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Shootings ruled murder-suicide
A purple balloon and other memorial items have been placed in the front yard of 524 Park St. in Larned, the scene of Saturday's shootings.

LARNED — The Larned community is dealing with tragedy following a weekend domestic violence incident that resulted in the deaths of two adults and one minor child. The case was later ruled murder-suicide, with a man shooting his estranged wife and his son before shooting himself. 

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is heading the investigation begun by the Larned Police Department and Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office, according to a KBI news release.

According to the KBI, on Saturday, Jan. 8 at approximately 9:05 p.m., the LPD received a call from a man reportedly concerned with the family’s welfare, who discovered three individuals dead inside a residence in Larned.

When officers arrived at 524 Park St., they located Shala M. Smith, 44; Carver A. Smith, 12; and Jon B. Smith, 44, all of Larned, who each died from gunshot wounds. They were pronounced dead by the coroner at the scene.

The PCSO arrived as an assisting agency at approximately 9:11 p.m. The LPD requested KBI assistance at approximately 9:25 p.m. KBI agents and the Crime Scene Response team were dispatched to Larned to investigate.

Monday, the KBI udpated its findings to include that just after 3 a.m. on Saturday, Jon Smith had arrived in a pickup truck at the residence carrying a shotgun. Entering the house alone, the evidence indicated that he had killed his wife, from whom he was separated, and his son. He then shot himself.

Autopsy results confirmed that the manners of death for Shala and Carver were homicide and that Jon’s manner of death was suicide, the KBI said.

Community response

The Larned community has responded with an outpouring of support for the families involved.

On Monday, Larned Middle School and USD 495 administrators immediately activated the school district’s crisis plan, according to Superintendent Bryce Wachs. The crisis plan is available district-wide, as relevant professionals such as school psychologists and counselors assess the level of intervention required as well as the emotional support needs of students and staff.

Also on Monday, a special communication was issued by the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility where Shala Smith had been employed. Smith began her career at LCMHF for Corizon as an activity therapist in November 2003. She was promoted to program provider in October 2017, where she provided re-entry programming for adult male offenders. 

In June 2020, she was again promoted to corrections counselor. 

“Shala embraced her role as a case manager, and had the utmost respect from both employees and residents,” the LCMHF communication continued. “Her upbeat attitude was infectious and her smile could light up a room. She never backed down from a task and was always on hand to help support her friends and coworkers.

“Shala was a wonderful asset to both LCMHF and the Kansas Department of Corrections, and will be dearly missed.”

The community has also responded with gestures of support and a call to end domestic violence.

A GoFundMe account was created Monday to raise funds for funeral expenses on behalf of Shala Smith’s family, including her remaining four adult children. As of Tuesday morning, the account reports raising $21,390 of its $30,000 goal, through 304 donors.

A Facebook group entitled “Shine for Shala and Carver” was created with plans to distribute at least 200 purple light bulbs in Shala and Carver’s honor. Local participants are being asked to light their porches in purple to shine light on domestic violence awareness.

The group has surpassed its goal, with more than 400 bulbs donated as of Tuesday. The gesture is spreading across Kansas, with neighboring communities such as Hays, Wichita and Medicine Lodge reporting in, and outside the state in Iowa and Texas.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the color purple was chosen as a signature shade for serving as a longtime symbol predating the movement. In the 1900s, women seeking the right to vote utilized purple, white and gold as the colors of the National Women’s Party. Organizers for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, observed in October, also use the color purple for its association with the equal rights movement in the 1970s.