Mom alleged to have shot children, self
FAIRDEALING, Mo. -- Two young children died Thursday as the result of gunshot wounds authorities say were caused by their mother, who then shot herself in a double murder/ suicide.
Ripley County Coroner Mike Jackson identified the victims as Gunner Coleman, 2, and his 4-year-old sister, Maycie Harris. Also dead is the children's mother, Laura E. Coleman, 32.
At about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, a Doniphan School District employee, who works with the One Stop Program, went to Coleman's home after finding out her daughter did not go to school that day, according to Ripley County Sheriff Mike Barton.
When the worker arrived at the home, located at the end of a block-long driveway on County Road T-1,
off of Highway JJ, "she noticed something" outside the residence that indicated law enforcement needed to be called, Barton said. The worker, he said, actually drove to the Doniphan Police Department, and police officials subsequently contacted the sheriff's department.
Barton said Chief Deputy Charlie Mays and Deputy Chad Keathley responded,arriving about 10 minutes
"Laura's grandma, (who) lived with Laura, returned back home," arriving there after the school employee left and before the deputies arrived, Barton said.
Deputies, he said, found the woman outside the home. "She stated: 'Laura needs help,'" the sheriff said.
The deputies entered the one-story home and found three bodies, which were identified as Coleman and her children.
"It appeared all three were deceased ... all three were in the same room, in a bedroom," explained Barton, who indicated the deputies checked each for vital signs.
"There was small amounts of blood on each body," Barton said.
While en route to the scene, Barton said, he contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control, and the Current River Major Case Squad was activated.
Responding to assist the sheriff's department with the investigation were officers with the Doniphan Police
Department and highway patrol. Jackson also responded to the scene, where he confirmed "all three were deceased,"
At that point, he said, officers began their investigation, which included the taking of photographs.
Officers, Barton said, also began looking for evidence in what the sheriff described as a small bedroom, where they found a small caliber rifle. Gunshot residue tests,he said, were performed on both Coleman and her grandmother.
After processing the scene, as well as talking with and interviewing family members, Barton said, autopsies were completed Friday morning at a Farmington, Mo., area hospital by Dr. Russell Deidiker.
"The autopsies showed the manner of death to both juveniles was homicide done by Laura," Barton
said. "The manner of death to Laura was suicide. Death caused (to) all three was due to gunshots wounds."
Barton said further details about where and how many times each was shot will not be released, only that the deaths were "caused by gunshot wounds."
Jackson said evidence was recovered during the autopsies and samples were taken for toxicology analysis. Those results typically take six to eight weeks to be returned.
The deaths are believed to have occurred, Barton said, within a three-hour time period after the grandmother
left and before the school worker arrived.
As far as what led to Coleman's actions, "the family members don't really know 100 percent" why it happened, Barton said.
From what officers were told, "it was out of character for her to do anything to hurt her children," Barton said. "All we can go on is what the family members are saying." At this time, "we're going on what the autopsy showed ... (the deaths were) a double homicide/suicide," Barton said.
Per state statute, a child fatality review panel will meet Monday, Feb. 6, Jackson said.
The panel, the coroner said, meets anytime a child under the age of 18 dies suddenly and unexpectedly to see if anything can be done to prevent future deaths.
A fund, according to the sheriff, has been set up at Peoples Bank at Doniphan to help the family pay for funeral expenses. Barton believes the family will "appreciate any help they can get."