Family killed in murder-suicide missed Father's Day visit

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2015 7:30 PM
Family killed in murder-suicide missed Father's Day visit

ROY, Utah (AP) — A Utah man shot and killed his wife and two young children before turning the gun on himself on Father's Day, stunning neighbors and relatives who said the family missed an outing that day but otherwise showed no outward signs that anything was amiss.

The wife's brother found their bodies Sunday night after going to check on the family at their home on a quiet, suburban street in Roy, a city of about 38,000 roughly 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Police identified the family as Russell Smith, 29; his wife, Shawna Smith, 26; and their children, 6-year-old daughter Tylee and 2-year-old son Blake.

Police believe Russell Smith shot the others and himself, said Lt. Kevin Smith, who is not related to the family. Investigators talked to family members and were trying to uncover a motive.

Sheila Pruitt, Shawna Smith's mother, said her son-in-law had hunting weapons, but there were no signs of violence before the deaths. The family was supposed to go over to his parents' house Sunday but never made it, said Pruitt, who lives in Tacoma, Washington.

"She was just an amazing person, and an amazing mother," she said of Shawna Smith. "Those kids were her world."

Neighbors also said the family looked close and happy.

"Sweetest little family you ever saw. I can't imagine," next-door neighbor LaRue Simpson said Monday. "Something must have gone really wrong yesterday because they were not like that at all."

Pruitt said Shawna Smith's brother stopped by the residence after failing to hear from anyone there since a normal text message exchange that afternoon. He called 911 at about 10 p.m.

Police said there was no history of officers being called to the Smiths' home.

Neighbor Lynn Everley said the Smiths were a quiet family, and he never heard any fights or saw any indication of problems at their home. He said the family lived in the house for at least several years — as long as he has been in the neighborhood — and the couple seemed happy with their jobs.

Defense contractor L-3 Communications told the Deseret News that Russell Smith was a former employee, though officials declined to say when his employment ended. Company officials said in a statement they would cooperate with an investigation if asked by police.

Shawna Smith worked at Busy Bee's Playhouse, a Roy child care facility, for nearly nine years, director Jennifer Lindstrom said.

"They're a couple that you would never have expected this to happen," Everley said. "But then, what makes a person snap?"

Simpson said neighbors were having trouble coming to grips with the deaths. Simpson described Russell Smith as a sweet man and doting father who loved the Atlanta Braves and umpired kids baseball games for a local league.

"He was always taking kids and his gear off to the ballgame," Simpson said.

The couple met nine years ago, shortly before Shawna Smith graduated from high school, Pruitt said. They were friends before the relationship turned romantic, and they wed six years ago, she said.

The Smiths had a large trampoline in their backyard covered in a safety net, and they flew an American flag on a pole in their tidy front yard.

Two cars were parked in the driveway Monday as police cordoned off the single-story home. A woman stopped to drop off a bouquet but declined to talk with reporters.

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Associated Press writer Courtney Bonnell in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice