder and use of firearm charges in the deaths of his wife and stepdaughter, as well as for the murder of Andrew Buthorn.
Neighbors couldn’t believe Gattis even had a firearm, let alone was capable of something so horrific. “It just came as a shock that it could happen,” said one neighbor. “They’ve been active in the church. A lot of times they had people from the church over there, the young people. They had cookouts and games and stuff like that. We never heard any arguments or anything like that.”
People who knew the Gattis family also expressed shock and grief on Facebook. “…[I] know the family and am in shock! Chris was always nice and soft-spoken and seemed very happy with Jeanett when I last saw them a couple years ago. I’m praying for all involved!” wrote one woman. The triple homicide completely rattled the tight-knit community of Chester.
Soon after the tragic news broke, Grace Lutheran Church confirmed that Christopher Gattis was a pastor there, and released a statement. “Members of Grace Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by the loss of life last night as a result of three individuals being shot in Chester and this tragedy included members of Grace Lutheran Church. Grace Lutheran Church has experienced many hardships over the years, but this heartbreak has unique challenges. Grace Lutheran Church asks for the prayers from the community as our congregation begins the process of addressing the grief being experienced by everyone involved,” it read.
Today, Gattis is being held without bond at Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County. Gattis is set to appear in Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for a preliminary hearing on the charges against his wife and stepdaughter. The next day, he is scheduled to appear for the charges in Buthorn’s death.
Now that Gattis awaits his trial all that remains are countless questions by those affected and left completely baffled by the Thanksgiving Day shootings in the pastors’ seemingly happy home. What could have been so bad that Christopher Gattis would murder his own family in cold blood on a holiday? One neighbor, Eric Robinson said he believes it was an extremely deep-rooted problem that made Gattis go to such an extreme. “I guess it was lack of counseling. I know he was a youth minister and stuff, but maybe he just had something that he couldn’t talk to somebody about,” he said.