Jasmine Abbott

Jasmine Abbott

Mother, 3 children shot to death

January 21, 2011

AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB Fox 41)--A mother and her three children were found dead inside their Indiana home on Friday. Police say they all suffered gunshot wounds to the head--but police are not looking for any suspects.

Police stop short of calling it a triple murder-suicide, but say they are focusing their investigation only on the four people found dead inside the home.

The small road seems oddly busy as curious people slow down to take a look at a house on New York Street in Austin, Indiana. Karen Barrett remembers the last conversation she had with 30-year-old Amanda Bennett, "Just 'Hi! How ya doin?', she laughed, just like she, you know, she was a happy go lucky person, she just 'good how are you!' I waved my hand and went on, ya know."

Roses were left behind on a car for the four people found dead inside the burned home in Austin, Indiana Friday. Officials say Amanda Bennett and her three children--14-year-old Jasmine, 9-year-old Katelynn, and Ryan, 4-years old, all died from gunshot wounds to the head.

It appears Amanda and Katelynn might have suffered smoke inhalation. Although it is unclear how the fire started.

Police are not looking for suspects, but will not say it is a triple murder-suicide. "The detectives are not ready to make any determinations or give any exact facts on what happened inside of the home," said Sergeant Jerry Goodin, with Indiana State Police.

Friends say there were signs of marital problems. "This past Sunday night we come home from church," said Barrett, "and there were two loads of cops here and the husband and wife I assume had a scuffle because that's what my niece said, that Jasmine had come to school talking about her mom and dad getting a divorce."

But other than that, Barrett says you would never know. "He'd get out and play basketball with the kids, she'd sit out on the porch and watch 'em play you'd never know there was any family trouble, never," said Barrett.

Police would not comment on any possible domestic problems. "That is part of our investigation so there are some things that we don't want to release," said Goodin.

Debra Davidson is a cook at Austin Elementary and says she'll never forget 9-year-old Katelynn. "She always gave me and one of the other cooks a hug every day," said Davidson.

The deaths are something many just cannot comprehend. "I can't understand it," said Barrett, "I just can't see it myself, Lord knows all about it."

"We owe this not only to the family, but the public," said Goodin, "and we're going to come to some answers and when we get those answers we'll release them."

Austin schools will have extra counselors at school on Monday.

See post for dear siblings Katelynn Bennett and Ryan Bennett.

Katelynn Bennett

Katelynn Bennett

Indiana woman killed her 3 children and herself, police say

January 25, 2011

An Indiana woman shot her three children and set the family's house on fire before turning the gun on herself, police said.

The bodies of the four were discovered Friday, when police in Austin, Indiana, responded to the home to conduct a welfare check.

"Upon arriving, the officer had to make a forced entry into the residence," Indiana State Police said Monday in a statement. "Once in the residence, he saw parts of the home had suffered recent fire damage and also located four deceased persons in the home."

The state police assisted with the investigation, which preliminarily concluded that 30-year-old Amanda Bennett shot the children -- 14-year-old Jasmine Abbott, 9-year-old Katelynn Bennett and 4-year-old Ryan Bennett -- before starting the fire and shooting herself.

"While the investigation remains open until autopsy reports are finalized, indications are this case is a tragic case of murder/suicide that claimed three innocent lives along with the suspect of the murders, Amanda Bennett," the police statement said.

All four apparently died from gunshot wounds to the head. Amanda Bennett and Katelynn Bennett also suffered smoke inhalation, police said.

The family's dog was also shot, but survived and was being treated at a veterinary clinic, authorities said.

Jasmine, the teenager, had made references to marital problems between her parents and a possible divorce, friend Karen Barrett told CNN affiliate WDRB.

Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Jerry Goodin told CNN that authorities examined online content as part of their investigation, including a posting purportedly from Amanda Bennett that blamed her husband, according to WDRB, saying, "You got what you wanted, no wife and no kids."

However, the reasons for the shootings remain unclear, Goodin said.

"The only person that knows the motive is Amanda," he said.

Austin is about 35 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

See post for dear siblings Jasmine Abbott and Ryan Bennett.

Ryan Bennett

Mom Shot 3 Kids, Started Fire, Before Killing Herself

January 25, 2011

AUSTIN, Ind. -- A southern Indiana woman shot her three children and the family dog before setting fire to her home and fatally shooting herself, investigators said Monday as somber classmates of the slain children returned to school three days after the bodies were found.

Indiana State Police said they believe Amanda Bennett, 30, carried out the triple murder-suicide at the family's home in the Scott County town of Austin, shooting her three children and herself in the head.

Her body and those of 14-year-old Jasmine Abbott, 9-year-old Katelynn Bennett and 4-year-old Ryan Bennett were found Friday in the partially burned home after worried relatives asked police to check on the family.

State police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said Monday in a statement that the killings were "a tragic case of murder/suicide that claimed three innocent lives" along with that of the youngsters' mother, the alleged assailant.

"After shooting the children, indications are Amanda Bennett started a fire in the home and then took her own life," Goodin said Monday in a statement.

Friends and neighbors told The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., that Amanda Bennett was a factory worker along with her husband, who had been laid off since last spring and moved out about a month ago from the home about 35 miles north of Louisville, Ky.

