Authorities reviewing financial info after apparent murder-suicide

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Authorities reviewing financial info after apparent murder-suicide.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says an investigation into an apparent murder-suicide involving a family of six is focusing in part on financial issues. PLATTE, S.D. – Platte residents, who were grieving the loss of a family in what was thought to be a fire last week, were in even more shock this week. “I would say that last Thursday, our world was just rocked by the tragedy of the fire, and today with what came out, it’s just devastating,” said the Rev.

Authorities believe Scott Westerhuis (WEST’-er-house) shot his wife and four children last week, then set the family home ablaze before shooting himself. Harry Koops. “It’s truly turned upside down.” On Thursday, Scott and Nicole Westerhuis, along with their four children, third-grader Kailey, fifth-grader Jaeci, eighth-grader Connor, and sophomore Michael, were believed to have died in a fire at their home 3 miles south of Platte. Once a final autopsy is conducted, the attorney general’s office will release further information regarding the Westerhuis family’s cause and manner of death. Initial reports showed that Nicole and her children, Michael, Connor, Jaeci and Kailey died from gunshot wounds ruled as a homicide, and Scott died from a gunshot wound determined to be suicide. “As part of the healing process, we need to be open to the public and to the Platte community as to what happened,” he said. “But part of my job is to make sure (the investigation) is thorough.” Last week, as the Platte-Geddes High School football team prepared for its Friday night game in Kadoka, a special No. 28 sticker was added to each player’s helmet.

The state Education Department decided not to renew the $4.3 million contract in the wake of a state audit last year that took issue with Mid-Central’s documenting of some expenses. Platte Mayor Steve Christensen said Tuesday that officials held a meeting Monday night with local clergy, school and law enforcement to announce the preliminary autopsy findings. A police dog found a potential accelerant in the home’s ruins, but investigators are waiting to receive confirmation from tests results, the attorney general said.

Classes returned to normal Friday, but Frank Cutler, Platte-Geddes athletic director, said things were “a little more quiet than normal.” Superintendent Joel Bailey declined to comment on the situation, but the school issued a news release reiterating the support services available to students, and offering condolences to the Westerhuis and Fish families. School counselors, administration, ministerial association members and youth group leaders will all be available for students, according to the district, “and will remain in place for as long as needed.” District officials also said they want to focus on “how wonderful the Westerhuis kids were,” offering thoughts and memories of each of the children who died. She also enjoyed spending time with a classmate who has disabilities, and “always wanted to play with her during recess.” Kailey’s older sister, Jaeci, was in fifth grade.

School officials said his dream was to kick for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. “We will share their stories and focus on the beautiful smiles, youthful energy and character each child portrayed on a daily basis,” the release states. “The world needs to know how special each individual child was.” The Westerhuis property resembles a mini-sports complex, complete with a half-size football field with two goalposts and a two-story metal building that houses an indoor gym and weight room. Koops said members of Platte and the surrounding communities have rallied to provide that help, including outside schools and clergy members offering their services and support. “There has been an outpouring of support from other communities in the surrounding areas,” Koops said. “We are overwhelmed with love, support and encouragement.”

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