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UPDATE: Shooting deaths of woman, three daughters ruled murder-suicide

Monday, March 19, 2012 | 4:50 p.m. CDT; updated 5:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 19, 2012

BALLWIN — The fatal shooting of a woman and her three young daughters, whose bodies were discovered in the middle of a remote gravel road at a Missouri resort, has been ruled a murder-suicide, a law officer said Monday.

Christine Adewunmi, 37, and her daughters 8-year-old Lauren, 6-year-old Samantha and 3-year-old Kate were discovered Saturday afternoon at the Blue Springs Ranch & Resort near Bourbon, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis. Adewunmi's husband reported them missing the night before.

Crawford County Sheriff Randy Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday that the mother killed her daughters and then turned the gun on herself. He did not respond to repeated interview requests from The Associated Press. A deputy would say only the sheriff planned to put out a news release later in the day. The Missouri State Highway Patrol declined comment, deferring to Martin.

The killings shook the suburban community where the family lived and people at the resort where their bodies were found.

Neighbors of the Adewunmi family in the St. Louis County town of Ballwin described the mother as an attentive, always-smiling woman whose life revolved around her girls. They recalled a family of uncommon generosity, even selling lemonade in front of their home to raise money for people with cancer.

Amit Mehta, who lives two doors down, said the girls were active in Girl Scouts and recently delivered cookies in the neighborhood.

"Very gentle, very peaceful people," Mehta said. "I could never imagine this happening. They were such happy little girls."

Sandy Suetterlin, who lives across the street from the Adewunmi's, said Christine Adewunmi often played games outside with the girls and guided them as they rode their bikes.

"She was real happy, it seemed like," Suetterlin said. "I don't get it. I wish I did. I just can't sleep at night. I'm just blown away."

Investigators are still trying to determine what prompted the killings.

Leonard Adewunmi, Christine's husband and the father of the girls, reported them missing at 6 p.m. Friday, St. Louis County police spokesman Rick Eckhard said. Calls to the family home and the commercial real estate office where neighbors said Leonard Adewunmi worked were not picked up Monday, and no one answered the door at the house.

The business networking site LinkedIn lists Leonard Adewunmi as a managing partner of CRI Commercial Properties. There are no court filings on Missouri's online court reporting system indicating the family or the company was in financial trouble. Real estate records showed the family home was purchased for $350,000 in October 2001.

There are no online court records indicating any criminal or civil cases involving Christine Adewunmi.

Christine Adewunmi was a physical education teacher in the Parkway School District from 1998 to 2006, district spokeswoman Cathy Kelly said. Neighbors said she had been a stay-at-home mom since then.

Blue Springs Ranch owner J.R. Isom said a resort guest driving down a remote road Saturday afternoon saw what appeared to be bodies in the middle of the road. Isom and employees went to the hilly site and saw a car parked in the middle of the road and the four bodies another 100 yards or so down the road.

Isom said the Adewunmis were not guests at the resort and apparently entered through a back entrance. Heavy rain on Friday led to flash floods, forcing the resort to close the main entrance.

"At first we thought maybe they got down there and drowned, but then we observed they were shot," Isom said. "The gun was laying there. It was pretty gruesome."

Isom said staff members at the popular riverside camping spot were having a difficult time dealing with the tragedy.

"We feel for the family," he said.

Lauren was a second-grader at Oak Brook Elementary School in the Parkway School District, Samantha was in first grade and Kate was involved in a preschool program. Kelly said the school is on spring break this week, but counselors will be on hand when the kids return next Monday.

The school's principal sent an email to parents on Sunday advising them of the deaths, with links to websites to help children deal with tragedy, Kelly said.


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