2 dead in murder-suicide at Penn State Beaver; no students involved
A Hopewell man lured his ex-wife out to a Penn State Beaver parking lot Wednesday by telling her he had Christmas presents for their children, then opened fire on the unsuspecting woman, killing her before taking his own life, police said.
Lesli Kelly, 49, a campus cook, and shooter William Kelly, 52, both were pronounced dead at the scene, state police Lt. Eric Hermick said.
"This murder-suicide was alarming for multiple reasons — you're on a college campus, for one," Hermick said. "But this doesn't really involve the students, which is fortunate.
"This is a domestic violence thing."
Around 3:30 p.m., Lesli Kelly was on a break during a shift at the campus cafeteria sitting in her parked but running Subaru SUV and waiting for her recently divorced husband to arrive, Hermick said.
William Kelly pulled up in a Chevrolet SUV, parked about 15 yards away and approached her carrying a box of wrapped presents, Hermick said.
They had a brief conversation, then William Kelly, standing just a few feet away from his estranged ex-wife, pulled out two semi-automatic handguns and fired multiple rounds.
Once Lesli Kelly fell to the ground, William Kelly turned one of the guns on himself, police said.
"We're getting indications that there was domestic issues, child support issues, and we're also getting information that he (William Kelly) was harassing her," Hermick said.
Lesli Kelly had not pursued a protection form abuse order against her ex-husband, but she had filed multiple harassment complaints about William Kelly with Penn State Beaver campus police, Hermick said.
Police said two students and a custodian witnessed the shooting.
"There was some screaming and yelling and obviously some chaos, but nothing that wasn't gotten under control quickly by the campus police," Hermick said.
Law enforcement scrambled to ensure there were no other victims after finding blood-stained documents in William Kelly's car, Hermick said.
Police determined the couple had one adult child and shared custody of two minor children, all of whom are unharmed. They are staying with family members.
"Other than verifying there was no active shooter, the urgency was to find out where the other family members were and the children were, because we did find evidence in the vehicle that alarmed us to indicate that maybe someone else had been harmed prior to this event," Hermick said. "But to our knowledge, all the children and the other family members are safe."
Investigators said the snow-covered ground hampered the speed of collecting evidence. They found two semi-automatic handguns that had each been discharged and eight .45-caliber bullets by 7:30 p.m. They anticipated spending at least a few more hours gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. Police are researching where the guns were purchased, testing the blood found inside the car and awaiting reports from the coroner.
The campus was less populated than usual as students depart this week for winter break.
Edisa Bukuru, 20, an accounting major, said she was inside the Brodhead Bistro when a fellow student got an alert on a cellphone: "Stay inside. Somebody just got shot."
She didn't hear the shots. Neither did most of the people inside the cafeteria nor the cashier, who was asking what was happening.
Then a girl burst through the door and alerted everyone to the shooting.
"Until the girl came in running, nobody took it serious," said Bukuru, still shaken a few hours after the incident.
"I just don't even know how to react. My heart is still beating right now, because I thought that was so cruel," Bukuru said.
"I had known the lady," she continued. "She was always making food for students. She was really nice. She didn't talk much."
Bukuru finished her finals and carried a few belongings from the residence hall with her Wednesday night as she left campus for the holidays.
"I feel bad for the others who are staying here because I feel like they're worried, too, and for some of the other workers," she said.
Police said students should feel safe to return to campus for classes Thursday.
About 700 students are enrolled at Penn State Beaver, a 105-acre campus about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Within 15 minutes of the shooting, Penn State Beaver began providing information on its official Twitter account.
Penn State Beaver Chancellor Jenifer S. Cushman said in a statement about an hour later that the shooting did not involve students.
"Our thoughts are with all who have been affected," Cushman said.
Here are Facebook and Twitter accounts as they were posted at the time:
"Shots fired near Bistro," the school tweeted, adding that the situation was "contained" but the campus would remain on lockdown until further notice.
01PSU AlertBR: Shots fired near Bistro. Situation is contained. We will remain on lockdown until further notice. Authorities responding.— Penn State Beaver (@PennStateBeaver) December 13, 2017
"Police on scene. No threat at this time. Please avoid Student Union Bldg and Food Services area," another tweet said.
01PSU AlertBR: Incident on campus. Police on scene. No threat at this time. Please avoid Student Union Bldg and Food Services area.— Penn State Beaver (@PennStateBeaver) December 13, 2017
Penn State Beaver said in a tweet about a half-hour after the shooting that the campus had been closed.
01PSU AlertBR: Campus has been closed for until further notice.— Penn State Beaver (@PennStateBeaver) December 13, 2017
Natasha Lindstrom and Ben Schmitt are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Lindstrom is at 412-380-8514, email@example.com or on Twitter @NewsNatasha. Reach Schmitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.