A bizarre, single-vehicle crash early Friday morning on the Soapstone Road resulted in two fatalities — but not because of the impact from the crash.

The driver and a passenger had been shot and died in what investigators called a “murder suicide.”

“Two occupants were found with gunshot wounds inside the vehicle, a male driver and a female passenger, and both were deceased,” Virginia State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Rick Garletts wrote in a release.

“The crash investigation has determined the male and the female received the gunshot wounds prior to the crash, and the gunshots originated from inside the vehicle.”

The driver of the Nissan Altima was Jalen Millner, 20, of Ridgeway, and the passenger was Najada Joyce, 20, of Axton.

Investigators are working to determine the events that occurred before the crash, the relationship between Millner and Joyce and who shot whom first.

They also didn’t say if both persons died at the scene or if the cause of death was the gunshot wound or the collision.

Garletts said a handgun recovered from inside the vehicle is believed to be the one used in the incident.

911 Martinsville and Henry County Director J.R. Powell said the call came in at 6:28 Friday, and the Virginia State Police, Horsepasture Rescue Squad, Henry County Public Safety, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia Department of Transportation were called in to assist.

Garletts said when the units arrived at the scene they found a southbound vehicle that had left the road on the left side, struck several trees and overturned.

Friday afternoon a VDOT truck blocked Soapstone Road at its intersection with Joseph Martin Highway. About 400 feet north of the intersection, the road was blocked again, this time by crime-scene tape.

Shortly after 3 p.m. the Henry County Sheriff's Office Forensic Crime Scene Unit truck left the scene, and a state trooper was overheard saying he wanted the road reopened in time for school buses to pass even if the wrecked vehicle had not been removed from the crash site.

At 3:09 p.m. Soapstone Road was reopened to traffic while crime scene investigators remained at the scene. The crashed vehicle was partially loaded onto a flatbed wrecker.

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Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

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