Family friend Karen Barrett told WDRB-TV in Louisville that Amanda Bennett was in the midst of a divorce from her husband but that the family had seemed close.

"He'd get out and play basketball with the kids, she'd sit out on the porch and watch `em play. You'd never know there was any family trouble, never," Barrett said.

Goodin would not comment on any possible domestic problems. Police are looking into an Internet posting that may have been from Amanda that read, in part, "Time to take away the pain. This is what you wanted, no wife and no kids."

"That is part of our investigation, so there are some things that we don't want to release," he said.

Trooper Mark LaMaster said investigators are looking into whether Amanda Bennett may have posted comments on the Internet prior to the shootings that alluded to her intention to kill her children.

Preliminary death findings showed that Amanda and Katelynn Bennett died from a combination of gunshot wound to the head and smoke inhalation. The two other siblings died from a gunshot wound to the head, Goodin said.

The family dog was shot but was recovering Monday at a veterinary clinic in Scott County, police said.

A makeshift memorial set up on the front steps of the family's modular home included a flickering candle set surrounded by teddy bears and other animals left by relatives and neighbors. Two roses also were left on the windshield of a car parked in the driveway, WAVE-TV of Louisville reported.

Betty Hensley, who lives near the family, told the station that she's at a loss to understand the killings.

"Why, why -- I'm asking why? Why did this happen to these people? I mean these were good people, why did this happen? And I don't know. I couldn't tell you. I sure don't know," Hensley said.

Extra counselors were on hand Monday as students returned to school for the first time since word of the shootings was announced Friday evening. Jasmine Abbott was a freshman at Austin High School, Katelynn was a fourth-grader and Ryan was a preschool student.

Kenneth Kidd, the assistant superintendent of the Scott County School District, said the mood was generally somber Monday at the district schools where the siblings had attended classes.

Mother, pregnant with Ryan, with two sisters

"We still have a few rambunctious ones over there today, but mostly it's somber," Kidd told WDRB.

Austin High School Principal Sherman Smith told WAVE that counselors at the school worked Monday to try to comfort mourning students but obviously could not explain for them why the tragedy occurred.

"It's a grief we don't know how to prepare for," Smith said. "We deal with it the best we can. We know what we know and that's all we know. We don't have the answers for our kids."

See post for dear siblings Jasmine Abbott and  Katelynn Bennett.

Crystal Ann Curtis

Indiana Man Gets 55-year Sentence in Wife's Slaying

Updated: Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 3:51 PM EST

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - A central Indiana man has been sentenced to 55 years in prison for stabbing to death his sleeping wife with an ornamental dagger.

Forty-six-year-old Thomas E. Curtis was sentenced Wednesday by a Delaware County judge who had found Curtis guilty of murder but mentally ill last month in the December 2009 killing of his 27-year-old wife, Crystal, in the couple's Muncie home.

Authorities said Curtis immediately called 911 dispatchers after the fatal attack and said, "I think I just killed my wife."

The Star Press reports that mental health professionals testified during Curtis' bench trial that he had been diagnosed with bi-polar and "intermittent explosive" disorders, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Public defender Kelly Bryan said his client's "thinking was disturbed by mental illness."


August 26, 2011

MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a judge wrongly sentenced a Muncie man to prison for killing his wife and that he should instead be sent to a mental hospital. The decision overturns the verdict of guilty but mentally ill on murder charges that Thomas Curtis, 47, received last year after a bench trial. It orders that he be found not guilty by reason of insanity for stabbing Crystal Curtis, 27, with an ornamental dagger while she slept in 2009.

The Star Press reported that a psychiatrist testified that Curtis might not spend much time hospitalized after going on anti-psychotic medications. The appeals court ruled that the judge's concerns over public safety weren't grounds for a guilty verdict. Delaware County prosecutors say an appeal of the ruling is unlikely.

(Commentary: Unbelievable!!!)

Rachel Wurster

 Rachel Wurster

Beech Grove Murder Was Premeditated

Police say suspect told them he'd "always hated" foster sister

January 4, 2011

Court records say the man accused of murdering his foster sister told police he went to her apartment for the express purpose of killing her.

Beech Grove police say Braxton Vaughn, 25, told them he'd "always hated" Rachel Wurster, that she was "not a good person" and treated their mother badly.

Police say Vaughn admitted choking Wurster to death in her Beech Grove apartment. They say he checked her pulse to make sure she was dead, then drove around for several hours looking for a police officer so he could turn himself in.

He finally found two officers at a Plainfield McDonald's, but had difficulty persuading them to take him into custody because he wouldn't tell them why. When an officer asked if he was wanted on a warrant, he allegedly replied, "Not yet."

The officers say Vaughn finally told them he'd killed his sister. They put him in a squad car and called Beech Grove police, who forced their way into Wurster's apartment and found her dead in the hallway.

Vaughn made his first court appearance on Tuesday on a charge of murder. Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins set a pretrial hearing date of February 15.

Vaughn faces 45 to 65 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors and family members declined comment.

See memorial page on Facebook for dear Rachel here.