LEBANON, Pa – A suburban mother who became a voice of the gun-rights movement when she openly carried a loaded pistol to her daughter's soccer game was fatally shot Wednesday along with her parole-officer husband in an apparent murder-suicide at their home in Pennsylvania Dutch country, authorities said.
Police released scant details about the deaths of Meleanie Hain, 31, and Scott Hain, 33, but said more information would be released Friday after their autopsies.
"I'm devastated. I lost my daughter. I lost my best friend. The children lost their parents," Jenny Stanley, Meleanie Hain's mother, told WGAL-TV. Stanley added that the three children, ages 2, 6 and 10, are "hanging in there."
The children were at a neighbor's house by the time police arrived to answer 911 calls from neighbors, said Lebanon City Police Chief Daniel Wright.
"What they did or did not see as part of this is not something we're going to release," Wright said.
Neighbors said the children ran outside and said their father had shot their mother, but Wright declined to disclose what investigators have concluded about how the deaths occurred.
He said authorities recovered more than one weapon from the home and acknowledged reports that the couple might have been having marital difficulties.
"I'm not going to confirm that now, but I'm not going to dispute it either," Wright said.
Meleanie Hain had run a day care at her home, and children's toys remain scattered in the front yard Thursday. A car parked in the driveway bore a badge-shaped sticker that read "NRA law enforcement."
Hain made headlines in 2008 when she attended a soccer game of her daughter's, then 5, at a park with a Glock holstered on her hip in plain view. That upset other parents.
The sheriff revoked her license to carry and conceal a gun nine days later, citing a state law that prohibits certain gun permits from being given to people whose character and reputation make them a danger to public safety.
A county judge overturned that decision but questioned her judgment and said she had "scared the devil" out of people.
Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold, who was at the scene Wednesday night, declined to comment on the facts of the case.
"I'm a pretty big advocate for the right to possess and own firearms, so I don't look at this as something where there's an indication that stricter gun regulations are necessary," Arnold said. "Obviously responsible gun ownership is the key to gun ownership."
The Hains' federal lawsuit against Sheriff Michael DeLeo and the county, alleging that he violated her constitutional rights and prosecuted her maliciously, was pending in federal court at the time of her death. Her attorney, Matthew Weisberg, said he hopes to continue the litigation.
Weisberg said Meleanie told him about six months ago she and Scott had separated, and three months ago she wanted to pursue a protective order against him. She wanted to have Scott's name removed from the lawsuit, but that never happened, Weisberg said.
"Whether they'd reconciled in the last couple of months, I don't know," Weisberg said.
She claimed the sheriff's actions destroyed her baby-sitting service, resulted in her children being harassed and made her feel ostracized by her neighbors in Lebanon, which has about 25,000 residents. No one answered the phone at the Sheriff's Department Thursday afternoon.
Scott Hain had worked in Reading as a parole officer for the state Board of Probation and Parole since August 2008. He had worked as a guard at the Camp Hill state prison, the state Corrections Department said.
Neighbors said the Hains were not outgoing, and several said Meleanie Hain wore her holstered gun regularly, walking the dog or going to the grocery store.
Aileen Fortna, 51, who lives two doors away, told The Associated Press that her husband noticed the two older Hain children running past their house and crying. She watched as authorities removed the two bodies overnight.
Fortna said the children told another neighbor that "daddy shot mommy." A police chaplain answered the door at that neighbor's home Thursday and declined to comment.
"I'm shocked at the whole thing," Fortna said. "I'm surprised she didn't defend herself."
Mike Witmer, a 32-year-old maintenance technician who lives across the street and about 50 yards from the Hains, said he was unloading groceries when he heard a commotion at their house. Shortly afterward, police swarmed through the neighborhood and told him to go inside.
"I'm pretty sure what we heard was the bang of the gun. It was a weird sound," he said, expressing concern for the children. "I hope they're OK and they get through the hard times they're in for the rest of their lives."