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Teen Kills 5 in Ohio Farmhouse Shootings

May 31, 2005

BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (AP) _ On the morning he was to graduate from high school, Scott Moody walked a half-mile to his grandparents’ farmhouse and began what authorities say was the first stop in a gruesome murder-suicide that ended in six deaths.

Moody’s family dairy farm had struggled financially in recent years, friends said. County auditor’s records show the family owed about $37,000 in taxes on the two farms.

According to investigators, Moody shot his grandparents with a .22-caliber rifle before heading home, where he went from bedroom to bedroom, shooting his mother, teenage sister and two friends before killing himself.

The only survivor _ Moody’s critically wounded sister _ used her cell phone to call for help.

``It’s tough on us,″ Logan County Sheriff Michael Henry said. ``We knew these people. We’re familiar with these kids. I feel so badly for these families, this community.″

The Sunday morning rampage perplexed school officials, who said the 18-year-old seemed to have been in good spirits. The deaths came hours after a family party to celebrate the upcoming graduation.

Henry identified the victims as Moody’s mother, Sheri Shafer, 37; grandparents Sharyl Shafer, 66, and Gary Shafer, 67; and two friends, Megan Karus, 19, and Paige Harshbarger, 14. Karus and Harshbarger had slept over after the party.

Bernie Pachmayer, superintendent for the school district, said no one had seen any indication Moody was troubled.

``In our minds, it couldn’t possibly be Scott,″ Pachmayer said. She said Scott was a ``clean-cut boy″ who wanted to be a farmer.

But neighbors and friends said the family had been having difficulty.

Sheri Shafer often butted heads with her parents, who had a more traditional approach to farming, said Bret Davidson, a friend of Scott Moody’s. After several years of financial struggles, income was bouncing back and the family seemed optimistic, he said Tuesday.

``They were starting to talk good about the grandparents again,″ he said.

Sheri Shafer tried three years ago to have her mother removed as executor of her grandmother’s estate. Howard Traul, the lawyer for the estate, said the family members were trying to decide among themselves how to divide several pieces of land.

Moody and Karus were to have graduated Sunday afternoon from Riverside High School in nearby De Graff. School officials, who had only minutes of notice about the deaths before the ceremony began, held graduation as scheduled and announced the shootings afterward.

Two seats remained empty at the commencement.

``Everybody was wondering, ’Where are these two kids?‴ Pachmayer said. ``I think instinctively they knew something was wrong.″

Neighbor Clifford Kelly said that although Moody’s mother held a graduation party on Saturday night, the youth was refusing to attend the ceremony.

``I know that disappointed the family, but I don’t know if that caused the shootings,″ Kelly told The New York Times.

Stacy Moody, 15, remained in critical condition Tuesday at Ohio State University Medical Center with gunshot wounds to the neck.

Stacy’s father and stepmother, Steve and Audrey Moody, issued a statement Tuesday that said Stacy was breathing on her own and asked for prayers.

The houses where the shootings took place are about a quarter-mile apart along a two-lane state route a mile west of the city of 13,000 people, 45 miles northwest of Columbus. Fields where corn and soybeans are grown surround the white-paneled, two-story homes.

There was no sign of a struggle at either house, Henry said, adding that it appeared Karus, Harshbarger and Sheri Shafer were killed while they slept.

Authorities were alerted to the slayings after Stacy Moody called her stepsister, Nicole Vagedes, telling her that she and her mother had been beaten up and that she could not wake up her mother.

Vagedes went to the house and called 911. ``I can’t wake her,″ she said, referring to Sheri Shafer. ``I can’t get a pulse.″

Her voice became more frantic as she told emergency dispatchers about finding bodies throughout the home.

``Oh, my God, there’s one in the living room. There’s another one on the couch,″ Vagedes told deputies in an anguished 911 call that was released Monday.

Davidson said Moody acted normal at the graduation party, joking with friends and watching television.

``I played pool with him for I don’t know how many hours and he just acted himself,″ Davidson said.

Last week, Moody’s family had taken out two congratulatory ads featuring Moody’s picture in the Bellefontaine Examiner. The ad from his mother and sister read, ``Good luck and have fun!″

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