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Archive for Sunday, June 5, 2005

Questions remain about Ohio murder suicides

June 5, 2005

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— Gary Shafer was making breakfast when his grandson walked into his farmhouse early last Sunday, placed the barrel of a small-caliber rifle loosely against the older man's neck and fired three times, killing him.

Two shots in the right side, one in the left.

Next door, the gunman's mother and his friends were asleep when he arrived. Scott Moody, 18, walked from room to room in the quiet house, holding the rifle lightly against his victims, firing bullets into their temples or necks. He then killed himself.

A week after Moody and five others died in the murder-suicide, details about the crime have come from autopsies, and court records have revealed signs of fractures and financial troubles in the family.

Yet neighbors and friends say they still cannot place the quiet boy they knew in such a chilling picture.

"I just don't understand," said Mabel Watt, a neighbor of the family for more than 40 years. "The young boy, I just can't picture him doing this."

Moody and one of the shooting victims were to be among 49 students graduating later that day from Riverside High School in nearby De Graff. The shootings happened just hours after a graduation party, where friends said Moody played pool and watched television.

People who knew Moody said he helped out on the family's dairy farm and was active in his school's agriculture program, showing cattle at the state fair. Bernie Pachmayer, superintendent of Riverside Local Schools, said his teachers saw him as reserved and respectful.

"We cannot adjust to thinking of Scott in the way that he would take all these lives," Pachmayer said.

Funerals for the victims began Friday, drawing hundreds of mourners.

Logan County Sheriff Michael Henry said he hoped the services and burials would help residents begin to heal, but Pachmayer and Watt said most residents were still in shock.

"Every time I go to town, I pass their houses ... It makes you sick in the pit of your stomach," Watt said.

The two white houses where the shootings took place are just outside Bellefontaine, a city of 13,000 people surrounded by corn and soybean fields, about 45 miles northwest of Columbus.

On that Sunday morning, one farmhouse held the bodies of Gary Shafer, 67, and his wife, Sharyl, 66, who had been helping prepare their meal. Preliminary autopsy results show she was shot once in the neck at close range and was hit in the face by a bullet that might have been a ricochet.

Moody's 37-year-old mother, Sheri Shafer, and two friends died of single gunshot wounds.

Moody shot himself once in the neck and probably switched hands before firing a second, fatal shot through the roof of his mouth, authorities said. A medical examiner found gunshot wounds on Moody below his left ear and through the right side of the roof of the mouth, according to a preliminary autopsy report obtained Friday by The Columbus Dispatch.

The autopsy said the first bullet lodged in his sinuses, and wasn't fatal because the .22-caliber rifle found at the scene lacked enough power.

Experts said it's rare for people to shoot themselves more than once in the head.

Moody's 15-year-old sister was wounded, but escaped to call for help.

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