A youth pastor faces three counts of first-degree murder after his wife, stepdaughter and his stepdaughter's boyfriend were found shot dead at the family's home in Virginia on Thanksgiving Day.

Christopher Gattis was arrested on Thursday (23 November), after Chesterfield County police officers found the body of 36-year-old Andrew Buthorn in the front yard of a home in the 14900 block of Dogwood Ridge Court in Chester.

The bodies of Buthorn's girlfriend, Candice Kunze, and her mother, Jeanett Gattis, were found inside the property. The latter was married to Gattis, who was found at the crime scene when the police arrived at approximately 11.30pm and subsequently taken into custody.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the police are treating the deaths as domestic-related crime, adding Gattis also faces three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The 58-year-old is the youth pastor at Chester's Grace Lutheran Church, according to the church's website.

"Members of Grace Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by the loss of life last night as a result of three individuals being shot in Chester, and this tragedy included members of Grace Lutheran Church," the church said in a statement.

"Grace Lutheran Church has experienced many hardships over the years, but this heartbreak has unique challenges. Grace Lutheran Church asks for the prayers from the community as our congregation begins the process of addressing the grief being experienced by everyone involved."

Darius Williams, one of the neighbours, said the community had been left gobsmacked by news of the multiple murders.

"I heard a bang," he was quoted as saying by Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"My nephew thought it was a firecracker. I know it wasn't. I heard a second one. I didn't see nothing, so I didn't think much of it. I wouldn't expect anything like that to happen here. It's quiet."

Neighbours Larry and Chris Patton moved in the area two years ago and said the Gattises were good people.

"[Christopher Gattis would] do anything for you," Larry Paton was quoted as saying.

"He was always quick to laugh. He had a hearty laugh. They welcomed us to the neighborhood. It's just sad that their Thanksgiving ended that way."