CLEVELAND, Tenn. (AP) - Sheriff's deputies shot and killed a Marine Corps recruiter after he apparently stabbed his young son and daughter to death and set the house on fire.
Tracy Thacker, 39, took the two children, a 5-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl, out of Michigan Avenue Elementary on Tuesday morning. On the sign-out sheet under ''reason,'' he wrote ''to pay back mom.''
Thacker and his wife, Holli, were separated and planning to divorce, authorities said.
''We're trying to piece together all the events leading up to this - what happened this morning, last night and the day before,'' Bradley County Sheriff's Department spokesman Chip Bryant said.
About 10 a.m., Thacker's 18-year-old stepdaughter called police from a neighbor's house. Bryant wouldn't disclose details of the call, but said Thacker told the young woman - his wife's daughter from a previous marriage - she ''better get out'' of the house.
As deputies tried to negotiate with the knife-weilding Thacker, they noticed smoke, Bryant said. One officer tried to get in through a side door, was forced back by the smoke and then confronted by Thacker.
''I heard someone yell, ''What do you think you're doing here?' and then two gun shots,'' said Dean Johnson, a neighbor who lives within sight of the rural Thacker home, about 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga.
The deputy fired at least one shot, killing Thacker. Bryant did not release the deputy's name or say where Thacker was hit by gunfire.
''There's no reason to believe the deputy acted improperly,'' Bryant said. The officer was placed on administrative leave with pay, until an investigation is complete.
Firefighters put out the fire and discovered the children's bodies. Their names were not released.
Deputies had arrested Thacker in May on a domestic violence charge, but the arrest record was later expunged. They were called to the home again on Oct. 1, Bryant said, but no police report was filed.
Johnson said the Thacker family had lived in the home about two years, but the families did not know one another.
''They never came out of the house that much,'' Johnson said. ''I'd see the kids playing now and then, but that's about it. Everyone else knows each other, but they kept to themselves.''