Police are investigating the deaths of a woman and three children in what they say was a murder-suicide in Smyth County, Virginia. The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office said that police officers responding to a call on Friday found the bodies of a 27-year-old woman and two children in Marion, southwest Virginia, according to NBC12. A third child was in critical condition and later died in hospital, police said.
The outlet reported that the two children found dead were 10 and 3 years old, and the child who was taken to the hospital and died was 6 years old. The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office also reported that there was a fourth child, aged 8, who “escaped the scene.”
The names of the woman and children have not been made public and the relationship between the children and the women is not known at this time.
Police Say Their Investigation Shows the Woman Killed the Children Then Herself
According to NBC12, the sheriff’s office has said that there are no other suspects in the horrific incident and their preliminary investigation indicated that the woman killed the children before committing suicide. The child who was critically injured was flown to Tennessee’s Johnson City Medical Center, the Bristol Herald Courier reported.
According to the outlet, Sheriff Chip Shuler said on Saturday that the incident occurred at a trailer on Harley Road in the Thomas Bridge community of Smyth County. The sheriff referred to the incident as a shooting but provided no indication as to a possible motive. The sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate the shootings.
The Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Seen an Increase in Domestic Violence & Child Abuse
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of many schools and workplaces and forced families to spend more time together in stressful situations, domestic violence and child abuse has gone up, officials say. According to the CDC:
Social distancing measures can lead to more time in the home or in the same space as an abuser, increasing the risk for abuse. This can include child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence, and elder abuse. Victims of violence may be unable to access help due to limited outside social contact, or they may not be able to seek victim services or shelter.
In terms of child abuse, a large part of identifying and reporting abuse and neglect lies with teachers and educators, but the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected this system’s ability to do so. Since many interactions are now virtual, it becomes harder for those adults to recognize the signs of abuse. In addition to this, “other vital parts of the child welfare system – home investigations, child-parent visits, mandatory court appearances, home-based parenting programs – are now at a near standstill,” Brookings reported.
In a shocking case a few weeks ago, psychologist Dr. Michele Boudreau Deegan killed her 7-year-old twin daughters then herself in a murder-suicide in Washington. Deegan, who had been involved in a custody dispute at the time of the murder-suicide, had just posted on Facebook an article titled “Narcissistic Parents Are Literally Incapable of Loving Their Children” as well as a video titled “Narcissistic Parenting – A Set Up for Suicide.”