The Spook Who Sat By the Door The Spook Who Sat By the Door

Saturday, April 7, 2012

St. Louis County woman in murder-suicide had battled depression

Leonard and Christine Adewunmi and their daughters (from left) Lauren, 8, Kate, 3, and Samantha, 6. The Ballwin mom and her daughters were killed Saturday in a murder-suicide. Family members said Christine Adewunmi was struggling with mental illness and depression.

The St. Louis County woman suspected of killing her three girls before fatally shooting herself was a "loving and devoted mother" but had battled depression, according to her family.

"No one knew the depths of her problem or could ever foresee this tragedy occurring," the family of Christine Adewunmi said in a statement released this afternoon. "We cannot understand why this has happened and are dealing with this tragic loss one minute at a time."

The three girls and their mother were found dead Saturday at the Meramec River near Bourbon, Mo. Police have called the case a murder-suicide.

Christine Adwunmi had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, her husband told police.

Leonard Adewunmi contacted county police on Friday night to report that his wife and their three children were missing. He said they were asleep at their home on Arbor Bluff Circle in west St. Louis County when he left for work early Friday morning. But when he returned at 6 p.m., they were gone, according to the missing person report.

Adewunmi told police that he tried to reach his wife more than 25 times on her cellphone, to no avail.

Leonard Adewunmi feared his wife was suicidal and said she had been looking at websites about depression and suicide, according to the police report. She had recently seen a therapist and had been referred to a hospital for evaluation, the report said.

He also told police that his wife had left with the kids on two other occasions and had lied about where they went.

Crawford County Sheriff Randy E. Martin said investigators from his office and the Highway Patrol confirmed that Christine Adewunmi fired the fatal shots. Their bodies were found near the family SUV, which was parked at the dead end of a gravel road leading to the river, he said.

"We are confident this was a triple-murder/suicide, with the mother doing the shooting," Martin said.

Martin said investigators are talking with family members to determine why Christine Adewunmi, 37, drove her daughters to such a remote location, and why she would have killed them. He said the shots were fired from a handgun, but he declined to more specific about the weapon.

Martin said her body was found with those of her three children, Lauren, 8, Samantha, 6, and Kate, 3.

The bodies were discovered about 1 p.m. Saturday near Blue Springs Ranch, which provides camping, horseback riding and float trips on the Meramec River. A woman who answered the phone at the campground said the Adewunmis were not staying at the campground.

Martin said the gravel road is in a remote part of the property, away from the campground.

Christine Adewunmi graduated from Kirkwood High School with the maiden name of Pannett.

She was a physical education teacher at Parkway North from December 1998 to June 2006. Her daughters attended Oak Brook Elementary in the Parkway School District. The family's statement says she "spent the last nine years making her children the number one priority in her life."

Oak Brook Principal Chris Shirley sent parents a letter via email on Sunday night notifiying them about the deaths. Lauren was a second-grader and Samantha was in first grade. The youngest, Kate, was involved with the school as a preschooler and through the parent-child interaction program.

The school is on spring break this week. When students return, there will be additional support to help them, staff and parents process their feelings and grief, Shirley said in the letter. The principal also included resources for parents to help talk to their kids about death.

Leonard Adewunmi told St. Louis County police that his wife had first disappeared about three weeks ago, prompting him to call police, but she returned shortly afterward. She did so again last Tuesday but again returned, according to the police report.

Leonard Adewunmi, 42, is listed on the business networking website LinkedIn as a managing partner of CRI Commercial Properties, described as owning and managing several apartment and commercial units in the St. Louis area.

The family's statement calls him an "involved and caring dad" who "worked very hard to give his wife and children a wonderful life."

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