Police: Kentucky mom kills kids, brings gun to college

March 27, 2008 6:42:15 PM PDT
In a neighborhood of neat lawns and backyard swing sets, two young bodies were carried out of a red brick Cape Cod-style house, past a small statue of two children playing with a bicycle. Police say Gail Lynn Coontz, a widowed single mom and college student, killed her son and daughter before going to the University of Louisville on Thursday and brandishing a gun in a counselor's office.

The bodies of Greg Coontz, 14, and Nikki Coontz, 10, were found after the campus incident when city officers responded to a university police request to check on the children. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds, Louisville police spokesman Officer Phil Russell said.

"It appears they were shot in their sleep," said Jo-Ann Farmer, the chief deputy coroner for Jefferson County.

Gail Coontz, 37, was charged with two counts of murder. She was also charged with one count of terroristic threatening for pointing a handgun at an officer in the campus incident, university police Maj. Kenny Brown said.

"It just all seems like it's going to be a bad dream and I'm going to wake up from it," said Patty Schneider, who lives across the street from the family.

She said Greg would run from the school bus to the house every day, while Nikki would arrive home later, get the mail and stroll inside.

"For their sake, I hope they were asleep, so they didn't know it was their mother," Schneider said.

Coontz was arrested after giving her handgun to a counselor at the health services building, Brown said.

"When we were able to open the door and go in, the student and the counselor were both sitting on the couch," Brown said.

Coontz was taken to a hospital psychiatric ward, said university President James Ramsey, and was later transferred to the Louisville jail. Officials there did not know whether she had a lawyer.

Coontz has been a student in the college of arts and sciences since fall 2006 and had not declared a major, university spokesman John Drees said.

The school sent safety alerts to student phones, cell phones and posted one on its Web site. The campus was not locked down, university spokeswoman Cindy Hess said.

Police offered no motive for the slayings of the children, who Russell said had been shot sometime in the past day.

Russell and neighbors said Coontz was a widow.

"She was a good mom," said next-door neighbor Sheryl Hayven. "I would have never thought anything, nothing like this would have indicated this to me."

--- Associated Press writers Rebecca Yonker and Bruce Schreiner contributed to this report.