DUNCAN, Okla. - The publisher of a weekly newspaper in rural Oklahoma, his wife and teenage daughter were shot to death inside their home, friends of the family reported Tuesday.
John and Katherine "Tinker" Hruby and their daughter, also named Katherine, were apparently killed sometime between Thursday evening and Friday, when the Hrubys did not show up for work at The Marlow Review.
Local and state police are investigating but have released few details about the deaths. Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks acknowledged the case is being investigated "like a homicide" but he would not elaborate.
Close friends of the Hrubys confirmed that a housekeeper found their bodies about 9 a.m. Monday before calling 911. Police then converged on the family's two-story brick home in the affluent Timber Creek subdivision on Duncan's north side.
Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association who has known the Hrubys for years, confirmed that the Hrubys were shot to death. Thomas said he's received many calls from concerned members of the newspaper industry inquiring as to what happened.
John Hruby, 50, was publisher of The Marlow Review, a weekly circulation newspaper in a town of about 4,000 people, located 10 miles north of Duncan. He previously was publisher of The Duncan Banner, having succeeded his late father, Al Hruby. The Hruby family sold the Banner in 1997.
John Hruby's wife was known to everyone as "Tinker," and their daughter, Katherine, 17, was a junior and volleyball player at Duncan High School.
The Hrubys also have a son, Alan, 19, a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. He was being held in Stephens County jail Monday night on a charge related to stolen checks, said Duncan Police Detective Donny Foraker.
Alan Hruby pleaded guilty on Jan. 2 to a charge of credit card theft. The case arose from his use a credit card from his grandmother, Janis Hruby, according to The Duncan Banner.
Court records show he entered a delayed sentencing program, owed $491.15 in fines and court costs, and was due to appear before District Judge Joe Enos on Nov. 12.
Police acknowledged that John and Tinker Hruby veered from their routines last Friday, when they didn't turn up for work at the newspaper, and John Hruby didn’t cover a high school football game in Marlow.
That suggests their deaths occurred sometime Thursday night or Friday, but authorities said little about what might have happened.
Their murders shocked residents of this community a little more than a year after Duncan made international headlines for a case involving the thrill killing of an Australian baseball player.
Christopher Lane, 22, who was in town visiting his girlfriend, was out for a run in August 2013 when he was gunned down by teenagers in a passing car. Two still await trial on murder charges, while two others were charged as accessories.
On Monday night, a crowd gathered for a prayer vigil in the Duncan High School parking lot, where they recalled the family's passion for volleyball. Only a junior, Katherine was already a member of the varsity squad.
Her father was team photographer. And her mother was a booster club officer renowned for her delicious jambalaya - the team's favorite dish, said Coach Sandy Mitchell.
Tinker Hruby was also the team's loudest fan. “That was the only voice I could hear in the stands,” Mitchell said.
Students remembered Katherine as a jokester who would chase teammates with bugs, and a fierce competitor who would wave a white towel while cheering on teammates when she wasn’t on the court.
“She was such a good person and such good friend to all of us,” friend Carly Kirkland, a senior on the volleyball team, who'd known Katherine since the two were young girls living down the street from each other. “She always had a smile on her face even when she had every reason not to."
Residents of nearby Marlow, where the Hrubys' were a community presence, were stunned, as well.
"Any small town is made that much better by having a paper. To own a newspaper takes a dedicated person like John," said said City Administrator Jason McPherson. "This cuts deep. It's a gut-wrenching time."
The Hrubys had owned the Marlow Review since 2007. Six years later, they bought the Comanche County Chronicle, in nearby Elgin, Okla.
Thomas said John Hruby was elected vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association in June, following his father in the organization's leadership. Al Hruby served as president of the group in 1995.
Thomas said John Hruby was a skilled computer technician who could fix anything electronic, and an avid pilot who kept a Beechcraft Bonanza airplane at the Duncan Airport.
"He always wanted to be a commercial pilot," said Thomas. "But he grew up in a newspaper family, and that became his priority."
That connection is what led Hruby, less than a decade after leaving The Duncan Banner, to buy the paper in nearby Marlow.
"He had an itch to get back in," said Thomas. "He missed having a voice in a community. When you grow up in the family newspaper business, the heartbeat of a town gets in your blood. He wanted to get re-engaged."
Details for this story were reported by The Duncan Banner staff.