Authorities say a man and a boy whose bodies were found last week died in a murder-suicide.
The bodies of 4-year-old Bentlee J. Turner and 37-year-old Monty Jason Barton were found in rural eastern Missouri on Sept. 16.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Monday that investigators concluded Barton killed the boy with a single gunshot wound to the head before fatally shooting himself.
The conclusions were announced following autopsies that were performed by the Boone County medical examiner.
The boy and Barton both lived in the small town of Belle, about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis. The patrol has described Barton as a friend of the boy’s family.
Belle residents told KOMU they were used to seeing Turner and Barton together and were shocked to hear the case turned out to be a murder-suicide.
“I saw him [Turner] walking with Jason every day to and from school because I also walk my daughter to and from school,” a local told the outlet. “They always seemed very happy together.”
“Jason and Bentlee came into the library a lot,” another resident told KOMU. “They would come in nearly every afternoon.”
The Highway Patrol said on Monday, Sept. 16, the Belle Missouri Marshal’s Office notified troopers of a missing person [Bentlee].
Barton’s vehicle was found later that night in rural Gasconade County, and his and the boy’s bodies were discovered nearby.
A GoFundMe page was set up on Sept. 18 to help the Turner family with funeral expenses.
One person commented on the page, telling the family she can’t imagine what they are going through.
Suicide Statistics and Prevention
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and in 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide, while 1.3 million people attempted suicide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report called “Vital Signs: Trends in State Suicide Rates” on June 8, 2018, revealing that suicide rates have increased by 30 percent since 1999. However, the report points out that there were a variety of factors other than mental health conditions that lead to suicide.
“Suicide rates increased significantly across most states during 1999-2016. Various circumstances contributed to suicides among persons with and without known mental health conditions,” the report stated.
The Associated Press and NTD News reporter Lorenz Duchamps contributed to this report.