Parents, 2 boys, grandma shot to death in Manchester, Ill., ID'd

April 25, 2013 (MANCHESTER, Ill.)

James Roy Ralston, 29, father of two deceased children;
Brittney Luark, 23, mother of two deceased children and granddaughter of Jo Ann Sinclair;
Jo Ann Sinclair, 67, grandmother to Brittney and great-grandmother to the 2 deceased children;
Nolan J. Ralston, 5, son of James and Brittney;
Brantley Ralston, 1, son of James Ralston and Brittney Luark.

The sixth victim is a 6-year-old who remains hospitalized at St. John's Hospital in Springfield. Her condition has been upgraded from serious to fair, a hospital spokesperson told the Associated Press.

The coroner's office also confirmed that Brittney Luark was pregnant.

Suspect Rick O. Smith, of Morgan County, is also dead.

"The offender took the 6-year-old out of the residence and put her in the hands of a neighbor," State Police Lt. Col. Todd Kilby said.

Police believe Smith knew the family, but did not say how. They have not released a motive.

Illinois State Police, who are leading the investigation, said officers were called to the apartment complex at 4:48 a.m. Wednesday. About two and a half hours later, Smith was involved in a car chase with officers in nearby Winchester, Ill.

"Shots were exchanged, police took suspect in custody while he was in possession of multiple weapons," Kilby said. Police said they found a rifle, shotgun and large hunting knife in Smith's car.

Smith, who was wounded by police, was taken to the hospital, where he died, officials said. Scott County State's Attorney Michael Hill said Smith had previous convictions for reckless homicide, drugs and bad checks. Manchester Mayor Ronald Drake confirmed Smith was his nephew, saying he hadn't seen him in two years.

"It's a close-knit community," Drake said. "Everybody talks to everybody. ... We enjoy that goes on [in] town. This is just a tragedy for [the] whole town."

Manchester resident Julie Hardwick, 48, said she lives in the same county housing authority complex as the victims. Authorities told her she couldn't return to her home yet because of the investigation, she said.

"The kids were really nice," Hardwick said of the family. "You couldn't ask for better kids."

The Rev. Robin Lyons of Manchester United Methodist Church, one of two churches in the community said, "this shows tragedy can happen anywhere."

Two area school superintendents said they received calls from county sheriffs before 6 a.m. informing them that five people had been shot to death at a house in Manchester and that a suspect was at large.

Superintendent David Roberts of the Winchester School District and Les Stevens of the North Greene Unit District No. 3 both said they immediately canceled classes when they were told of the shootings and that other school districts did the same.

Roberts said the wounded girl is a student at Winchester Grade School and her teacher was with her at the Springfield hospital.

The school will use its own counselor, nurse and other staff members to help students who need to talk, Roberts said. Other area districts have offered to help too.

Roberts said he also will call on area ministers to be available on campus. "I've found that to be helpful in the past," he said.

Manchester, located in Scott County in west central Illinois, has about 300 residents and is about 50 miles west of Springfield.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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