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Family mourns two deaths in murder-suicide

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Stacy Vogel
August 19, 2008
— When police took Shaun Vordermann away Saturday night for a mental health evaluation, his wife's family thought he finally was on the road to recovery.

"We all made a sigh of relief," said Julie Ellingson, aunt of Jennifer Vordermann. "(We thought,) 'Thanks goodness, whatever's going on with Shaun, he'll get the help that he needs.'"


Unfortunately, that never happened, and now Jennifer's family wants to know why.


Jennifer and Shaun were found dead in their bedroom at 39 Mildred Ave., Edgerton, at 8 a.m. Monday, the victims of a murder-suicide, police say.


Edgerton Chief Tom Klubertanz did not say Monday who did the shooting, but Ellingson said Shaun's behavior had become increasingly bizarre in the 10 months since he and Jennifer married.


Shaun seemed like a sweet and cheerful guy in the five years he and Jennifer dated, Ellingson said. But after the marriage, he became controlling and illogical. He'd call Jennifer over and over when she was away, needing to know where she was every minute. Sometimes he stalked her at work or restaurants and bars she went to with friends.


The family was concerned after Shaun bought a gun a few months ago, even though he'd never gone hunting, Ellingson said.


"He said he was going to start target practice," she said. "It didn't make any sense."


The situation reached a head last week, when police were called twice to the Vordermann home.


On Wednesday, Shaun sent text messages to everyone in Jennifer's cell phone list through their home computer pretending to be Jennifer and saying "I need help; call me," Ellingson said.


When family members couldn't get through to Jennifer on her phone, they called the police. The Edgerton police log entry for the incident reads "Subject located; all OK."


Saturday night, Jennifer called police because she had received hundreds of text messages from Shaun over the afternoon, and she was afraid he would hurt himself, Ellingson said. Police arrived at 10:50 p.m. and took Shaun to the Rock County Crisis Intervention Center.


He was released later that night, Ellingson said.


"They kept him for 35 minutes (for an evaluation)," Ellingson said. "I guess my question is, 'How do you do an assessment in 35 minutes?'"


No one knows exactly what happened Saturday and Sunday, but here's what Ellingson and her family have pieced together:


As police were taking Shaun away, they told Jennifer to get rid of Shaun's gun. She hid it in the trunk of her car.


When Shaun returned Sunday, Jennifer told him she was moving out. He got in her car—the one with the gun in it—saying he was going to spend the night at his mother's house.


What happened between then and 8 a.m. Monday remains a mystery. Jennifer and Shaun both died of gunshot wounds, Klubertanz said, but he hasn't said when or how the shootings happened or who pulled the trigger.


Autopsies of both were scheduled in Madison today.


Ellingson is left with many questions:


-- Why did county officials send Shaun home after two frightening incidents in the last week?


-- Why did no one tell Jennifer she would be in danger if she told Shaun she was leaving him?


-- Why didn't Edgerton police confiscate the gun and bullets in the house instead of leaving it to Jennifer?


"We feel like the system failed (Jennifer)," Ellingson said. "Perhaps this could have been avoided. It's a terrible loss to lose both of them."


Ellingson's not angry at Shaun, she said. He was a wonderful person, and the system let him down, too, she said.


She wants people to know Jennifer and Shaun's story so that it doesn't happen to another family, she said.


"I just think it could have been prevented," she said. "We certainly want the public in general to be aware of that, so that this doesn't happen again."



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