RIPLEY COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - The Ripley County Sheriff's Office reports finding a mother and her two children dead in a murder-suicide.
Around 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, the bodies of Laura Coleman, 32, and her two young children, Gunner and Maycie, were discovered in Coleman's rural Ripley County home near the Fairdealing area.
Laura Coleman's mother is grieving after losing three of her family members in a matter of moments.
She said the loss is unfathomable.
"I don't know how to speak to what has happened, because no one understands," Ellen Martinez said.
She said she spoke to her daughter two hours before the tragedy struck. Coleman was getting ready to head to Arkansas with her two children.
"We were getting ready to celebrate Maycie's fifth birthday this weekend," Martinez said.
No one understands why Coleman took her life and the lives of her children.
"She lived her life to protect her kids," Martinez said. "She's had a rough last few years. We got her to a safe place. They've actually done really well."
Martinez said her daughter loved her children deeply.
"Maycie was just the light of her life," she said. "Laura loved her children and her life above anything else."
She said the Ripley County community has opened their arms to her.
"Thank you for the support and the lack of judgment," she said. "This could have been anyone's child."
Ripley County Sheriff Mike Barton was visibly shaken from the incident. He said it's hard to talk about.
"We all have children and grandchildren," he said, "so it's hard."
"You never know when that one little moment is going to be the last time you get to say, 'I love you,' or touch their hand or look into their eyes and see their future," Ellen Martinez said. "Just take a moment today, because nothing else matters but them."
He said a school worker found the scene after going to the home because the children, a four-year-old girl in kindergarten and a two-year-old boy, didn't show up for school. The school worker then went to the police department.
The Current River Major Case Squad was activated to investigate leads in the case, and officers from the Ripley County Sheriff's Office, Doniphan City Police, and Missouri State Highway Patrol responded.
Autopsies on Coleman and her two children were scheduled for Friday morning.
Sheriff Barton said the autopsies showed the children were shot and killed and then Coleman turned the gun on herself.
The People's Community Bank in Doniphan is accepting donations from anyone would like to donate to the families of the victims.