Our Story

Posted by on Jan 2, 2017 in Our Story | 6 comments

Life had been going on as usual. I was a 4th grade Teacher’s Assistant with a list of things to do, like getting groceries, getting the guest bedroom ready, clean the house, etc., before my twin, Jeanne, flew out to spend some time with us. So I was glad school was finally out for the summer. My husband, Larry, and our son, Russell, had made plans for their annual Major League Baseball weekend. This year the two of them would go to New York City to see the Mets and Braves play. They also planned to see the 911 Memorial Site.

My twin arrived and we went shopping, went to see a play and did some drawing and painting. My daughter, Rhonda, hung out with us and we watched movies. A week later, the night before Jeanne was flying back to New York, Russell and our granddaughter, Tylee, who was 6 years old, and our grandson, Blake, who just turned 2, came to say good bye.  Russell showed us pictures of the baseball trip and the pictures he had taken at Ground Zero. The children were coloring and reading books with Jeanne and having a good time. She kissed them all good bye and they went home.

The next morning, Saturday, June 20, 2015, I drove Jeanne to the airport and headed up to our mountain property, near Huntsville, UT. to camp overnight. Larry and our daughter, were there waiting for me. The next day, Sunday, was Father’s Day, June 21st, so we planned to return home early to see Russell, Shawna, Tylee and Blake.

I called Russell and left him a message that we were home and to come by any time. I wished him a Happy Father’s Day and hung up. We waited all day to hear from him. I called and texted throughout the day. It wasn’t like him not to at least call his father on Father’s Day. But the call would never come. The unthinkable happened. The most horrific tragedy we have ever faced.

By 9:30 that evening I became so concerned. I was paralyzed with fear because this was not like Russell! I had been calling and texting him and Shawna all day with no reply. I called Shawna’s brother and asked him if he had heard from them. He said he had talked to Shawna earlier in the day and had expected her and the kids to come by his home at 4:00 that afternoon, but he hadn’t heard from her. I told him I was concerned something was wrong. “I am going over to their house to check on them!” I said. Since he lived closer, he told me that he would go over and call me when he got there.

A few minutes later he called. “Their cars are in the driveway and lights are on inside the house.” He rang the doorbell and no one answered. “Should I use my key and go in?” I told him to go ahead. Something was wrong!

He went in and suddenly screamed out Tylee’s name. I heard him cry. “There is blood all over her!” I told him to call the police! We were on our way. As we pulled up in front of their house, we were stunned by the flashing bright lights from countless police vehicles, a fire truck, and two ambulances. Several K-9’s were being walked around by their handlers. We couldn’t wrap our minds around what was happening! This isn’t happening! Why are there so many police?

The fear and terror we experienced outside my family’s home that night paralyzed us. We couldn’t comprehend what was going on.  We got out of the truck and I raced toward the house, but someone yelled, saying, “Who are you?” I screamed back that we were Russell’s parents. Several police officers ran over to us and escorted us away from the house.

I heard the front door being kicked opened and someone yelling, “Police!” It was horrifying!  

We waited for a over an hour to have someone in authority tell us what happened. The longer we waited the more anxious and panicked we became. I kept looking to see if my son would just appear at the front door. I already knew something awful had happened because I had been on the phone with Shawna’s brother when he suddenly became hysterical! But surely it wasn’t as bad as it was appearing to be! This isn’t happening! My loved ones are in the house and they will be okay. Help had come and it will be just fine now.

I felt so confused watching the flurry of activity. My mind struggled to understand this horrible situation! Looking again towards the house for any sign of them, I noticed an ambulance slowly driving away. I strained to look in the back to see if any of my loved ones where in there. But the ambulance was empty. I thought then that because the ambulance left, everyone was ok. I was not going to allow my thoughts to think the unbearable had happened! It was not going to be bad news! I kept shaking my head. I kept pacing. Then the news came. A detective  walked towards us and gave us the single, most horrifying news anyone can receive! “There are four confirmed dead.”  

Larry and I shook our heads! It didn’t make sense. Who is dead? Are our loved ones okay? We were being asked to go to the police station. An officer offered to drive us, but my husband said he would drive us himself.

I was lost in my own thoughts. I heard the sounds of us crying. Why were we crying? Someone is dead? What does that mean? Who?  I actually thought our loved ones would meet us at the police station. On the ride over, I called our friends to please come to us at the police station, screaming the words, “They’re all dead!”

At the police station, Larry and I sat at a table too big for just two people.  An officer, standing “at attention” against the wall, seemed to keep watch as we waited. It seemed like hours for our friends to arrive and even longer to be told what happened. We were beyond exhaustion! Five words kept repeating themselves in my head. “There are four confirmed dead.” They are all dead. The question formed in my mind. “HOW?”

The detective came into the room. He sat down across from us and introduced himself. The next words he said to us were foreign. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We knew now he would tell us as gently as he could what happened. We didn’t have to wait to hear the answer to our question, “How?” Yet, I didn’t want him to say one more word! If he said one more word it would make it true. He continued, “This was a murder-suicide.” He paused. “Preliminary findings show that it appears your son shot, Shawna, Tylee and Blake, then took his own life.”

Another question forced itself  onto us. “WHY?”



  1. oh JoJo, I never truely knew the exact chain of events till now. It is shocking all over again.I never realized that you went over to their house.I thought that you went directly to the police station.This was more excruciating than I realized, having to wait in the car all that time.I never could have done it.they probably would have hauled me away. God help you both as you relive this nightmare over and over.

  2. My heart hurts every time I read this. I don’t know why I keep going back over it. I think it’s because I still can’t believe it happened! Not to my twin sister! Not to our family! I still think sometimes that we’re all still dreaming and it didn’t really happen. Joanne and Larry and Rhonda, how did you ever get through this, and continue to this day!!! Yes, I know God is the only reason we are all still standing today! It still hurts sometimes.

  3. There are no words that can come close to expressing the loss you will never be able to understand. I thank God you have faith and each other to hold on to. Thanks for sharing and I pray fond memories of the special times you shared will bring a smile to your hearts. Thanks for the work in your ministries. God Bless.

  4. As a mother and an old friend, my heart grieves over your loss. It Blesses me to see that you are leaning on our God and
    allowing Him to continue the process of healing your broken heart. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”
    (Psalm 147:3) It seems so unreal that this could happened to someone I know, but it has. We may never understand how this could have happened, but You have taken your test of Faith and turned it into a Testimony. Hold on to the Lord. He will comfort you through this process of grieving and, in the future, will replace your sorrow with great, unending joy!

  5. As a women I am so encouraged by your reliance on God and His mercy. Love & blessings to you & Larry as you continue this live on earth. 💕

  6. You all are so amazing to have gotten through this…during times like this you really have to find your faith or you drown. I will continue to pray for you all!

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