Deputies find 3 bodies in Clay County home - KCTV5

Police believe man kills wife, teen and himself inside Clay County home

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CLAY COUNTY, MO (KCTV) -

A 14-year-old boy didn't show up to school for two days last week, and those who knew the family became concerned.

Someone went to a Clay County home about 9 a.m. Monday and made a grisly discovery. Inside were the bodies of a couple and the boy.

Investigators with the Clay County Sheriff's Office said they believe the man fatally shot his wife and the boy, who they were in the process of adopting, in the head. He then fatally shot himself in the head in the kitchen area near the back door, Clay County Sheriff Bob Boydston said. A weapon was found near his body.

The woman and boy were found dead in their bedrooms.

Because the boy missed school both Thursday and Friday, the crime is believed to have happened by Thursday. 

The man was 70 years old while the woman was 60 years old. The couple had been appointed the teen's guardian by court officials. Those records indicate the boy's mother had been watched by the couple after her own parents had left the picture 19 years ago.

Update: The dead have been identified as Jan L. Hepworth, 70, Cheryl D. Hepworth, 69, and Damin T. Russell, 14, of Trimble, MO.

Boydston said the bodies were found Monday morning in a home located in the 19000 block of Neth Road, near the Clinton County line.

Boydston said a family friend called authorities after she went to the home to check on the family and saw a bloody body through a back door window.

The boy was the woman's cousin.

The man retired from American Airlines/TWA Airlines because of health problems while the woman was a stay-at-home mom. Boydston said the couple had been battling personal problems, but there had been no police calls to the home or reports of domestic violence.

Friends told investigators that the man had been battling depression, and prescription bottles at the home indicated he was getting treatment.

Boydston said the man had an arsenal of weapons inside his home, including handguns and rifles. The man was reportedly an avid target shooter and even did target shooting in his basement.

Those who knew the family are devastated by the tragedy, especially with Christmas just next week.

"This world is kind of nuts," a tearful Robert Wilcox said about his neighbors. "They were very close. You couldn't see one without the other. Cheryl was the kind of gal that would do anything for you."

Wilcox said the man had stockpiled food and water when Y2K fears circulated and never changed his fears. He said the man kept to himself and had declined his offer to have the boy perform some work on his farm.

The man owned guns, revolvers, long guns and semi-automatic weapons. Bullet holes were found in the basement where the man apparently practiced with his weapons or "some other mode," the sheriff said.

The sheriff said the windows on the south side of the basement were bricked over.

"We found more than a thousand expended rounds of ammunition in the basement," the sheriff said. "Neighbors told us (the homeowner) was slowly becoming more and more reclusive, more and more controlling and acting in their own words, 'more and more odd' over the past three years."

The sheriff, whose term in office ends this month, said diminishing budgets for mental health treatment in Missouri and across the country are creating problems.

"I think it is coming back to haunt us now," he said.

He said mental health services can help prevent crimes. He said he is disappointed that he couldn't do more on this issue.

"It's estimated that more than half of the people incarcerated committed their crimes because of mental health issues. I'm not saying they should not be incarcerated for what they did, but it's always preferable to prevent the crimes, and mental health services could do that," he said. "Just look at the Connecticut kid. The availability of weapons, a violent culture and diminishing mental health services have created a perfect storm."

No suicide note was found.

"I think if there were mental health courts, professionals could intervene in these people's lives and get them help and possibly we would not have the kinds of things we've seen the last two or three years," said the sheriff, who was defeated for re-election in November. "The idea is to identify lower level offenders who would very likely come back to jail again and again and again if they're not treated for the underlying cause of their criminal actions. You have to treat that condition or it's going to repeat itself."

Lee's Summit and Kansas City have mental health courts already, and Boydston hopes that will be expanded into other communities.

KCTV5's Amanda Palumbo contributed to this report.

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