Community mourns Naples residents Chris and Gracie Hagers killed in Kentucky

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The Naples community has joined in mourning the part-time loss of Southwest Florida and Richmond, Kentucky resident and real estate agent Chris Hager and his wife, Gracie Hager, who were shot and killed Tuesday.

The news came as a shock to Kathy Zorn, owner and broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Pristine in Naples, where Chris Hager, 54, had worked as an agent since 2019.

“It’s a sad, sad day here,” Zorn said.

The Hagers were found in a building they owned in their hometown of Richmond around 2:30 p.m., shot several times, Richmond Police Department chief Rodney Richardson said at a press conference on Tuesday , as reported by the Lexington Herald Leader. Authorities declared them dead at the scene

Police arrested a suspect in the murders, Thomas Birl, 51, following an almost 4-hour standoff with authorities where Birl barricaded himself inside the duplex and attempted to put it there fire, reported the Herald Leader.

Chris and Gracie, 52, have been described as pillars of the community of Richmond and Madison County, said Erin Ackerman, a friend of the family.

Ackerman had known the Hagers for almost 20 years and had worked alongside Chris at ERA Professional Hometown Services as a real estate agent since 2014.

“They were the epitome of a pious couple,” Ackerman said. “They had a huge servant’s heart.

“Our hearts are broken here in the community with our friends and family. It’s hard to understand. We seek solace where they are now.”

While Chris championed creating a better County in Richmond and Madison, Gracie was an accomplished interior designer and incredible cook, Ackerman said.

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The Hagers owned The University Shell grocery store which sold local Gracie baked goods and sandwiches near Eastern Kentucky University, their alma mater.

Ackerman recalled that Chris was referring to the Naples golfing community as he lobbied for golf carts to be legalized on the streets of the city of Richmond last month.

The Hagers traveled between Richmond and Naples, Ackerman said, adding that she was never surprised to learn Chris was in southwest Florida on a short trip when she called him.

Zorn said she appreciated the way Chris approached working with home buyers and sellers in Naples with such integrity.

“He was a good man, a good father. He always shared his passion for his country, his religion and his family,” Zorn said. “Gracie was just as sweet.”

The Naples Area Council of Estate Agents sent their condolences to the Hager family.

“On behalf of the Naples Area Board of Realtors and its member family, we are sad to learn of the passing of member Christopher Hager and extend our deepest condolences to his friends and family,” said Chairman Corey McCloskey.

Kristen Artessa, vice president and owner of Better Homes and Gardens Pristine, described an atmosphere where “grief tore the office apart.”

“Chris was a good man and an exceptional real estate professional,” said Artessa. “He will be sadly missed by all of us here.”

Richmond police have yet to reveal the motive for the murders, according to the Herald Leader. Birl is charged with murder, first degree arson, tampering with evidence and first degree criminal mischief

The Hagers are survived by a daughter in her twenties, Zorn and Ackerman said.

Ackerman expects the community of Richmond to come together around the Hager family. A community prayer service was scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Eastside Community Church in Richmond, according to the church’s Facebook page.

Zorn plans to focus his agency’s attention on helping the Hagers’ daughter.

“What we’re going to do is come together and see what we can do for her,” Zorn said. “We will reach out to her and the family and do all we can to help her.”


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