MANCHESTER, Ill. (AP) — The five people found shot to death in a small south-central Illinois town this week were two young brothers, their pregnant mother, their father and their great grandmother, authorities said Thursday.
Investigators were still trying to piece together the events that led to Scott County's first homicide in two decades, and why the suspect, Rick O. Smith allegedly walked into a home Wednesday and shot an entire family — including a 6-year-old girl who survived — before he was killed during a shootout with police.
The Illinois State Police said the victims were: 1-year-old Brantley Ralston, 5-year-old Nolan Ralston, 29-year-old James Ralston, 23-year-old Brittney Luark, and 67-year-old Jo Ann Sinclair. Sinclair was Luark's grandmother.
Authorities believe Smith and the victims were acquainted, but they didn't provide details of the relationships. Manchester Mayor Ronald Drake confirmed Wednesday that Smith was his nephew.
The state police said they believe Smith, 43, entered the home through the back door Wednesday and shot the victims at close range with a shotgun. Two people were found in a bedroom, two in a second bedroom and the man in the hallway. A sixth victim, a 6-year-old girl, was injured and taken to a hospital in Springfield.
"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.
A bystander called police and told them that Smith fled in a white sedan. Smith led authorities on a chase to the nearby town of Winchester, where they exchanged gunfire. Officers shot Smith, and he later died at a hospital.
Police said they found a rifle, shotgun and large hunting knife in Smith's car.
Scott County State's Attorney Michael Hill said Smith, of rural Morgan County, had previous convictions for reckless homicide, drugs and bad checks.
Drake said he hadn't spoken to Smith in two years but that he believed his nephew was unemployed. Drake said the last time Smith contacted him was to borrow tools.
The preschool program that Nolan Ralston attended was closed Thursday, and Winchester Community School District Superintendent Dave Roberts said staff was meeting Thursday to decide how to broach the subject.
"I am trying to work with staff to get them prepared," he said. "They are very emotional at this point."
Roberts said he also wants to meet with parents Thursday night.
"I would say at least 40 kids knew him, and they're 3,4, 5 years old and that makes it even more difficult," he said.
He said a school psychologist will be at the school on Friday to talk with the children in the classrooms — including the class of the 6-year-old girl who survived. He said that the girl is the older sister of the two dead boys.
Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Jason Keyser in Chicago and David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.