One Harlan County man is dead and another seriously injured after gunfire erupted late Friday night outside a home near Harlan. While police search for clues, a family is in shock and one woman says she's thankful to be alive.
Just before midnight on Friday, eighty year old Alka Bennett was sleeping when she says she awoke to three to four gunshots outside her window.
"They sounded like they were hitting my trailer," Bennett says.
Police say 39 year old Mark Vanwinkle and his uncle, 52 year old Harry Vanwinkle, were exchanging fire. When police responded, they say they found Mark Vanwinkle dead from a gunshot wound to the head. His uncle, Harry, sustained one shot to the abdomen. The family says they are simply in shock.
"My nephew. I loved him. My mom raised me and him," said Michael Vanwinkle.
But Michael Vanwinkle says a bad family feud was brewing from earlier.
"My nephew had threatened to kill me and my brother over an altercation we had earlier in the day," he said.
Mark Vanwinkle's mother, who did not want to talk on camera, claims her brother fired at her son first. Police are still investigating who exactly shot who first. Meanwhile, many in the Sunshine Community of Harlan County are wondering why.
"He was a nice young man, no better, no worse than anybody else," Arbutis Frith said.
Fritz's son grew up with Mark Vanwinkle.
Just feet away from bullets in her sleep, Alka Bennett says a higher power was watching over her.
"I thank God I wasn't hurt. It's frightening, just frightening," she said.
Harry Vanwinkle is recovering at the U.T. Medical Center in Knoxville. At this point, Kentucky State Police have not charged him in the shooting and they are continuing to investigate the incident.