Shooting spree that killed 4 stuns quiet Wyo. town

AP News
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Posted: Jul 09, 2011 4:29 PM
Shooting spree that killed 4 stuns quiet Wyo. town

Evidence tape and plywood sealed the windows of a battered, brown mobile home in this central Wyoming town on Saturday morning. Where three young brothers once had played, there was only silence.

A man opened fire inside the mobile home Thursday night, authorities say, killing his three sons and a brother. The man's wife was wounded and ran from the scene screaming, "he killed my babies," a witness said.

Stunned residents of Wheatland were coming together to grieve the four killed in the shooting spree. The townspeople planned a community barbeque on Sunday to raise money for funeral expenses for the victims.

After sundown Friday, scores of students from Wheatland High School gathered for a candlelight vigil for the three boys. The oldest was a student at the school. Many students were in tears as they took turns relating stories about their classmate.

Many in Wheatland have lived here all their lives. Residents greet each other warmly as they linger over coffee in cafes. Small family businesses thrive downtown, and American flags wave proudly on front porches.

The violence has stunned residents of this town where tidy brick buildings and shady streets seem a throw-back to a simpler time in America.

"It's just a very tragic thing," said Jean Dixon, the mayor of the town of about 3,600 residents. "It's hard to comment on something that just never occurs around here. It's like, `How can it happen?' This is a small community. We all know each other."

Police found the bodies of the boys and 33-year-old Nacuma Roland Conant inside the trailer home in the town about 70 miles north of Cheyenne. The woman, Suzette Ann Conant, was shot twice but was listed in good condition at a Cheyenne hospital.

Authorities didn't immediately release the names of the other victims. But a judge referred to one of the sons as Joseph, and a court document referred to the others as "C.C." and "E.C." Their dates of birth weren't released, but the document indicates Joseph was 11 or 12, C.C. was 12 or 13 and E.C. was 17 or 18.

People at the vigil referred to the boys as Joseph, Charles and Everett.

Everett E. Conant III surrendered without incident and was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, battery and a weapons violation. The murder and attempted-murder charges carry sentences of death or life without parole.

He was ordered held without bail on Friday. His court-appointed lawyer, Eric Palen, declined to comment. Police gave his age as 35 or 36.

Wheatland's chief of police, Randy Chesser, said a motive for the shootings wasn't immediately known. He also said he didn't know if the boys were Conant's biological children.

Chesser said at least one handgun _ possibly more _ was used in the shootings. Asked how many rounds were fired, he said simply: "A lot."

After the vigil, he called the shootings "pretty horrific. This is an unexplainable tragedy."

Jeanette Barber, a teacher for the past 30 years, said after the vigil that she knew all three boys. She said they had an innocence and enthusiasm about them.

"I could do nothing last night but cry," Barber said. "This is not something that you would expect to have happen in our community."

Conant worked briefly at a hog farm north of Wheatland this spring but quit after mentioning problems arranging child care, said Doug Derouchey, the general manager of Wyoming Premium Farms.

"He was, I think, having problems elsewhere," Derouchey said.

Suzette Conant's workplace, an A&W restaurant, was collecting donations for her medical care and the family's funeral costs.

"She is the nicest person in the world. She didn't do anything to anybody," said Beth Horsley, a co-worker.

Katrina Nix, a former co-worker, was organizing the fund-raiser barbecue, with local businesses donating food, ice and other supplies. She said Saturday that as a mother, she was inspired to do something to help Suzette Conant.

"Even after the victim's funds, she's still going to have funeral costs," Nix said. "I don't want her to have to cremate them just because that's all the money they gave her. I want her to be able to get them headstones and a proper burial."

Nix said the shootings shocked the town.

"This hit home with a lot of people because we're a really small community," Nix said. "Obviously we hear about this in bigger states, in bigger towns."

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Associated Press writers Mead Gruver in Cheyenne and P. Solomon Banda, Catherine Tsai and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.