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Family: Police let down victims

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 20, 2008
— Both sides of the family in an Edgerton murder-suicide are criticizing authorities for their handling of the case.

Police say Shaun Vordermann shot and killed his wife, Jennifer, and killed himself at their home sometime Sunday or Monday.


"I am very upset that when he was reaching out to someone Saturday night, they all let him down," Shaun's mother, Nancy Vordermann, wrote in an e-mail to The Janesville Gazette.


"The media is not getting all the facts, and either are the families."


Edgerton Police Chief Tom Klubertanz has said officers escorted Shaun Vordermann to the Rock County Health Center on Saturday night after his wife called for help because he was threatening suicide. He was released early Sunday morning.


Officers discovered the bodies Monday morning.


Police said four rounds were fired, and Jennifer died of a single gunshot wound fired by Shaun. They said Shaun died of a self-inflicted gunshot.


One shot exited the house, Klubertanz said. It was unclear what happened to the fourth shot.


"They also let Jenni down," Nancy wrote. "She called the police to protect Shaun, not herself. She wanted him to get help. When someone threatens to commit suicide and barricades themself into a house and is taken in by the police and let go 35 minutes later, something is not right."


It's not clear how long Shaun was in police custody. Jennifer's aunt, Julie Ellingson, told the Gazette that Rock County Crisis Intervention evaluated Shaun for 35 minutes before releasing him. That agency on Tuesday would not confirm it had seen Shaun.


Rock County Assistant County Administrator Phil Boutwell said this morning that he could not comment before consulting legal counsel and the county administrator.


Klubertanz was not available for comment this morning.


Jennifer's mother, Tina Ellingson Pond, said police were called to the couple's house three times in the days before the shooting because Shaun was making threats.


Pond says she wants to know why police didn't keep Shaun's gun Saturday night after they took her suicidal son-in-law to Rock County Crisis Intervention Services.


"They gave the gun to Jenni, and Jenni never left the premises Saturday night, so the gun never left," Nancy Vordermann said. "It was their responsibility to make sure it was not on the property.


"No one can bring my son back to me, but they can give me and our family some answers," Nancy continued.


"Shaun did not have a mental illness, he had insecurities that were allowed to grow, and get out of control. If ONLY the police had kept him, my son and his wife would be alive today," Nancy wrote.


Klubertanz said in an interview with WCLO Radio that he could not reconstruct exactly what happened. He said he hoped to be able to narrow the time of death. He would not speculate on a motive.


"In a case like this, there is going to be a lot of speculation and accusations and assumptions—something that we're never going to know the true answer to," Klubertanz said.


Jennifer's cousin Melissa Bakken told the Gazette she had urged Jennifer to leave Shaun.


Bakken said Jennifer was one of her best friends. The two were in each other's weddings. Shaun and Jennifer were married in October, and Bakken, 27, Oregon, was married six weeks earlier.


Shaun had been Bakken's friend, too, until the last few months, when he started acting strangely, Bakken said. He was "insecure" and "jealous."


Melissa said she got off the phone for the last time with Jennifer at 9:15 p.m. Sunday.


As far as the two women knew at that time, Shaun was staying at his mom's house. He had Jennifer's car, which was in his name, Bakken said.


Jennifer wasn't scared for her life, but she did think she would have to get a new phone, a new job and a new car if she were going to leave Shaun, Bakken said.


"She was not scared for her safety. She was scared he would make her life hell," Bakken said. "‘I'm afraid he'll do something to himself, but I don't think he'll hurt me.'"


Shaun's grandfather, Jacob Vordermann, told the Gazette that Shaun was "one of the greatest guys that ever was. He loved children, and he was one great guy."


Shaun couldn't stop loving Jennifer, despite their problems, Jacob said.


"She didn't care anymore, and he couldn't separate himself from her," Jacob said. "… his mental problem was he was too much in love with a woman who didn't care for him."


Shaun grew up in Milton and attended Milton High School. Jennifer was from Deerfield.


"Shaun would have never hurt anyone, but he was pushed passed the limit he could bear, Nancy wrote. "He was losing his wife of only 10 months, who he loved with every ounce of his being. They were having financial problems, and as Jennifer's mother said, he loved Jenni maybe too much. His life centered around her and their life together."


Nancy said Shaun would tell her everything about his life, until recently.


"Something happened a couple of months ago, and he started holding everything inside. Maybe it was that I wasn't helping the way I should have when he told me things before. Maybe it was because he was ashamed that his short marriage was falling apart. That is one thing I will never know. He felt he could no longer reach out to his family and the ones that loved him."


Nancy said authorities did not immediately notify her family of the deaths.


"My family had to find out on the Internet at 1 p.m. on Monday that our children were dead. The police knew at 8 a.m., and we had to find out by seeing in on the Internet," Nancy wrote.


"In less than 24 hours, the police were called to the house, took Shaun in, he was released to a household that still had a gun there, and our children were dead," Nancy continued.


Nancy said Shaun was dropped off at his sister's house at 2:30 a.m. Sunday.


"My son didn't want to talk to us early Sunday morning and only told us that Jenni had called the police on him and they wanted them separated," Nancy wrote. "How were we to know any different? How do you think his sister feels since she took him back to the house on Sunday morning thinking things were going to be all right?


"Don't they think his family would have helped?" Nancy wrote. "Do you think his family would have allowed him to go back to that house alone on Sunday morning? If someone would have only talked to us."


Nancy said she'll have to live the rest of her life without her son, knowing he took the life of someone else's child.


"It is very hard for me to understand any of this," she wrote. "I have been doing the what-ifs for two days, but nothing will bring my son back. That is all I want, is my son back.


"No parent should ever go through this nightmare."


Reporters Ann Marie Ames and Gina Duwe contributed to this story.
TIMELINE

The following is based on police logs and interviews with the families of Shaun and Jennifer Vordermann:


October 20, 2007: Shaun and Jennifer Vordermann are married.


Night of Wednesday, Aug. 13: Jennifer's mother, Tina Ellingson Pond, calls police after receiving a disturbing text message sent by Shaun from Jennifer's cell phone. Edgerton police log states, "Subject located; all OK."


10:50 p.m. Saturday: Edgerton police are called to Shaun and Jennifer's house for a report of a suicidal person. Police take Shaun to Rock County Crisis Intervention.


2:30 a.m. Sunday: Shaun is dropped off at his sister's house after an assessment at crisis intervention.


9:30 a.m. Sunday: Shaun returns home to 39 Mildred Ave., Edgerton; he leaves in Jennifer's car and tells her to find her own way to work on Monday.


8 a.m. Monday: After not getting an expected 6 a.m. call from Jennifer and a report that Shaun didn't show up to work, Jennifer's mother tries to call her daughter then calls police.


The Vordermanns are found dead in the bedroom of their home.


1 p.m. Monday: Nancy Vordermann said her family finds out via the Internet that their son and daughter-in-law are dead.



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