The grandmother of two children shot by their mother inside a Texas welfare office said Wednesday her former daughter-in-law had a history of mental problems leading up to the standoff in a state building where the struggling family had been denied food stamps.
One of the children, 12-year-old Ramie Grimmer, died Wednesday night at a San Antonio hospital, Laredo police spokesman Joe Baeza said. The girl's brother, 10, remained in critical condition.
Ramie appeared to post a chilling update on Facebook while her mother squared off with police Monday at a Laredo welfare office. Her profile was updated to read "may die 2day" just hours before authorities say her mother shot the girl and her brother, then killed herself to end the seven-hour standoff.
The family had moved this summer to the border city, where they lived in a rundown trailer. The state denied Grimmer's application for food stamps in August, but Mary Lee Shepherd said her grandchildren's mother had problems beyond trying to feed her family.
"My son knew she was mentally ill and tried to get her help," said Shepherd, who lives in Helena, Mont.
Shepherd said her son Dale Grimmer, the children's father, was flying Wednesday from Montana to San Antonio hospital to be with the children.
Dale and Rachelle Grimmer divorced six or seven years ago, after Rachelle and the children moved from Montana to Ohio, Shepherd said. Dale Grimmer also moved to Ohio and was able to visit the children from time to time, but Rachelle Grimmer moved and did not inform him or the court, Shepherd said.
Shepherd said she or her son contacted social workers in Montana twice and in Ohio once because they were concerned that Rachelle Grimmer could harm the children. Shepherd declined to detail her former daughter-in-law's mental problems or say what caused them to make those calls.
Shepherd's claims could not immediately be verified Wednesday with state child welfare officials in Montana and Ohio. However, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reported finding two cases Wednesday involving Grimmer and her children.
In the first case, reported Sept. 15, 2010, the department received a possible neglect report after Rachelle Grimmer and her two children were found living in a tent on a South Texas beach. Investigators found no evidence of neglect and closed the case, spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.
In a report made last June, Corpus Christi police said Rachelle Grimmer had come to police headquarters with her two children and reported that she had been a domestic violence victim. Caseworkers checked on her and the children, determined the children were not at risk and took no further action, Crimmins said.
The findings had been delayed until Wednesday because Grimmer's surname had been spelled differently in the department database, and she was listed under a different first name, Crimmins said.
Rachelle Grimmer, 38, was found dead inside the building later that night, along with her two wounded children. She arrived around 5 p.m. and asked to speak to a caseworker about her rejected food stamps application. Officials said Grimmer was taken to a private room, where she then pulled out a gun.
About two dozen people inside the building were let go unharmed. Grimmer rattled off a litany of complaints against government agencies during the negotiations with police, Laredo police investigator Joe Baeza said.
The state rejected Grimmer's request for food stamps because her application was incomplete, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. She described Grimmer's contact with the state as sporadic, including the mother not following up about her denied benefits until more than three months had passed.
Shepherd said the standoff and shooting never should have happened, but that she hopes this case will result in people treating such intervention requests more seriously.
"They should have gave her the food stamps and followed up and then got the children out of there," Shepherd said. "I don't know what's going to happen, and my son is terribly distraught, but you know, something good can come out of this where somebody will start listening.
Goodman said an agency supervisor tried calling Grimmer on her cellphone five days before the shooting, but no one answered and the voicemail box was full.
Volz reported from Helena, Mont. Associated Press Writer Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.