LaSalle Co. fire deaths ruled murder suicide

July 15, 2011 7:40:36 PM PDT
LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton said a preliminary investigation indicates a woman stabbed her two children and set their Grand Ridge home on fire.

Sheriff Templeton said Jordan M. Shepard, 11, and Jake R. Shepard, 9, were stabbed by their mother, Jennifer Shepard, 36. All three died and their bodies were found in an upstairs bedroom of their house in rural LaSalle County, about 80 miles southwest of Chicago.

Officials say Jennifer Shepard set the fire, which led police to the home. Her husband, Gary Shepard had called 911 to report a fire around 3:15 p.m. Thursday.

"The father of the family was here. He saw the house fire, called it in as he was about a mile away. He saw the flames," said Sheriff Templeton. The father was returning from work.

The family's nearest neighbors live about half a mile away. The first arriving police officer and the father tried to get into the house to reach the three, but the smoke and flames drove them back. Despite no working fire hydrants nearby, crews quickly extinguished the fire. All three victims were found in an upstairs bedroom. Autopsies show they sustained stab wounds.

"Fire agencies were bringing in their own water. They did that. They were very successful in knocking flames down quickly," said Templeton.

The arson investigation continues.

The boys attended Grand Ridge Grade School.

It's a tragedy. We're all heartbroken by it. It's a real shame," said David Mathis. "The boys were different, in behavior and such, but for the most part good at heart. Nice kids. We'll miss them."

Even though school is out for the summer, counselors will be available to talk to students and parents.

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