Tiny town mourns family’s death — then learns it was probably murder-suicide

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Investigators: South Dakota family of six died in a murder-suicide.

PLATTE — The people of Platte and Charles Mix County are still reeling from the events of the last week, which left a local family dead and a community grieving its loss.

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 on Sept. 17 at their home at 36705 379th Street, 3 miles south of Platte. On Monday, the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office released the family’s preliminary autopsy reports, which indicate that cause and manner of death for Nicole, Kailey, Jaeci, Connor and Michael Westerhuis were homicide by shotgun wounds. Authorities believe that a man shot and killed his wife and four children, started his home on fire, and then turned the gun on himself, according to the Associated Press. Initially investigators could not identify the bodies because they were so badly burned. “We have experienced the tragic loss of an entire family including young children that has affected an entire community. Based on evidence of foul play continuing to be uncovered, law enforcement remains committed to a complete and thorough investigation,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley in a news release.

Platte-Geddes School District Superintendent Joel Bailey told reporters that he was notified about the deaths of the four Westerhuis children late last week. The education organization was based in Platte and provides language, hearing, and speech services to students in the district where their children attended. 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. According to district officials, Jaeci was quieter and more reserved, but still still friendly everyone and “had a very kind heart.” She was active in basketball, volleyball, swim team and Girls on the run.

They came back to raise their children here,” Guericke added. “They were involved with coaching their teams, worked with their youth groups at church. 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 says. “The world needs to know how special each individual child was.”

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