Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

September 13, 2011

Three dead in double murder, suicide

EFFINGHAM — According to an order of protection filed last month by his estranged wife Sharon, Jerry W. Smith had threatened to harm her on several recent occasions.

    Sunday evening, the former Mason resident carried out his threat, fatally shooting both his estranged wife and mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself.

    Jerry Smith, 52, and Sharon Smith, 41, were both pronounced dead at the scene. Mrs. Smith’s mother, 71-year-old Dorothy McClelland of rural Effingham, was pronounced dead that evening at St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham.

    Four other people in the home at 704 S. Willow St. in Effingham were unharmed, police said. Todd Bowlin, 44, of Charleston was described by police as an acquaintance of Sharon Smith. Police would not identify the three children at the home other than to say two were boys aged 12 and 13 and the third was a 5-year-old girl.

    Effingham police Cpl. Matt Sager said police responded to a 911 call that shots were being fired at the home. The call came in about 8:45 p.m. City police were joined by Effingham County sheriff’s deputies and Illinois state troopers at the scene, where they were met by numerous witnesses who had either heard or seen shots fired.

    Sager said an investigation revealed that Jerry Smith had approached the home from the rear and began shooting while he was still outside.  Effingham Police Chief Mike Schutzbach said it was unclear whether the fatal shots were fired from outside or inside the home.

    All three bodies were undergoing autopsies Monday in Springfield, but no results were available Monday evening.

    Sager said a rifle and a handgun were recovered at the scene. More than 40 shots were fired during the attack, he said.

    Court records show Sharon Smith filed an emergency order of protection against her husband on Aug. 22. The order was extended Friday, two days before the slayings on Willow Street.

    Sager said police had no record of response to domestic incidents involving the Smiths. However, he said, police had supervised a child exchange at a neutral location.

    In her request for the protection order, Sharon Smith outlined a pattern of alleged abuse that had been, she said, occurring for an extended period of time.

    “Over the last 1 1/2 years, Jerry has been told to stop with the abuse or I would file for divorce,” Sharon Smith wrote.

    “He has threatened to take our daughter and stated ‘you will never see her again.’ He’s threatened to burn my house and he’s threatened me with a gun.”

    In the request, she added Jerry Smith had been drinking heavily for the last six months and had been verbally and physically abusive.

    According to the protection order request, the threats had become more graphic in recent months.

    In the request, Sharon reported numerous calls from her estranged husband from Aug. 15 through 17 in which Jerry allegedly threatened her, stating he “will get even with me.”

    Sharon reported on Aug. 16, Jerry threatened to burn her truck.

    Again, Sharon reported numerous calls from an allegedly drunk Jerry the night of Aug. 18 into the morning hours of Aug. 19 in which he told her she would “regret” filing for divorce.

    The protection request also reports Sharon’s swimming pool had been slashed with a knife.

    Jerry Smith had a criminal record in Effingham County that included two convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol and one conviction for misdemeanor battery that had been pled down from an original felony charge of aggravated battery.

    Sager said the investigation was continuing for potential information that might help understand Jerry Smith’s reasoning before the shootings. He said Smith’s current residence in Salem was being searched for more clues.

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