“Sometimes removing some people out of your life makes room for better people.” That innocuous inspirational quote, posted to the personal Facebook page of Veronica Dunnachie, 35, now appears to be a cryptic warning of things to come.
Dunnachie was charged last week with capital murder for the shooting deaths of her estranged husband, Russ Dunnachie, 50, and her stepdaughter, Kimberly Dunnachie, 20. The mother of four allegedly killed the pair with shots to the head and chest, according to the medical examiner, in the home she was ordered to be out of by the end of the month.
According to the search warrant affidavit, Veronica Dunnachie called a friend, Guy Potter, and told him she “had just done something bad.” Dunnachie allegedly told Potter that she had shot both her husband and his daughter from a previous marriage who had come to help with the other children while the two worked out divorce arrangements. Potter suggested that she drive herself to Millwood Hospital, a mental-health facility. She was later apprehended there after Potter called a different friend, who called the police.
Along with Dunnachie’s civic mindedness—she was a Republican election judge—and her penchant for right-wing and fringe causes, including the open carry of firearms, both husband and wife were members of the 3%ers Texas, according to former members of the group and posts on social media. The group is part of a greater modern militia movement named for what adherents claim is the share of colonists who fought during the American Revolutionary War.
Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks militia groups, told The Daily Beast the group is more of a general anti-government movement than a traditional organized group. “A lot of people call themselves ‘Three Percenters.’ What it means is that they’re willing to fight for liberty, unlike 97 percent of the country. It’s obviously part of the radical right,” Potok said.
But some 1,500 active members of 3%ers Texas did gather at organized events—at gun ranges and pizza parlors—to talk about surviving off the land, or overthrowing the government should it become tyrannical.
Philip Gill, 49, was a member of the 3%ers who says he had met both the Dunnachies and several of their children at group events, before, he claims, Veronica booted him out. According to Gill, Veronica Dunnachie was a “Zone 3 Commander” and a site administrator, (there are 11 zones within the state). The two disagreed on what should be the group’s focus: He wanted to learn tactical military maneuvers and she thought they should be practicing survival and prepper skills. “She was hot-headed, had her own way of doing things,” Gill said—and so, he left to form a separate militia group.
“I knew her, I’m not that surprised,” said one Facebook commenter who asked that I not use his name. When reached for further explanation, he said that Dunnachie had been an administrator for the 3%ers group to which he had once belonged, and described her as “short-tempered and from what I understand not very willing to negotiate anything.”
Still, being known for a short fuse in an anti-government hobbyist group doesn’t explain what might have driven her to murder.
“I feel sorry for what she did to Russ and his daughter,” Gill said. “I don’t understand what caused her to go to that point.”
Unlike her heavily documented role as a member of the open-carry crowd, the social-media footprint for the 3%er part of Dunnachie’s life is almost nonexistent. The group is careful with their posts; yesterday the moderator for Dunnachie’s zone posted a reminder on the importance of “maintaining OPSEC at all times!!!!” and told members to “maintain as much privacy as you can.”
Dunnachie was much looser with her open-carry affiliations. Her Facebook photos could populate a tame “girls with guns” style calendar. One week before the alleged murders, Dunnachie changed her Facebook profile photo to one where she’s shooting an SKS semi automatic rifle. “Ain’t nothing cuter than a beautiful woman gettin her shootin on,” one pal says.
Since the murders, the groups and causes that Dunnachie once advocated for have sought to distance themselves.
According to a number of photos posted here and there on the Internet, Dunnachie participated in several events with Open Carry Tarrant County (OCTC), a group known for exercising its Second Amendment rights by brandishing rifles in Kroger pharmacy aisles and Target parking lots. In one, posted to OCTC’s Facebook page, Dunnachie stands with a holstered revolver at her side. It’s captioned: “One of our members who is dedicated to the cause... Momma didn’t raise no victim!”
But Kory Watkins, president of Open Carry Tarrant County, said he didn’t know Dunnachie and denied she had been a member. When asked about several since-deleted photos on Facebook of Dunnachie posing with the group, including one of Watkins and Veronica Dunnachie alone together posted to his wife’s page, he told The Daily Beast, “I have taken pictures with thousands of people all across Texas. I didn’t now know her. I don’t know anything.”
CJ Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas (OCT), was more forthcoming. Grisham offered condolences to members on his Facebook page. “My thoughts are with my friends who lost a good friend. You know who you are and I’m thinking of you,” he wrote. He also noted that Dunnachie had been a member of OCT for three months, but said she had not been a part of the organization for the last nine months.
When reached for comment, Grisham told The Daily Beast, “OCT had nothing to do with the shooting any more than Chevrolet did when she drove the car to allegedly do it.”