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Barnhart community reacts to death of son, mother in murder-suicide

BARNHART, Mo. - A Barnhart, Missouri family is grieving the loss of an 11-year-old boy and his mother in what police believe to be a murder-suicide.

Sammy Schweitzer, 11, died at a hospital Monday morning. Police believe he was shot in the head by his mother, 49-year-old Tara Kellerher, before she turned the gun on herself.

Detective Sergeant Brian Taylor with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said it was a difficult scene for first responders, who got the call around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

“Us dealing with this just as human beings right now, it’s difficult. I know, with myself included, several of the law enforcement, fire, EMTs that were all on (the) scene, they have family members that were the exact same age and for them that’s difficult,” Taylor said.

There’s been speculation about Kellerher’s mental health, but Sgt. Taylor said the investigation is ongoing.

“I think a lot of times with stuff there are warning signs. There's things that people see that maybe are odd or unusual. And then, unfortunately, after the fact, then it’s a red flag, which then at that point it’s a little bit too late,” he said.

As the family and the community tries to make sense of this tragedy, the Windsor C1 School District has offered counseling for students. The district said in a statement:

“While this student was new to our district, the recent events that have taken place are tragic and will deeply impact our school community. The district is working with various local support organizations to provide resources to our staff and students who are personally affected. Above all our heartfelt thoughts and condolences go out to the student’s family and loved ones.”

“I think the parents need to talk to their children, but they need to also hear it from someone with more authority of what is actually going on with this situation,” said a parent in the district.

Sgt. Taylor said the family was still in shock but is trying to cling to positive memories. Sammy Schweitzer was an organ donor who will live on in his recipients.

Kelleher’s fiancé was home at the time of the incident and called 911 after waking up to the gunshots.