BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio – On the morning he was to graduate from high school, Scott Moody (search) walked a half-mile to his grandparents' farmhouse and began what authorities say was the first stop in a gruesome murder-suicide that ended in six deaths.
Moody's family had been troubled recently, according to published reports. The dairy farm had fallen into disrepair and had been producing little milk.
According to investigators, Moody shot his grandparents with a .22-caliber rifle before heading home, where he went from bedroom to bedroom, shooting his mother, teenage sister and two friends before killing himself.
The only survivor — Moody's critically wounded sister — used her cell phone to call for help.
"It's tough on us," Logan County Sheriff Michael Henry said. "We knew these people. We're familiar with these kids. I feel so badly for these families, this community."
The Sunday morning rampage perplexed school officials, who said the 18-year-old seemed to have been in good spirits. The deaths came hours after a family party to celebrate the upcoming graduation.
Henry identified the victims as Moody's mother, Sheri Shafer, 37; grandparents Sharyl Shafer, 66, and Gary Shafer, 67; and two friends, Megan Karus, 19, and Paige Harshbarger, 14. Karus and Harshbarger had slept over after the party.
Bernie Pachmayer, superintendent for the school district, said no one had seen any indication Moody was troubled.
"In our minds, it couldn't possibly be Scott," Pachmayer said. She said Scott was a "clean-cut boy" who wanted to be a farmer.
But neighbors and friends said the family had been having difficulty. The farm began to decline about a decade ago and Sheri Shafer, got divorced, neighbor Clifford Kelly told The New York Times.
A dispute over an inheritance further divided the family, and the family disagreed about how to operate their dairy farm, he said.
"Basically, it was the stress of this young man and his mother, not satisfied with how the grandfather was running things," Kelly told The Columbus Dispatch. "The farm's in disrepair. It's a sad, sad situation."
Angel Wolfe, Sheri Shafer's former sister-in-law, told the Dispatch that Shafer felt her parents couldn't handle the work on the farm and were resisting her efforts to modernize it. She said the family was behind on taxes.
Moody and Karus were to have graduated Sunday afternoon from Riverside High School in nearby De Graff. School officials, who had only minutes of notice about the deaths before the ceremony began, held graduation as scheduled and announced the shootings afterward.
Two seats remained empty at the commencement.
"Everybody was wondering, 'Where are these two kids?'" Pachmayer said. "I think instinctively they knew something was wrong."
Kelly said that although Moody's mother held a graduation party on Saturday night, the youth was refusing to attend the ceremony.
"I know that disappointed the family, but I don't know if that caused the shootings," Kelly told The New York Times.
Stacy Moody, 15, remained in critical condition Tuesday at Ohio State University Medical Center (search) with gunshot wounds to the neck.
The houses where the shootings took place are about a quarter-mile apart along a two-lane state route a mile west of the city of 13,000 people, 45 miles northwest of Columbus. Fields where corn and soybeans are grown surround the white-paneled, two-story homes.
There was no sign of a struggle at either house, Henry said, adding that it appeared Karus, Harshbarger and Sheri Shafer were killed while they slept.
Authorities were alerted to the slayings after Stacy Moody called her stepsister, Nicole Vagedes, telling her that she and her mother had been beaten up and that she could not wake up her mother.
Vagedes went to the house and called 911. "I can't wake her," she said, referring to Sheri Shafer. "I can't get a pulse."
Her voice became more frantic as she told emergency dispatchers about finding bodies throughout the home.
"Oh, my God, there's one in the living room. There's another one on the couch," Vagedes told deputies in an anguished 911 call that was released Monday.
Bret Davidson, 18, a friend of Moody's, told the Dayton Daily News that Moody acted normal at the graduation party, joking with friends. Davidson left Moody's house when he woke at 6 a.m. to work on his family's farm.
"It's a good thing I didn't get lazy," Davidson said. "If I would have been there, I would have probably been shot, too."
Last week, Moody's family had taken out two congratulatory ads featuring Moody's picture in the Bellefontaine Examiner. The ad from his mother and sister read, "Good luck and have fun!"