Murder-suicide suspected in Lawrence apartment complex shooting


Why would a man kill his wife and then turn the gun on himself? It happened in Lawrence early Tuesday with two teenagers in the home. Lawrence Police are investigating the murder-suicide tragedy that has orphaned several children.

A little girl in the back of an ambulance, and another in the arms of a police officer: Siblings who now have no parents.

"You just don't know what's going on in anybody's household," remarked Nicholas Johnson, a neighbor.

Inside this apartment, Lawrence Police say a man, identified later as Jeff Nelson, killed his wife Shelly Nelson, then went outside and shot himself. It happened at around 4:15 am at the Salem Courthouse Apartments off 56th Street. Both victims were 31 years old.

"Every time I seen him, coming home from school, going to school, he said hi, hello, everything. He just seemed like a normal guy," said Johnson.

At some point two teenage children aged 15 and 17, stepchildren to one of the parents, suffered head injuries. How they were hurt isn't known. They were taken to the hospital with what police call non life-threatening injuries.

"We don't know if there was an altercation between the children or between the husband and wife which actually led up to the incident occurring," said Captain Curtis Bigsbee, Lawrence Police.

Capt. Bigsbee said children - five total - were present in the apartment, including the teens who were hurt.  A chaplain was speaking to them at the scene.  He said the youngest children range in age from three to ten.

The teens were stepchildren from the couple's previous relationships, and three youngest were from the current marriage. Child Protective Services was on the scene to care for the children.

It's still not clear exactly what led up to this murder-suicide, but Lawrence Police say they have not responded to any calls of domestic violence here in the past. Neighbors, though, report there have been problems.

"Every time we looked up she was always sad and crying," said Pam Jones, a neighbor. "You could hear 'em arguing all the time. So I really don't know what else....what happened last night."

The mystery may never be completely solved. But whatever the reason, now two people are dead, and at least three children will have to grow up without parents.